What is developmental delay?
Developmental delay is a term used to describe the interruption in one or more stages of early reflexive foetal development, which can be the root cause of many learning difficulties and behavioural problems in children and stress related problems in adults, such as anxiety, panic attacks, headaches and insomnia.
What are reflexes?
At birth all babies are tested to ensure the presence of reflexes, for example rooting, sucking and swallowing are all reflexes that allow the baby to feed; a sudden movement or loud noise will startle a baby and make it cry. This reaction is called the Moro reflex. These reflexes are extremely important to a baby’s birth, survival and learning. Normally, the ‘primitive’ reflexes should inhibit or begin to be controlled by higher centres in the brain within the first 12 months after birth. If the primitive reflexes fail to inhibit, then more sophisticated neural pathways, such as the adult postural reflexes cannot develop properly (postural reflexes provide the basis for unconscious, automatic control of balance, posture and movement) and will result in an immaturity in the functioning of the central nervous system. This can have a significant impact on all aspects of physical, cognitive, behavioural, emotional and social development. For example, they can interfere with balance, hand-eye coordination, motor control and perceptual skills. They can also result in behavioural difficulties, including poor concentration, distractibility, hyperactivity, mood swings, heightened sensitivity, fearfulness and anxiety.
Diagnosing developmental delay
Standard neurological tests are used to assess the level of central nervous system maturity and formulate a treatment plan. This is a 4 stage process: 1. The completion of a comprehensive questionnaire. 2. A consultation to discuss both the symptoms and options for treatment. This also includes a reflex review test to look for the presence of retained primitive responses and the lack of adult reflexes. Balance, coordination, pupillary response, eye-tracking and other visual function will be examined. 3., If sufficient evidence is found to proceed, a treatment plan is given to be carried out at home. This may consist of Tactile Skin Stimulation or Movement Exercises and/or a Sound Programme. The treatment needs to be performed every morning and evening by parents, partner or self and takes between 3-10 minutes per session. 4. Follow-up visits take place every 6-8 weeks, to check on progress and change the programme. Duration of treatment is usually 12 months according to the individual’s profile, after which a 3-month break will put in place to determine how the ‘new’ system is running.
Causes of developmental delay
Very little is actually known about the causes, but there is much speculation and some scientific research to suggest that a combination of factors may be involved, for example:
• Environmental toxins (such as pesticides and lead) or ingested chemicals, whether pharmaceutical or recreational i.e. alcohol, nicotine or narcotics.
• Stress, illness or trauma experienced during pregnancy, for instance; medical problems such as hypertension, severe morning sickness, threatened miscarriage, premature birth or complications during birth and caesarean section.
• New-born disorders, such as resuscitation, blue baby, prolonged jaundice, distorted skull or heavy bruising, etc.
• Infancy: adverse reaction to vaccinations, high fever or convulsions in the first 18 months, etc.
• Experientially strong cause for a hereditary link in terms of behavioural patterns, general coordination and learning difficulties.
What to expect from treatment?
The programme is designed to stimulate maturation within the nervous system and integrate sensory input and movement, improving attention, balance and hand-eye coordination skills such as reading and writing. Adult postural reflexes are also involved in feedback loops in the brain that help to integrate emotional responses, speech and language, impulse control and higher level skills (executive function), such as reasoning, planning, organising and problem solving. This in turn enables all aspects of growth and development.
We are looking for changes in self-awareness, behaviour, confidence, self-esteem, communication, processing, learning, sleep and social/emotional maturity
Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex Description:
When baby’s head is turned to the side, the jaw limbs extend, the occipital limbs flex. The ATNR reflex stimulates muscle tone and balance mechanisms in utero, and is crucial to the birth process and neonate survival. A retained ATNR will affect the ability to establish laterality, cross pattern of movement, balance and coordination, ability to cross the midline, smooth tracking of the eyes, eye-hand skills, fine motor skills i.e. writing. Lifespan: 18 weeks in utero to 6-11 months post birth.
Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex Description:
When baby’s head is tilted forwards chin to chest, flexion of the arms and legs is produced. With the head tilted back below the level of the spine, extension of the limbs is noted. This reflex is responsible for how the brain and senses develop the relationship with gravity, allowing us to know where we are in time and space. It also stimulates the flexor/extensor muscles and later postural reflexes. A retained TLR reflexes will affect balance and coordination, posture, motion sickness, eye coordination, sequencing and spatial awareness and general ‘clumsiness’.Lifespan: 12 weeks in utero to 4 months post birth.
Moro Reflex Description:
On startle, baby will rapidly throw the arms out away from the body, with the hands open, accompanied by a sharp intake of breath. This is followed by a relaxing of the posture, the arms being brought in across the chest with the out-breath. The Moro reflex is essentially a reaction to threat, and can be seen as an early form of fight/flight response. Because baby is unable to assess or react to save itself in this situation, it literally signals it’s need for help. A retained Moro reflex will cause the child to be in a constant state of over-stimulation, sensitising it to sound, touch, movement, smell, changes in temperature and environment, light levels and diet. The child may appear hyper, restless, out of control of his emotions; he may be impulsive and lack fear, be aggressive, always demanding to be the centre of attention, and display a lack of boundaries and social skills. He may also appear behaviourally immature. Adversely, he may be the type of child who is withdrawn, ‘internalised’, socially independent with few or no friends and fearful, especially of change or new situations. Both of these types often display infant behaviour and lack maturity, frequently preferring the company of younger children or adults as they cannot grasp the concepts of peer interaction. In the classroom, the ‘Moro child’ may be disruptive, noisy, inattentive, distractible, unable to sit still or remain seated. Lifespan: 9 weeks in utero to 4 months post birth.