What is Rhythmic Movement Training?
Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT) is a natural movement based programme that helps improve the neurological foundations of sensory-motor development and the linking up of the brain, using gentle developmental movements every baby and infant should learn to make. The programme follows the natural stages of brain and sensory development through primitive and postural reflex integration.
It is especially beneficial to help overcome specific learning and developmental challenges including ADHD / ADD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Co-ordination difficulties, Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Cerebral palsy. This programme also supports people with mild to severe physical, emotional, social and behavioural challenges, various forms of mental health issues, brain injury and Parkinson’s disease.
Why would I choose this programme?
This programme revisits a child’s Early Years, tests for any retained reflexes and then uses similar developmental movements that should have taken place during the child’s Early Years. The movements are performed on the floor to give maximum stimulation to all of the senses, and areas of the brain, that a baby should have learned to have made during the Early Years. It follows the most natural developmental process we all need to go through, working with every sense, in a very simple and effective way.
What are Reflexes?
The Primitive and Postural reflexes are in-born movement patterns for sensory / motor integration. They start emerging at certain stages to develop the neurological foundations a few weeks after conception, continue throughout pregnancy, are stimulated during the natural birthing process and continue to emerge and develop to help the baby move freely on the floor, then learn how to rise up on to hands and knees ready to crawl and then stand and walk. They should all be integrated by around the age of 4 years old to help prepare the child before going into the formal learning environment.
As the reflexes develop through movements babies should learn to make, each plays a major role in linking up areas of the brain. Many children and adults with learning / developmental challenges will have retained reflexes and until they are cleared, will remain at a lower level of neural maturity and may struggle in education, in work, sport, music and throughout life. Some people do finds ways to compensate for their difficulties and have to work harder to achieve.
The Primitive reflexes are automatic, stereotypical reactions to specific stimuli either a reaction to sensory input or a change in position. These reflexes emerge and gradually develop in utero and are active for a few months after birth. The baby needs to complete the entire programme to lay down sufficient neural foundations for brain development, motor development and muscle tone ready for the next stage of postural stability. Gradually by six months the primitive reflexes should become inhibited and transform into postural reflexes.
The primitive reflexes help to make the first neural links from the Brain stem, the Cerebellum through to the Prefrontal cortex, the ‘executive’ functioning area of the brain. This area, also known as the CEO, manages everything we do and think and gives the most appropriate responses. It controls impulsivity, attention, focus, comprehension skills and motivation.
The Postural reflexes are life long. The infant must learn to master control of movement and balance to remain stable and upright against gravity. They help the baby to advance through rolling, being able to get up onto hands and knees ready for crawling, then standing and walking and the development of coordinated gross motor movement.
Why are the reflexes so important?
If the reflexes have not been able to perform their role efficiently, for which there are many reasons, the visual, auditory, motor, tactile, vestibular and proprioceptor senses will not develop properly. These senses are vital to linking up all areas of the brain for everything we do and especially in learning. If any of the primitive reflexes remain active much past 4 years old, this can hinder higher stages of physical / motor / emotional development, perception, language, articulation, speech, phonetics and phonological issues, making sense of the world we live in and academic potential. Any un-integrated senses can affect the true performance in the individual and can be carried into adulthood and throughout life, affecting choices and opportunities. The reflexes play a major role in who we are, who we become and what we will be able to do in life.
How do the reflexes develop?
The brain and senses first develop through an inner movement pattern we are all born with. Having the right help from parents/carers and the environment and spending time on the floor is when we learn how to move and explore and as we learn to move in specific ways, this stimulates the neurological developmental process. If we don’t or cannot make these developmental movements we hinder this vital time and the reflexes will not get a chance to perform their role sufficiently. The result is the brain and central nervous system remain at a lower level of maturity. Once we are up on two feet, we don’t get the same amount of specific stimulation and developmental movements the brain and body needs and any Early Years reflexes can remain active, hindering the next stages. The first 12 months, while learning to move freely on the floor, is the most important time to setting up the neural foundations of our developing brain.
How do the Rhythmic Movements work ?
The rocking, rolling and sliding movements used in this programme mimic the movements every baby should learn to make. The movements give lots of stimulation to the brain via the proprioceptors in muscles, the amount of body contact and the tactile sense while on the floor, the vestibular sense with the rocking movements to help stimulate motor development, muscle tone and the nerve networks from the Brain stem, the Basal ganglia, the Cerebellum, the Limbic system (the emotional brain), the Neocortex (The two hemispheres) through to the Prefrontal cortex, the ‘CEO’ of the whole brain.
The movements need to be performed on the floor where neural development first begins. If the person cannot do the movements in an exact, rhythmical, smooth, symmetrical and effortless way, this can be a very clear indication reflexes are still active and by learning to make the movements exact with practice and time will start to stimulate and integrate the reflexes. Some of the movements are performed isometrically which has a stronger and deeper effect, helping to release old compensatory habits that we have learned to help us get through but requires lots more effort and hard work. All have a powerful and positive effect and can improve development with outstanding results, helping children and adults to reach expected milestones quickly.
Crawling is really important for the myelination of the nerve fibres of the Corpus callosum that connect the two hemispheres. A well developed Corpus callosum allows fast processing of information between the two hemispheres which helps all learning, reading, writing, listening, thinking, good communication links between the two sides of the body and good coordination skills. Infants that are bottom-shufflers, the links can be weaker but can be developed at any age with the right techniques.
Please click on the Reflex names below to recognise some of the signs and symptoms.
The Moro Reflex, sometimes called the infant / adult startle reflex, is an automatic response to a sudden change in sensory stimuli. A sudden change of any kind (bright / flashing lights, change in body position, temperature, loud noise, touch, balance, smell, taste etc.) can trigger the Moro Reflex that activates the ‘Fight or Flight’ system. It is very much part of our ‘survival’ system.
The Moro helps develop the five senses – the Visual, Auditory, Tactile, Vestibular and Motor senses. If the Moro is still active, any or all of these senses can be affected, causing oversensitivity. People that live in constant stress, the Moro is usually still active and this will make learning very difficult. This can be improved easily to help make life and learning more manageable and enjoyable.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated Moro are:
- Reacts in anger or emotional outbursts
- Hypersensitivity to light, movement, balance, sound, touch & smell
- Challenges with reading / writing
- Need coloured glasses or overlays for reading
- Feels anxious / stressed / panicky
- Feels unsafe to venture out into the world
- Needs to be centre of attraction and dominates
- Does not want to be ‘seen’ or noticed
- Difficulties with reading
- On ‘alert’ much of the time
- Poor balance and coordination
- Poor stamina
- Poor digestion, tendency towards hypoglycaemia
- Weak immune system, asthma, allergies and infections
- Visual challenges – Accommodation, Myopia
- Difficulties adapting to change
- Cycles of hyperactivity and extreme fatigue
- Can be an underlying cause of M.E (adrenal exhaustion)
Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR)
The TLR provides the baby with a means of learning about gravity and mastering neck and head control outside the womb. This reflex is vital for giving the baby the opportunity to practice balance, increase muscle tone and helps develop the proprioceptive and vestibular senses. The TLR interacts with other reflexes to help the infant to start developing coordination, posture, correct head alignment and vision.
It is vital for the TLR to play its role well because correct alignment of the head with the rest of the body is necessary for balance, eye tracking, auditory processing, muscle tone and organized movements, all of which are essential to the development of our ability to focus and pay attention.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated TLR are:
- Balance and coordination difficulties
- Hunched posture
- Head feels too heavy to hold up when sitting still
- Baby cannot lift its head off the floor while on tummy or back
- Sequencing challenges
- Keeping track on a page
- Motion sickness
- Easily fatigued
- Dislike of esculators, backless stairs or walking along piers
- Poor muscle tone to neck and shoulders
- Difficulty judging distance, depth, space and speed
- Visual / speech / auditory difficulties
- Stiff jerky movements
- Toe walking
- ADHD / ADD
- Difficulty walking up and down stairs / escalators / along piers
Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR)
If the ATNR remains active it plays a significant contribution to academic problems at school. It is the most common reflex still retained in people with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia
The ATNR is important for developing homolateral one-sided movements as a baby. When the infant turns his head to one side, the arm and leg of that side automatically extend. In utero the ATNR provides the necessary stimulation for developing muscle tone and the vestibular system.
It assists with the natural birthing process, providing one of the means for the baby to “corkscrew” down the birth passage. Caesarean births miss this opportunity to stimulate the ATNR early on.
By six months of age this reflex should evolve into more complex cross lateral movement patterns which helps to myelinate the Corpus callosum for the two hemispheres to receive and process information from the eyes, ears, hands/fingers and legs/feet. The ATNR also provides training in hand- eye coordination.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated ATNR are:
- Reading / Listening / Handwriting and Spelling difficulties
- Binocular vision and eye tracking challenges
- Corpus callosum lacks development and myelination
- Co-ordination and balance challenges
- Difficulties learning to ride a bicycle
- Number / letter reversals
- Delayed hemisphere dominance
- Left ear dominant
- Poor auditory processing
- Poor math skills
- Difficulties with getting ideas down on paper
- Challenges with crossing the midline of the body
- Turns the page vertically when writing to avoid crossing the midline
- Difficulties learning to ride a bicycle
- Challenges with writing eights, especially horizontal eights
- Postural and neck problems
- Confused handedness
- Drops or knocks over things when turning the head to one side
- When driving, turning head to the left or right, the car veers
The Spinal Galant & Spinal Pereze Reflexes works in conjunction with the ATNR to help the baby’s journey down the birth canal. It is also thought to help babies balance and coordinate the body for commando crawling and creeping. It is thought to be connected to bladder / bowel function because a high percentage of children who are bedwetting past 5 have an active Spinal galant reflex. Sitting back in a chair or having tight fitting clothes can cause irritation and therefore distraction and loss of concentration. Children and teenagers will tend to not want to have anything that causes pressure on their lumbar area on the back and you see trousers that you want to pull up. Could be a fashion thing as well.
In the womb, the Spinal galant helps auditory development through bone conduction which is why it is important to check for being still active in children with auditory processing issues.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated Spinal Galant, Pereze and / or Vollmer reflex are:
- Bedwetting, especially past 5 years old
- ‘Ants in your pants’ / cannot sit still
- Poor endurance
- Poor auditory processing
- Attention difficulties
- Hip rotation to one side
- Low muscle tone along the spine
- Fixations in lumbar area
- Poor concentration
- Poor coordination
- Poor posture
- Poor short-term memory
- Restless / Hyperactivity / ADHD
- Does not like tight fitting clothes
- Finds labels in clothes irritating
- Does not like sitting back in a chair
- Bowel problems, IBS, Colitis
- Inflexible and have to be right
Fear Paralysis Reflex (FPR)
The FPR is the ‘withdrawal’ / ‘freeze’ reflex that emerges during the embryonic stage and is at cell level. It is a total body withdrawal away from stimulus that is abnormal in utero. Stress / shock / trauma to mother during the first three months after conception can affect the integration of this reflex. The fetus reacts to stress/ shock by withdrawing inward and freezing. As the fetus’ tactile awareness develops, withdrawal upon contact should gradually lessen. It is thought that this reflex is the first step in learning to cope with stress. Like the Moro reflex, it is very much part of our ‘survival’ system. If the FPR is the dominant reflex over the Moro in stressful situations then we become ‘frozen’ to the spot, overwhelmed and cannot move. The Moro gives us the choice to be able to move to get away or stand our ground and fight.
The FPR merges into the Moro reflex around 8 – 12 weeks and should become inactive before birth. If the FPR is not fully integrated at birth, it may contribute to life-long challenges related to deep fear, anxiety and not feeling ‘safe and belonging’ in the world. People with an active FPR may often be very anxious and tend to veer towards negativity which can prevent them from easily moving forward to living a meaningful and interactive life. An active FPR often goes hand-in-hand with an un-integrated Moro reflex. Children and adults diagnosed with autism, this reflex is usually still active and affects how they ‘fit’ into the world.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated FPR are:
- Shallow, difficult breathing
- Underlying deep anxiety / negativity
- Feels like you don’t fit into the world
- You don’t feel safe in the world
- The world is an unsafe place
- Difficulty making / keeping eye contact
- Difficulties socialising with people
- Low tolerance to stress
- Poor adaptability to change
- Inflexible physically / mentally
- Low self-esteem / self worth
- Depression / isolation / withdrawal
- Vestibular challenges
- Motion sickness
- Panic attacks
- Constant feelings of overwhelm
- Extreme shyness, fear being in groups
- Excessive fear of embarrassment
- Fear of separation from a loved one, clingy
- Sleeping challenges
- Eating disorders
- Feeling stuck
- Elective / Selective mutism
- Withdrawal from being touched
- Aggressive / Controlling behaviour,
- Craves attention
- Extreme fear of failure or perfectionist
- OCD challenges
- Possible cause of Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDS)
The Babinski reflex develops gradually and integrates up to two years old. This reflex prepares the feet for walking and provides important stability. It helps to mature coordination between the legs, hips and lumbar spine and improves muscle tone for the lower parts of the body. As the Babinski develops it helps with developing the higher levels of brain function to work more efficiently.
Some possible long term challenges of an un-integrated Babinski are –
- Flat feet
- Toe walkers
- Does not like walking or slow walkers
- Oversensitive soles of the feet
- Does not like walking barefoot on stony beaches
- Poor attention and concentration
- Tension in the feet, legs, hips and lower back
- Tendency to walk on inside or outside of feet
- Claw / Hammer toes
- Weak ankles
- Rotation of a hip inward or outward
- Usually people with Cerebral palsy and Autism have a retained Babinski
Babkin Hand - mouth reflex
The Babkin reflex helps the baby to learn to grasp objects and put them in its mouth which is important for developing fine motor control of the hand, fingers and mouth. Being able to pick things up, hold them comfortably and manipulate tools. If the reflex is still active, when you press into the palm the mouth will open and the head turns to the same side.
This reflex is also to do with bonding and attachment issues.
There are two other hand reflexes. The Hand grasp reflex and the Hands pulling reflex.
Possible long term challenges of un-integrated hand reflexes are –
- Speech and Articulation challenges
- Involuntary movements of the mouth when writing / drawing / cutting / playing instruments
- Phonological challenges
- Bonding and Attachment issues
- Auditory processing difficulties
- Emotionally withdrawn from the world
- Awkward pencil grip
- Stuttering and stammering
- Tension in the jaw
- Tension in arms and shoulders
- Feeding problems
- Grinding teeth
- Poor motor ability of the hands and fingers
- Very sensitive palms
- Poor handwriting
- Holds a pen too tightly and presses into paper
- Drops things easily
- Lets go of bats / golf club after a swing
- Challenges with tying shoelaces and doing up buttons
- Sensitivities to face and palms
Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR)
The STNR is not a primitive reflex, but a transitional one. It is an important developmental stage that transitions the baby from lying on the floor up to being able to get up and crawl. At this stage in development, movement of the head is automatically linked to movement of the arms and legs. If the STNR remains active, it is another main cause of inability to function in school. This is because up and down head movements remain linked to arm and leg movements, making school work challenging and difficult.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated STNR are:
- Poor upper body posture due to weak muscle tone
- Hyperactivity / ADHD / ADD
- Poor concentration and attention
- Headaches from muscle tension in the neck
- Poor stability of the pelvis
- Difficulty reading and writing
- Difficulty sitting still
- “W” sitting with legs
- Difficulty copying from the whiteboard and cannot keep up
- Difficulties with climbing, doing push ups, somersaults,
- Difficulty with breast-stroke and butterfly in swimming
- Ape-like walking
- Visual accommodation challenges
- Visual convergence challenges
- Phorias / Strabismus challenges with vision
- Difficulties with judging speed and hand-eye coordination in ball games
- Find it difficult to stay on task
- Bottom shufflers – missing the crawling on hands and knees stage
There are two Headrighting reflexes. The Labyrinthine headrighting reflex affects the vestibular system. The Ocular headrighting reflex affects the eyes. They are both important for maintaining good head position no matter the position of the body. This is important for reading, writing and balance.
Some possible long term effects of an un-integrated headrighting reflex are –
- Low muscle tone – tend to be ‘head proppers’
- Muscle tension in neck and shoulders
- Un-coordinated movements, especially anything that requires sequence (marching)
- Poor handwriting
- Poor spatial awareness
- When eyes move head also moves
- Poor hand-eye coordination
- Difficulties copying from the board
- Difficulties keeping place on page when reading
- Poor time management
- Easily distracted
- Finds it difficult to look and listen at the same time
Areas of the brain that can be developed using Rhythmic Movement Training
The role of the Cerebellum is to help make all movements smooth, rhythmical and co-ordinated. Children and adults that have difficulty doing movements with a rhythmical element can clearly show the Cerebellum is not developed sufficiently. As the movements become rhythmical, exact, smooth and effortless this stimulates the neural connections through to the speech centres, helping to overcome challenges with late or no speech quickly.
As the Cerebellum develops the first neural connections are made to link up the Frontal lobes. As the frontal lobes become more efficiently connected attention, concentration, control of impulses, abstract thinking, judgement and learning improve. The Cerebellum is also important for working memory, processing information and control of eye movements to help with reading.
It has been found that people with autism, the Cerebellum has been found to be smaller than normal in size.
Using Rhythmic Movements can help develop the Cerebellum very effectively and quickly.
The Basal Ganglia
The Basal Ganglia
The Basal ganglia is the level at which the primitive reflexes should become inhibited and the postural reflexes start to develop. It is also where movements should become automatic i.e chewing, walking, writing, running etc. We need to be able to move without having to be consciously aware all the time.
When the basal ganglia is developed sufficiently it manages our ability to be able sit still for long periods. Children / adults with ADHD, this area of the brain is not developed sufficiently. To expect them to sit still for any length of time will cause them a great deal of stress, they won’t be able to concentrate and the ability to learn will be lost.
In Parkinson’s disease, the Basal ganglia diminishes hence problems with motor ability and posture. Using Rhythmic Movements can help to slow down deterioration and help to improve the condition.
Using Rhythmic Movements helps to develop the Basal ganglia
The Reticular Activating System
The Reticular Activating System
Relays sensory information from the visual, auditory, tactile, vestibular, muscles, joints and inner organs up to the Neocortex. Should act as a ‘filter’ to sensory input and ‘dampen down’ so not to cause too much over-stimulation. This system when stimulated helps to keep the Neocortex alert. People who day dream a lot and who have poor attention, ADD this system will not be functioning efficiently.
Using Rhythmic Movements helps develop the RAS.
The Limbic System
The Limbic System
This area of the brain develops between 15 months and 4 years. It is where emotions, the hormonal and immune system are managed. It is also where the ‘Fight or Flight’ system is initiated. As this area develops, we learn about ‘who we are’ and where we learn to test out our emotions through the ‘terrible two’s’ stage. This is an important stage of development for learning to be assertive, being able to be self expressive and learn to interact with others. Encouraging children to play is vital to motor development, feeling emotionally safe and secure to venture out into the world and developing our social skills to learn how to interact with others. If we don’t learn to play, emotional development can be affected.
As the Limbic system develops, the neural connections are made to the prefrontal cortex. This is vital if emotions are going to be managed properly and the person is to remain in-control of stressful situations. It is the prefrontal cortex that gives the most appropriate response to everything we do, providing it is linked up sufficiently.
Rhythmic Movement Training helps develop and integrate the Limbic system
The right hemisphere develops between 4 and 7 years old. It is when our creativity and imagination stage needs lots of development. This area likes colours, shapes, facial recognition and seeing the ‘whole picture’ and end result.
The left hemisphere develops around 8 onward and is our language, analytical, science orientated brain. This hemisphere sees the ‘details’ of the picture and plans the steps to get to the end results.
The two hemispheres are connected by the Corpus callosum, a bunch of 200 million nerve fibres that allow the sensory information for processing to pass over to each side at high speed, IF myelinated sufficiently.
Rhythmic Movement Training can help develop the two hemispheres and the corpus callosum to be able to crossover the midline.
The Prefrontal Cortex
The Prefrontal Cortex
The frontal lobes receives its first level of neural development in the first year of life, with the right stimulation. The main time for neural development takes place between 9 and up to 25 years old. This area of the brain, behind the forehead, needs to receive all information from the senses so it can make decisions on how to give the most appropriate response to situations. It is our decision-making, problem solving, judgement, impulsivity, reasoning and rationalisation area of the brain. ADHD / ADD, reading problems, eye movements and comprehension challenges can be the result of poor neural connections to the Prefrontal cortex.
Rhythmic Movement Training can help develop the Prefrontal cortex.
Learning strategies and compensations
Some people do finds ways of compensating for their difficulties which means they have to put a lot more effort and time into what they want to achieve. They may reach a point during GCSE’s / A Levels / University or in the workplace when pressure and stress becomes too much that their compensatory strategies are no longer strong enough to support them and let them down. RMT can help release learned compensations and bring about a more natural, efficient and easier way of learning.
Can the Rhythmic Movements help ADHD, behaviour and attention problems?
Absolutely. There are a number of the reflexes that relate to behaviour, hyperactivity and attention challenges. Improving muscle tone for better upright posture and breathing can greatly improve the symptoms of ADHD. Children and adults with attention problems, the Prefrontal cortex may not be sufficiently developed and linked up. Using the Rhythmic Movement programme to integrate these two essential areas of the brain can help children and adults without the need for medication.
These are a few factors that can affect development of the reflexes:
- Inherited challenges
- Cultural factors
- Parental difficulties
- Stress / shock to mother during pregnancy
- Heavy metal / Drug toxicity / Alcohol during pregnancy
- Illness during pregnancy
- Birth by caesarean section
- Stressful birth
- Damage to the brain from birth or in utero
- Cerebral Palsy
- Premature birth
- Illness during first few weeks and months
- Neglect / Abandonment / Abuse
- Lack of being hugged, rocked, touched
- Living in a stressful environment
- Didn’t get time to move freely while on the floor
- Left in car seats for long periods
- Sat up in prams or pushchairs
- Put into baby walkers too early
- Lack of supervised ‘tummy time’
- Did not crawl at all or for long enough
- Bottom shufflers
- Walked too early or were late learning to walk
- Weak core muscles / poor muscle tone
- Not enough vestibular stimulation before and after birth
- Poor nutrition
- Food sensitivities
- Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
- Recurring ear infections
- Physical disabilities