When is reflex integration useful?
The topic of subsequent reflex integration of early childhood reflexes that were not integrated in a timely manner has been occupying me for 20 years. Behavioral abnormalities in children are increasingly being observed and sometimes cause parents, educators, and teachers to despair. This is primarily evident in an immature movement pattern. The motor residual reactions of unintegrated reflexes make the movements appear expansive, uncontrolled, and completely unconscious. They are uncoordinated, there is not enough balance, and the children cannot concentrate due to the restless states. This is related to a lack of brain maturity because the early childhood reflexes, such as the Moro, which has a lot to do with fear, or the asymmetric tonic and symmetric tonic neck reflexes, which are also responsible for healthy body coordination, could not integrate in a timely manner during the first year of life.
What does the brain have to do with reflexes?
The neurological origin of early childhood reflexes is located in the brainstem, and if these have not been integrated, it means that the individual brain areas have not been sufficiently linked and could not mature according to age. It’s as if all the information has to take a detour to get where it belongs.
The brainstem is responsible for our physiological basic needs, such as breathing, digestion, or drive behavior. The cerebellum regulates all our automatic movements. When I go shopping, I think about my shopping list, but not about how I put one foot in front of the other. This is taken over by the cerebellum. The emotional brain then covers it, and above that is the cortex, which is responsible for all cognitive performance.
Research on the brain has shown for 30 years that our movement pattern influences both the emotional and mental areas of the brain. If the movements are physiological, meaning natural without unnecessary movements, the emotional and mental processes can also develop naturally. The children and adolescents can access their innate potential and learn well.
If the reflex integration in the first year of life was not satisfactory, the motor residual reactions interfere with the movement pattern to the extent that the reflexes were not integrated. This is the reason why more and more twisted postures are seen, the feet dangle with every step, the shoulders are not horizontal, the head is in front of the body’s midline, and a hollow back forms as compensation.
This continues with difficulties in social interaction (emotional brain areas) which are evident in kindergarten, a lack of school readiness, and thus behavioral problems in everyday school life (mental brain areas).
High sensitivity and reflexes and impulse control
If early childhood reflexes have not been integrated in a timely manner, it can happen that the child, adolescent, or even adult is very sensitive. This hypersensitivity is often confused with high sensitivity. These people are very easily frightened by noises, flashes of light, or sudden touches throughout their lives, which has nothing to do with the Moro reflex but with the fear-paralysis reflex, which can lead to an inability to act in those affected. They go into a “freezing,” a paralysis posture, from which they need time to come out again.
This reflex is often “thrown into the same pot” with the Moro reflex, although it responds to completely different stimuli.
The Moro reflex is activated when the baby’s head falls backward or forward; the fear-paralysis reflex responds to sensory stimuli visually (light), auditorily (a bang), or tactilely (sudden touch).
Impulse control is not adequate, especially with an active fear-paralysis reflex.
If the reflex integration of just one reflex has not been sufficiently completed, all subsequent reflexes cannot integrate properly either.
Muscle tension and reflexes
Poorly integrated reflexes are most evident in unnatural muscle tension. Many people have too high muscle tension. However, most of them – and especially children and adolescents – have too weak muscle tension, which is much more exhausting. This is because these people have even less integrated reflexes than those with excessive muscle tension. In order not to keep collapsing, a high muscle tension must be “placed over” the too weak muscle tension. This is very exhausting in the long run.
This becomes visible in bent postures; the person cannot sit still, the head is supported while writing, free standing is hardly possible, they always have to lean on something. The constant “slouching” is also reflex movements that prevent a physiological posture.
To now “work out” a physiological posture and movement pattern afterwards, under no circumstances should the reflexes be triggered or even tested in any way.
You can imagine it like this: unintegrated reflexes are like a “wound” that you must not irritate; otherwise, it will not heal.
The reflexes must be left alone; instead, the question is asked: which physiological developmental step was not practiced cleanly in the first year of life?
In my BalanceHIRO® method, I have a light movement program that neither triggers nor tests the reflexes in children.
In addition, I work with Neuroenergetic® Kinesiology, which has a good influence on the improved functioning of our brain.
Reflex integration does not happen permanently by repeatedly testing the respective reflexes or constantly triggering them through “exercises.”
In my third book “Vulture Neck and Hollow Back,” I wrote an extensive chapter on this, which you can read below.
Excerpt on the subject of reflex integration by Bärbel Hölscher from her book
3.5. neither test nor trigger early childhood reflexes
I have already emphasized several times that reflexes must not be tested repeatedly beyond the first year of life. If you are with a therapist who does this, please ask what therapeutic benefit this has for the child. If he cannot give you a satisfactory answer, ask him not to do any further tests.
The fact is: such tests are simply unnecessary because there is now extensive literature on which behavioral abnormality has not yet integrated which reflex. This can be read (see also in the bibliography from page 104), clearly observed and therefore no longer needs to be tested.
When I had to experience the testing of early childhood reflexes on myself in 2001, I was completely irritated afterward. I could no longer orient myself well, I felt dizzy, I was inattentive, I became slightly aggressive, and I felt sick again and again. All in all, I felt like the ground had been pulled out from under my feet.
This worsening of my condition – after all, I had expected exactly the opposite of the test’s effects, namely help for well-being – worried me as much as it spurred me on to find out what had happened in my body. The first realization: deteriorations of well-being occurred not only in me but in most of those tested – this was comforting in a way, “others feel the same way”; but it remained completely unsatisfactory. Achieving well-being was the goal. To suffer impairments just because a user thought he had to test early childhood reflexes?
To this day, no one has been able to explain to me satisfactorily why these tests are carried out, but over the years I have acquired sound knowledge that shows that testing early childhood reflexes is not only unnecessary but even harmful.
For if a child, adolescent, or adult is tested to check whether one of the reflexes is still active, their compensation strategy, which their body has “worked hard” to cope with the inadequacies that have arisen due to unintegrated early childhood reflexes, is broken. Let’s remember that the origin of early childhood reflexes lies in the unconscious part of the brain, the brainstem. Until a few years ago, it was thought that early childhood reflexes were located in the emotional part, which of course could not be true. Because reptiles also have reflexes, but no emotional brain. This means that the respective reflex is irritated at the moment of testing. The body of the person being tested is overwhelmed by this. The brain receives the information that it is a matter of survival, starts to react in various ways in survival mode, and thus has massive stress.
Here are some examples again: The person being tested feels strange to bad, becomes aggressive, dizziness can occur, communication ability is twisted because there is no longer any action from the conscious part of the brain, but only reaction from the unconscious part – this then, of course, either in overreactions or possibly also apathetically. The person being tested is in survival mode. – Who wants that?
Against this background, I represent my approach.
The lack of integration of early childhood reflexes goes hand in hand with a lack of centering.
Poorly integrated reflexes are most evident in unnatural muscle tension. Many people have too high muscle tension. However, most of them these days – and especially children and adolescents – have too weak muscle tension, which is much more exhausting. These people have even less integrated reflexes than those with excessive muscle tension. In order not to keep collapsing in body posture – vulture neck and hollow back – a high muscle tension must be “placed over” the too weak muscle tension. – This is very exhausting in the long run.
This becomes visible in bent postures; the person cannot sit still, the head is supported while sitting, free standing is hardly possible, they always have to lean on something. The constant “slouching” also clearly represents a compensation strategy: no trace of centering. It is important that children do NOT constantly do exercises that lead to the triggering of the respective reflexes.
Let’s consider the spinal Galant reflex as a central example, which is partly responsible for bedwetting, for instance. As mentioned earlier, it is triggered by stroking the right and left sides of the spine from top to bottom. For example, when a child lies on their back with legs extended or bent, and a helper rocks the child’s body up and down, the spinal Galant reflex is stimulated.
As I often hear, this exercise only exacerbates bedwetting, and some children even start to soil themselves.
However, this exercise not only stimulates the spinal Galant reflex but also all reflexes triggered by tilting the head backward and forward because the head tilts back when rocking.
Thus, the other reflexes are also triggered, although they had already been well integrated, and compensation strategies are broken down to the extent that they affect those with poorly integrated reflexes. These effects of exercises on the spinal Galant reflex cannot be intentional.
The risk of such effects exists for almost all tests and their respective exercises for early childhood reflexes. The children’s reactions to individual exercises always depend on the extent to which their compensation strategies are broken down. The less this happens, the more children can benefit.
My approach is to initiate this rocking motion from a centered position. Then it feels different for those affected, and the risk of unwanted side effects from triggering other reflexes remains minimal. This applies to all other exercises as well. However, I would never use the rocking exercise for an active spinal Galant reflex due to necessary risk assessment.
When I place a child in a centered position, they experience well-being that they did not have before, and their nervous system calms down again. This is demonstrated by a case of the spinal Galant reflex test described earlier. After advising the mother to stop the rocking exercise immediately in such a case, the child suddenly stopped soiling themselves, and bedwetting subsided through gentle exercises from the BalanceHIRO® program.
It’s not always that easy. I also work kinesiologically, specifically with Neuroenergetic® Kinesiology according to Hugo Tobar.
Information on muscle testing in kinesiology
Information on muscle testing in kinesiology
Kinesiology has existed for 54 years as of 2019 and is an umbrella term like medicine. Neuroenergetic® Kinesiology has been around for about 18 years and is based on ongoing brain research results. It works with the so-called dwell mode, which is only used in the direction of kinesiology that has its foundations in Applied Physiology. In Applied Physiology, the client’s muscle test is checked for its accuracy and whether it is in a so-called homeostasis before anything is tested. No other direction of kinesiology checks the muscle test beforehand. I recommend everyone who uses muscle testing in their work to learn the technique of accurate muscle testing at least.
To emphasize once again, one must not do any exercises that stimulate early childhood reflexes
Doing so, figuratively speaking, drives on the “reflex highway,” which is developmentally “closed” from the end of the first year of life and should not be driven on anymore.
The goal is to leave all reflexes alone and focus solely on centering, which is not sufficiently present.
I can also compare it to when I’m cold, I don’t go out in the cold in a swimsuit – I do the opposite: I put on something warmer and feel more comfortable with it.
The same applies here: The still active reflexes have led to various compensation strategies so that the person could cope at all. If you stimulate the reflexes again by triggering them through appropriate tests and subsequent exercises (like wearing a swimsuit in the cold), this leads to worsening because the body does not yet have an alternative strategy available.
And this alternative strategy is called: physical centering. I describe what this looks like in my book “Centering – Reflex Integration for Solving Physical Posture Problems” as well as in the next chapter. Almost all exercises can be done from a centered position because no reflexes are triggered. When clients show me the respective exercise they do, and I show them how they can do the exact same exercise from a centered position, they experience the exercise as new and very pleasant. When the person does the exercise for the second time, they feel it quite differently and marvel at what has already changed.
By the way: All exercises I offer should only evoke a pleasant feeling, and it is not up to me to decide how long or whether a particular exercise should be done, but the client, whether a child, teenager, or adult.
As soon as a client says that it is uncomfortable, the exercise is stopped immediately because the brain and thus the body are overwhelmed at that moment. Physical discomfort is a clear indication that the brain is overwhelmed at that time and not storing something beneficial but something learned under stress. This may lead to building up another compensation strategy under certain circumstances.
Information about muscle testing in kinesiology
Kinesiology has existed for 54 years in 2019 and is a generic term like medicine. Neuroenergetic® Kinesiology has existed for about 18 years and is based on the ongoing brain research results. It works with the so-called dwelling mode, which is applied only in the direction of kinesiology, which have their foundations in Applied Physiology. In Applied Physiology, before anything is tested, the client’s muscle test is checked to see if it is meaningful at all, if it is in the so-called homeostasis. In no other kinesiology direction is the muscle test checked for this in advance. I recommend everyone who uses the muscle test in his work to at least learn the technique of exact muscle testing.
To reiterate, under no circumstances should you do any exercises that irritate early childhood reflexes.
This means, metaphorically speaking, that one is driving on “the reflex highway”, which, however, is “closed” from the end of the first year of life due to developmental reasons and may no longer be driven on.
It is necessary to leave all reflexes alone and attend exclusively to the centering, which is not sufficiently present.
I can also compare it to the fact that when I’m cold, I don’t also go out in the cold in a bathing suit. – I do the opposite: I put on something warmer and feel more comfortable with it.
It is the same here: The still active reflexes have led to the most diverse compensation strategies so that the person could cope at all. If one now stimulates the reflexes again by triggering them through appropriate testing and the following exercises (like in a bathing suit in the cold), this leads to an aggravation because the body (still) has no alternative strategy available.
And this alternative strategy is called: physical centering. How this looks like, I describe in my book “Centering – Reflex Integration to solve physical posture problems as well as in the next chapter. Almost all exercises can be done from centering, because no reflexes are triggered. If clients show me the particular exercise they are doing and I then show them how to do exactly the same exercise from centering, they experience the exercise as new and as very pleasant. When the person does the exercise for the second time, they already feel it quite differently and are amazed at what has already changed.
By the way, all the exercises I offer must only evoke a pleasant feeling, and it is not me who says how long and whether the particular exercise should be done, but the client, whether it is a child, a teenager or an adult.
As soon as a client says that he or she is not comfortable, the exercise is stopped immediately because the brain, and therefore the body, is still overwhelmed at that moment. Physical discomfort is a clear indication that the brain is overwhelmed at the time and is not storing something beneficial, but something that is learned under stress. This may again build up a new compensatory strategy.