Primitive Reflexes

The way you can measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Issue No. 71 – 25th May 2009

Welcome to Kidz Newz especially to all new subscribers, including those from ASME Summer School in Perth.  Kidz Newz is a regular newsletter with information and teaching tips for anyone involved with young children. You are receiving this because you have attended one of my workshops, purchased a book, or you have requested to be on the mailing list. Thank you. Please forward this to anyone you feel it may be of interest to.  Feedback is welcome.

PD Updates

Wednesday 3rd June 2009 – Nedlands Primary School – 3.30pm – 5.30pm.  Booking form is on the website.  For further details contact me on

Tuesday 20th October 2009 – Somerset, UK. Details to follow.

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Primitive Reflexes

Last year I had the privilege of attending a Move to Learn Workshop in Fiji with Mary Mountstephen who is the author of the following article.  I will be running a Workshop with Mary later this year in Somerset, UK.  I hope to see you there if you’re in the area.  If you are interested in the Move to Learn products or Imagination Gym, they are available on the Kidz-Fiz-Biz website.

Primitive reflexes and their impact on learning
Mary Mountstephen MA (SEN) Associate Member of British Dyslexia Association 

I know he isn’t doing as well as he could, I just don’t know why.

The importance of early identification of special needs in a child is something teachers and parents will generally agree on. However, some children still seem to reach a stage several years into their education when their failure to meet expected levels of attainment has not been addressed successfully, however hard everyone tries. Teachers know through assessment that there are children, who are not quite making the grade, they know that a child is failing, but not why.

The concept of neuro-developmental delay describes the way in which an omission or arrest of a stage of early development can cause difficulties with subsequent motor control, eye functioning, eye-hand co-ordination and perceptual skills.

Everyone is born with a set of primitive reflexes (sometimes known as survival reflexes) which should be inhibited or controlled by the developing nervous system during the first year of life. For example, when a newborn infant grasps an object placed in her hand, she does so automatically and without conscious thought. This is an example of a primitive reflex, which is an involuntary response to a specific stimulation. These primitive reflexes should be present at birth and they provide an indication of the status of the Central Nervous System. (This is why the majority of doctors test these primitive reflexes – to assess the neurological status of the infant).

As the baby grows and develops, these primitive reflexes are replaced by the postural reflexes which allow the brain to take more sophisticated control. As this is happening, for example, the child replaces automatic movements such as the grasping of objects placed in the palm with the developing ability   to hold a pencil correctly.

Research, on-going over many years, shows that children who have difficulties at school often have not passed effectively through these stages of early development so that they can make the most of their intelligence and natural ability. This means that learning can be a frustrating and stressful experience.

It is recognized that many children do grow out of early problems and there are many individual variations within stages of development. However there also exists a group of children who, to all outward appearances are ‘normal’, but who are immature in other aspects of their development.

It is these children who may benefit from a movement-based intervention programme such as those detailed below. These have been used by teachers and parents successfully in many countries with significant improvements in balance, coordination and classroom performance.

Move to Learn:

Barbara Pheloung has worked for many years with children in Australia primarily, and her programme has spread to many countries including Fiji, China, Africa and India.  Her books and e-book Ten Gems for the Brain are very readable for parents and teachers. There is on-going research with The University of Sydney.

The Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology:

Sally Goddard-Blythe is the Director of INPP and the author of several definitive books on this subject. The INPP is also a training Institute.

Mary Mountstephen will be running one day and five day training in neuro-developmental delay next July in Somerset UK. Contact her on for more information.

Quotes of the Week

Where better is possible, good is not enough. Unknown

Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Theodore Roosevelt


I’m leaving this link in just in case you didn’t get a chance to look at it last time.  It is too good to miss.  For some inspiration for your next school concert, or just for sheer enjoyment click on this link.


My children and I really enjoyed your music session on Wednesday. Your CDs have been playing non-stop. Julie Stewart, teacher, Kalamunda WA, attended school holiday program.

About The Author

Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA

Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.

PO Box 6894, East Perth WA 6892, Australia
T: +61 8 9325 1204 M: +61 (0) 410 64 2781 E:

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Until next time – continue being a legend in your classroom.

Marlene Rattigan, Editor
Kidz Newz

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