Svetlana Masgutova PhD, renowned reflex integration specialist, describes a reflex as an “automatic response of the nervous system as a result of a trigger from a stimulus”, (i.e., touch, movement, etc.) Her life’s work is the Masgutova Method of Neuro-Sensory-Motor and Reflex Integration (MNRI).
In her research, Dr. Masgutova has seen over 3,000 children ranging from one month to 18 years of age and correlated the poor reflex integration patterns to the developmental delays she observed. Consequently, she developed her own sensorimotor and reflex integration program.
All babies have primitive reflexes which develop naturally as a means of protection and survival. The more commonly known primitive reflexes are:
- Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR)
- Spinal galant reflex
- Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR)
- Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR)
Each primitive reflex has a specific and positive role in the first few years of life but should typically disappear or be “inhibited” as the child develops. They generally are replaced by postural reflexes which are more mature reflexes needed for balance, coordination and sensorimotor development.
Sometimes primitive reflexes are retained for a variety of reasons such as:
- Difficult pregnancy
- Difficult birth
- Emotional trauma
- Chronic stress
- Sensory perceptions
- Fine motor skills
- Energy levels
- Impulse control
- Social learning
- Emotional learning
- Intellectual learning
These poorly integrated reflex patterns can be found in children with:
- Cerebral palsy
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Genetic issues
- Brain injury
Dr. Masgutova views the integrated reflex system as a three-part circuit, and each reflex must integrate all three sensory- brain- motor responses. When reflexes don’t integrate well, there is a breakdown somewhere in this three part circuit:
- Sensory organs fail to communicate with the brain
- The brain fails to communicate with the muscles, tendons and ligaments
- The brain-body system confuses the sensory information and the motor response
The Masgutova Method incorporates a variety of gentle body work techniques and simple easy movements to awaken these neuro-sensorimotor connections for proper primitive reflex integration.
The Masgutova techniques emphasize stimulating neuro-motor and sensorimotor points on the body by:
- Releasing congestion and muscular tension throughout the body
- Stimulating the proprioceptive system
- Opening up communication among the muscles, tendons and ligaments
- Adjusting receptors of deep touch and pressure
- Stretching the trunk and limbs
- Rotating the joints
Other Methods of Reflex Integration
Besides the Masgutova Method, there are other methods of reflex integration such as:
Parents should know that most pediatric occupational therapists are not trained in reflex integration and do not use it in their practices. In our opinion, it is best to work on reflex integration before having more traditional sensory integration occupational therapy done for your child. However, it can be difficult to find a therapist who does reflex integration in your area, so you might need to attend a special clinic in another location for your child.
Still Looking for Answers?
Blomberg MD, Harald and Dempsey, Moira. Movements That Heal, Rhythmic Movement Training and Primitive Reflex Integration. Independenly published, 2011.
Brandes, Bonnie. The Symphony of Reflexes: Interventions for Human Development, Autism, ADHD, CP, and Other Neurological Disorders. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
Goddard Blythe, Sally. The Well Balanced Child: Movement and Early Learning. Hawthorn Press, 2005.
Goddard, Sally. Reflexes, Learning and Behavior, A Window Into the Child’s Mind. Fern Ridge Press, 2005.