1.1 Balanced Brain Mini Course - Welcome

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Hi! Welcome to our Superman Mini Course! You might be wondering… why on earth is this course called the “superman” mini course?? I’ll tell ya!

The “Superman” Reflex is also known as the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex! At Yellow Wood, we’re pretty passionate about Primitive Reflexes, and we talk about them, a lot! Primitive reflexes are the first step in healthy brain development, and are the reflexes present at birth to help infants through the birthing process and first year of life. One great example is the “startle reflex”. We’ve all seen a baby get startled and throw their arms out and head back. This reflex is part of an infant’s survival mechanisms, but as they mature and develop, they don’t need it anymore. Other than just survival, primitive reflexes are also responsible for connecting the lower centers of the brain to higher, more mature centers of the brain so that children can do more complex things! These reflexes should disappear by year one, but sometimes they “get stuck”, or are retained, and it halts the brain development process. This can cause a myriad of difficulties for a child, including anxiety, trouble learning to read, poor handwriting, and many others!

When primitive reflexes are retained, kids have trouble using their whole brain effectively, and this makes it hard to access cognitive skills, like attention, memory skills, sequencing, and even logic and reasoning. Many of the symptoms related to these reflexes are also associated with ADHD, dyslexia, sensory processing disorder, and more.  If the brain is still immature, meaning it hasn’t finished developing because primitive reflexes are still intact, then the challenges will become more obvious as the student gets older. That is why primitive reflex integration is SO important to the success of a struggling student!

The amazing news about reflexes is this: learning challenges related to a retained reflex can be overcome! FIXED! See why we’re so excited about this? We LOVE helping families and students overcome their learning and behavioral challenges by testing for retained reflexes and then integrating them through simple movement exercises!

One of my favorite reflexes to “integrate” is the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR). You can see this reflex in action in infants when they do tummy time! A child who is placed on their belly will automatically lift their head and arms off the floor for a few seconds. As babies practice this movement, it helps to integrate the TLR. This is just one of many reasons why tummy time is so important for babies!

In this mini course, we’ll talk about the TLR reflex AND vestibular system. Both work together to build strong brains, so it’s really great to work on both at once!

1.2 Superman Symptoms

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When a child retains (holds onto) the TLR, you might see these symptoms:

WEAK CORE

How many times have we heard that the core is SO important for learning? This reflex is why! Core strength is built through integrating the TLR. Without strong core muscles, students will have poor posture, balance, and stamina for both physical activities and sitting in a desk working! Weak core muscles are also linked to a weak vestibular system!!

DIFFICULTY WITH SEQUENCING

Do you know a child who can never tell a story or tell about their day in order? Or struggles with counting, organizing, remembering the months of the year in order? It might be due to this retained reflex! Sequencing is also very important for learning to read and spell.

POOR SENSE OF TIME

We all have a child who seems to never notice what time it is, is always running late or in a rush, and who may have struggle learning to tell time! This is also a classic symptom of a retained TLR.

 

Here’s a handy printable of symptoms you might see!

1.3 How to Integrate TLR

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So, you may be thinking, “Wow! This sounds *just* like my child! But, wait! How do we fix it??” Well, here ya go! Many exercises that help integrate reflexes look similar to the reflex in an infant. So, when integrating the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex, you’re essentially going to recreate tummy time! Here are a few ways you can do this:

1. SUPERMAN

The main exercise we use for integrating the TLR is the superman. In order to complete this exercise, you’ll:

Repeat 3 times daily for 6 weeks.

  1. Lay on the floor or on a yoga ball on your stomach

  2. Lift arms above your head, and life your arms and legs off the floor at the same time, hold this position and count to at least 10.

If this exercise is extremely difficult, parents may need to help hold the legs up while the child focuses just on lifting their arms. Usually this will not be necessary after a couple weeks.

2. “FLOOR PLAY”

Another approach is floor time. You can often find activities to complete while laying on the floor on their stomach. Some ideas could be reading a book, doing homework, or completing a puzzle… or even just playing with legos, while propped on your elbows. If you have a scooter board, rolling around on your stomach is a great way to work on the TLR. Many OT’s have stretchy swings that you can lay in on your stomach with your and legs stretched out, so you can swing and do other activities while in the “superman” position. We have a swing like this in the doorway at our home so my 4 year old son can get in some daily tummy time!

 

Here’s the key to success with integrating the TLR and any reflex: you MUST do it daily for at least a 30 days! Just like when starting a new habit, the habit won’t form until you’ve done it daily for a few weeks. With Reflexes, we’re making new brain connections and pathways, so that will take time and it must be deliberate in order to integrate the reflex! In order to help you out with this, I’ve created a free printable chart that you can print for each of your children and hang on the fridge! Every time they complete the super man or at least 10 minutes of floor time, you can add a sticker to the chart!

What happens if you fall of the bandwagon? Don’t worry! If you’ve only missed a day or two, just jump back in and add a few days to your chart. If you’ve missed more than that though, I would suggest starting over!

Are you a classroom teacher? This is an amazing and easy exercise to implement in your class! Use it as a brain break, and encourage your students to continue with it on the weekends! You’ll see results in any student who has a retained TLR, and it will only help your other students to strengthen their core even more!

Here are printable instructions:

Use this printable chart to track your progress for 30 days!

1.4 Vestibular System?

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Earlier in this course we mentioned the vestibular system. Remember? Do you know what it is? The vestibular system is in your inner ear, and is responsible for balance. It is literally what tells your brain which way is up and keeps you on your feet. The vestibular system must be integrated in order for the brain to develop well. And sensory (yes, vestibular is one of our senses) integration is connected with reflex integration. See the same word there? Integration. This process of integrating sensory processing and reflexes happens in infancy/toddlerhood. In our years of evaluating students at Yellow Wood, I’ve come to find that these two are intertwined and one cannot be improved without the other. Today I’ll be sharing symptoms of sensory processing issues, as well as symptoms of retained primitive reflexes so that we can see where the overlap occurs!

Symptoms of a weak vestibular system:

  • Clumsiness

  • No fear of heights or excessive fear

  • Poor sense of space - stands too close

  • Difficulty modeling movements

  • Trouble learning to ride a bike

  • Trouble mentally rotating and reversing objects in space, learning to read a clock

With a weak vestibular system, often children will either CRAVE movement or AVOID it. IF a child is avoiding movement because this system is weak, they…

  • might get dizzy easily,

  • avoid visual/motor skills like catching a ball,

  • be uncoordinated or clumsy.

If they crave movement because their vestibular system is weak…

  • Might have trouble recognizing they are in someone’s personal space

  • Bump into things a lot

  • Hyper aware of their own personal space.

Here is a printable handout for you!

1.5 How to Strengthen Vestibular System

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Exercises for Improving the Vestibular System:

  • Line Jumps

    • Put pieces of tape on the floor, at least 2 or more. Students stand and do a “broad jump” (feet spread shoulder width apart) over the tape.

    • Improves motor planning, balance, and eye-foot coordination

  • Red Light, Green Light!

    • Have students line up at the end of the room or hall. When you say “green light” (or go!) students move toward you. When you say “red light” (or stop!) they freeze in place. Be creative! Have them bear walk, walk backwards, crab walk, etc!

    • Improves auditory processing and coordination

  • Log Rolls

    • Students lay on their backs on the floor with feet together, legs straight, and arms straight over their heads. Then students roll across the floor.

    • Improves core strength and spatial orientation

  • Balance Beam and Zig Zag Tape

    • Use tape or a balance beam to practice walking in a straight line. You can place them in a zig zag to make it harder! Practice walking forward, backward, and sideways.

    • Improves balance and visual motor control

More Ideas!

  • Up and down -

    • Jumping

    • Trampoline

    • Slides

  • To and fro -

    • Running

    • Swinging

  • Centrifugal -

    • Merry go rounds

    • Holding hands or a rope and swinging around

  • Turning -

    • Spinning

    • Rolling

    • Somersaults

  • Depth -

    • Riding on a scooter board

Just like with the Superman reflex, the key is to do vestibular movement EVERY DAY! Set a goal with your child to use breaks in the day for purposeful movement and see what improvement you see!

I can’t wait to hear about your journey with these new movement ideas. Be sure to join our Facebook Group for members of this course!

Here is a printable handout with these ideas!