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Our latest blog posts, written by the Wilson Centre experts on various topics surrounding child development.

Signs a child may have a Retained Primitive Reflex

21st October 2018

Babies are born with natural movement instincts, these are called primitive reflexes. For example, when a newborn baby is startled by a loud noise their arms and legs will go up into the air as part of the moro reflex. If you touch a babies cheek, they will turn their head in the direction of the touch and start suckling, this is known as the rooting reflex. These are two examples of the primitive reflexes.

The primitive reflexes remain active for the first few months of life. However, during the first year, if a child is developing typically the reflexes will inhibit over the year. Replacing them are the postural reflexes, which are the human body’s response, controlling posture, balance and coordination.

In some children the primitive reflexes are retained, which can be an indication of underlying issues. For example Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder.  An Occupational Therapist tests children to see if their primitive reflexes have been integrated.

Here are some signs of retained primitive reflexes that you can observe at home:


  • Poor coordination
  • Poor balance
  • Walking on toes
  • Weak hand to eye coordination
  • Poor hand writing


  • Poor attention/focus
  • Appears to be ‘lazy’
  • Disorganised and forgetful
  • Can be aggressive
  • Dislikes transitioning


  • Anxious
  • Many phobias
  • Avoids social situations
  • Mood swings, emotional


  • Struggles to follow multiple instructions
  • Says things unrelated to the topic
  • Adds in extra words or letters when reading
  • Can’t filter out background noise


  • Visual perception issues
  • Can’t read the chalk board
  • Struggles to read
  • Signs of dyslexia


  • Sensitive to sound and light
  • Picky eater
  • Dislikes tight clothing or tags in clothes
  • Chews on toys, clothes etc

If you are concerned you should book a consultation with an occupational therapist.

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