Why Chiropractic for my child?

Does your child display poor concentration skills?

Does your child wet the bed long past the age where you think they should have stopped?

Perhaps your child has poor handwriting or hand control.

Perhaps you think they’re overly clumsy or fidgety, or lack balance and coordination.

Or perhaps they have difficulty forming friendships and lack self-esteem.

These are all quite common problems, but they don’t need to be lasting problems.

The highly qualified and experienced staff at Vitality Junction Natural Health Centre will assess your child’s spine and nervous system and recommend an individually designed program of gentle, non-invasive therapy including chiropractic, sensory integration training, nutrition and the bio medical approach amongst others. Their aim is to help your child overcome some of the difficulties they may be experiencing by re-programming your child’s body. They do this using chiropractic to open up the communication pathways within the child’s body and through movement-based exercises and activities that help your child learn or re-learn essential skills.

What is Chiropractic?

The importance of movement: how can we help our children?

“Space, time, opportunity for play and human interaction are as vital to a baby in the first year of life as food, sleep and a clean nappy.” (Sally Goddard Blythe, 2008, What babies and children really need, p. 175)

It is all too easy in our busy modern lives to forget to allow our babies time to just ‘be’ and to develop at their own pace, allowing time for the full range of experiences that our babies need. Rushing our babies through stages means they can miss out on some of the vital building blocks for learning and emotional development which, as Goddard Blythe’s above quote indicates, are as essential as the things we would never dream of skimping on – food, sleep and a clean nappy.

In the first year of life, a baby’s brain puts together lots of pieces of information they have accumulated through motor and sensory development. This development is very much based on movement experiences. Babies need to move, and the more they do, the better they are able to control their movement as they grow. The repetition of simple, innate baby movements such as rooting for the breast, wiggling toes, kicking legs, turning the head and stretching out the arms – and the muscle strength that develops with these movements – helps a toddler to balance on two feet and take their first steps.

The opportunities a baby has for movement in the first year of life, particularly eye movement and hand-eye coordination, put in place the physical building blocks that they need for reading and writing. General movement such as tummy time and movement through play helps build these skills.

Did you know that a baby’s brain will double in size from the time they are born to when they turn one, and will then double in size again up to the time they turn six? Genetically, our brain cells are all in place before we are born, but experience – especially physical experience – during these vital formative years is essential to make sure the brain fully develops. In our modern lives we tend to rush things, and can also try to rush through our baby’s and young child’s developmental stages, but doing this may deprive our children of the building blocks that are vital for learning and emotional development. Some of those building blocks relate to primitive reflexes.

What are primitive reflexes and what do they do?

Primitive reflexes – also known as survival reflexes – begin to emerge nine weeks after conception and develop during the baby’s time in the womb. Reflexes do not involve thinking: they are involuntary responses to stimuli and are controlled by the lower centres of the brain. In the early months after birth, the baby’s brain is developing neural connections in the higher centres of the brain that slowly take over from the primitive reflexes. As the higher brain centres start to mature, a baby is consciously able to control their movement and their involuntary reflex movements start to diminish. We do retain some of these movements for life, however, and unconsciously draw on them in survival situations such as withdrawing from pain, heat or bright light.

Primitive reflexes are generally active for about six months or so after birth but may be retained in some infants who may have been subject to stress while in the womb, birth trauma, or environmental deprivation. Retained primitive reflexes are a sign of immaturity in some part of the central nervous system and if they are retained for longer than is normal, may disturb some of the functions of the higher nerve centres. Retained primitive reflexes can impact upon a child’s behaviour, motor control, sensory perception, hand-eye coordination and cognition, all of which can affect their emotional and social well-being and learning success. What is the Central Nervous System?

Some primitive reflexes and their effects are outlined below. You can see how things that we often have no control over can cause some difficulties as children grow.

the Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex, is an involuntary response to a threat or stress. It develops 9 – 12 weeks after conception and reaches full development at birth. It is activated by sensory overload such as loud noises, bright lights and sudden dropping or tilting movement. The Moro reflex should diminish as higher brain centres start to function in the months after birth, but if it persists beyond 3 – 6 months it becomes the baby’s automatic response to a threatening situation. If a growing child retains this reflex it may result in hypersensitivity that causes them to withdraw from situations or experience difficulty with new experiences and socialising. The right therapy can help the Moro reflex integrate and the nervous system and hormonal system adjust.
the Palmar reflex is activated when a baby’s palm is touched, causing them to grasp the object touching their palm. It is replaced by the pincer grip when the infant is around 9 months of age. If a baby retains the Palmar reflex, it may impede their development of independent finger movement which may later affect their handwriting and other fine motor skills.
the Plantar reflex is a reflex grasping of the baby’s foot. This reflex assists the baby in the birth process which also reinforces the reflex. A child who curls their toes under when they stand or walk may have a retained Plantar reflex. If it is retained, it can affect balance and mobility and crossing the midline. What is Crossing the Midline?
the rooting reflex allows a baby to move towards their mother’s nipple to find their food source. If the baby retains this reflex beyond the first few months of life, it may affect their chewing, eating, swallowing, speech and articulation as they grow.
the spinal gallant reflex starts to develop about 18 weeks after conception and enables the baby to move their hips to make their way down the birth canal. It should be fully integrated by the end of the baby’s first year but if it is retained, light pressure on the lower back region may activate the reflex. This light pressure could be caused by waistbands rubbing against their skin or the back of a chair pressing on their lower back. The result of this may be a child with ‘ants in their pants’ who needs to constantly change their body position. These children are often seen as having poor concentration and short-term memory. They may also have poor bladder control and may wet the bed as their bedding creates pressure on their lower back causing an involuntary voiding reflex. As it may impede the development of postural reflexes, a retained gallant reflex may also affect an older child or adult’s posture, gait and their general mobility.
the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex (ATNR) develops about 18 weeks after conception and should be fully developed at birth. This reflex helps the baby actively participate in the birth process and helps stimulate the growing child’s balance mechanism, increase their neural connections and develop their hand-eye coordination. ATNR allows the baby’s hand to move in conjunction with its head, creating a connection between touch and vision that helps develop hand-eye coordination, crossing the midline, and object and distance perception. This reflex usually integrates when the baby is about 6 months of age but if the reflex is retained it can impair the hand-eye connection that is needed for crawling and even walking. Retained ATNR also results in a child finding it difficult to accomplish tasks that involve both the left and right sides of the body. Writing is particularly difficult for those with retained ATNR.
The tonic labyrinthine reflex (TLR) starts to develop about 12 weeks after conception and should be fully developed by the time the baby reaches 12 months. This reflex helps the baby and growing child master head and neck control and helps them develop coordination, posture and correct head alignment. If an infant retains TLR they may develop balance and coordination problems, poor muscle tone and posture, motion sickness, stiff jerky movements, and difficulty walking up and down stairs. If a child does not have good head control they may also experience impaired eye function and hearing difficulties.

How can Vitality Junction Natural Health Centre help?

If your child has some of the problems mentioned above that relate to retained primitive reflexes, the Vitality Junction team of practitioners can design an individual program of remedial activities with an integrated approach that incorporates therapies including Chiropractic, Sensory Integration Training, Nutrition, Naturopathy and the Bio-medical approach. Sensory Integration Training

Gently altering the movement of the spine and skull using sacro-occipital technique encourages the body to integrate the primitive reflexes it may have retained. Movement-based activities can help to inhibit the reflex by allowing the child to replicate specific stages of development by regular repetition of early childhood movement patterns. The result is that the child is able to properly develop appropriate movements, skills and behaviours and the problems they had been experiencing will decrease. What is the Sacro-occipital Technique?

If you believe your child could benefit from therapy, please make an appointment with Mary Bourke who will initially assess their spine and nervous system and prepare an individualised remedial program for your child.

What is sacro-occipital technique?

Sacro-occipital technique is so named because of the relationship between the sacrum (the base of the spine) and the occiput (base of the skull). These two areas are the anchor points for the dural membrane which surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This membrane allows the spinal cord and brain to be bathed in cerebro-spinal fluid. The circulation of the fluid is essential for a well-functioning brain and nervous system and ultimately for good health.

If a child experiences behaviour or learning difficulties, it is often a sign that there are problems with the functioning of their brain and nervous system. This can often be caused by spinal subluxations, which are misalignments that cause interference to the nervous system. These misalignments can result from the birth process, illness or stresses in the first months of life, or retained primitive reflexes. These subluxations do not necessarily cause the child any pain or discomfort.

Vitality Junction’s therapists take a holistic approach that uses sacro-occipital technique in conjunction with a movement program, dietary changes and other remedial techniques to bring about lasting and positive changes in their clients.