Physical Exercises

A regime of slow stereotyped movements are created for each individual child depending upon the actual level of neurological development attained. The exercises are designed to strengthen, and then inhibit, the individual Primitive Reflexes in the sequence in which they naturally occur. The Primitive Reflexes are those reflexes arising from the brain stem that enable survival for the infant and propel it through the first year of life. At the same time development of the more adult Postural Reflexes becomes stronger. The Postural Reflexes are those reflexes that arise from a higher region of the brain stem that enable co-ordination of sensory and motor functions when the body is both upright and moving. To fully comprehend what co-ordination of sensory and motor function means it is easiest to look at one sense, the eye, and it’s function of receiving a clear unblurred image. This entails aiming the eye at the object to be viewed; controlling the pupil size, depending on the focal distance and the density of light; controlling the thickness of the lens for focus. As we have two eyes it also means co-ordinating all of these things between the two eyes to prevent a double image. All of this needs doing not only when the individual is standing still, but when walking, running, sliding.

Research at Queens University Belfast has confirmed the INPP premise that retained Primitive Reflexes do in fact have detrimental effect upon co-ordination and learning and that specific exercises do inhibit these reflexes with subsequent benefit to learning. The exercises are based upon the movements of foetal life and infancy and are slow and very deliberately performed, they have been likened by some as similar to the movements of Tai Chi. The child does these exercises at home, taking from 5-15 minutes once a day. The movements are taught to both parent and child prior to each change of exercise. It is very important that the movements are done slowly, following the same stereotyped pattern each day, in this way the specific set of nerve pathways are stimulated. It is through this repeated stimulation of specific pathways that development occurs; if there are lots of random movements the treatment regime is always less successful. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for the exercises to be carried out in the way prescribed, how important it is for the child and parent to monitor the patterns for themselves.

The basis of the exercises is to give the brain a second chance by repeating similar movements that should naturally occur in the first year of life. We do not teach our babies to sit, roll, crawl or stand and it is now appreciated how important it is for later development that each of these stages should be worked through. It is now known that nerve fibres grow when stimulated and that movement is a prime stimulator. We can learn to drive a car in theory but nothing generates proficiency like practice. About 90% of all sensory nerves are situated in the muscles, and ligaments, informing us of the relative position of our limbs and body in relation to ourselves and space. Movement will therefore always stimulate a good proportion of that 90% of sensory nerves. The fact that there is such a large percentage of sensory nerves related to muscle position demonstrates how important movement is in the whole scheme of awareness and adjustment. Awareness and adjustment being the two vital components of learning. Research has also shown a link between very intelligent children who have used that intelligence to bypass, or shorten certain developmental stages, with later detriment to skills related to reading, writing and co-ordination.

Treatment usually takes anything from 9 months to a two years depending on the cause. Occasionally, when response to treatment is slow, but continuous, following discussion with the parents it is agreed to continue treatment beyond this time. If there is no evidence of change, even though the treatment has been done effectively, it is best to terminate treatment through a mutual agreement. However, the number of children in whom this type of treatment is not effective is small, and it is hoped through continued research and knowledge to reduce this number still further.

The effects of treatment are usually visible very quickly, but they rarely address the reading and writing difficulties initially. It must be remembered that the treatment re-addresses the first year of life, we know that young babies do not have sufficient eye control to enable reading, that this control emerges slowly. Initial testing also demonstrates that the vast majority with retained Primitive Reflexes also have poor eye control which develops in stages as treatment ensues. Frequently the first benefits of treatment are associated with improvements in over-reactivity, the child is calmer and more sociable, this is followed by improvements in physical co-ordination and dexterity. After about 4 months some improvements in reading and writing emerge, but the full eye control will not be achieved until after the last of the Primitive Reflexes has inhibited and the pertinent Postural Reflexes have replaced them. Development, therefore, follows a similar pattern to that of normal childhood; with physical and social competence preceding academic. It is toward the end of treatment that the real benefits to academic achievement become apparent.

During treatment additional exercises are incorporated to potentiate integration within the brain. The initial exercises potentiate nerve fibre development within the brain stem, but for optimum awareness and adaptation (learning) it is important that there are many, many, nerve fibres connecting these centres with the higher centres and between the specialist areas within the higher centres. These additional exercises encourage development of this enlarged nerve network between the various specialist centres within the brain, increasing the number and speed of communication between the specific senses. The visual reception centre lies at the back of the brain, the sound recognition centre lies above and behind the ear, the analytical centre lies at the front of the brain; it is very important to have strong connections between all of these centres to create a sensible link between hearing, seeing and understanding what the individual sounds and visual letter/word shape mean and then what they mean collectively. The greater the number of fibres joining the two halves of the brain will also increase integration. Each half of the brain is more adept at processing different types of stimuli, greater communication between the two halves will lead to greater over all effectiveness of brain and body.

During treatment the child becomes much more able to manage the various classroom activities, to concentrate and follow the normal daily curriculum, however, for some children, it may be necessary to have some remedial teaching to compensate for the previous ineffective learning of basic concepts.