The asymmetrical tonic neck reflex (ATNR) is a primitive reflex that babies exhibit in the first 6 months of life and it is an integral part of neural development. Persistence of an ATNR in school-aged children may be associated with poor handwriting, poor written expression, eye tracking issues (reading), difficulty crossing the midline and poor hand-eye coordination.
A study by McPhillips and Sheehy (2004) looked at the correlation between reading level and ATNR reflex persistence. The study put the children into 3 groups based on reading level (top, middle and lowest) and looked at the correlation between that and ATNR persistence.
It was found that the lowest reading group had a significantly higher average level of ATNR compared with the middle reading group and the top reading group. It was also found that there was a significant difference between the lowest reading group and the top reading group on a standardised test of motor ability. This study highlights the high levels of primary reflex persistence in children with reading difficulties and it provides further evidence of the association between reading difficulties and movement difficulties in young children.
A cross-sectional study by McPhillips and Black (2007) found that persistence of an ATNR was associated with lower core literacy skills in younger children. This study suggested that children with difficulties in reading, spelling and nonword reading showed high levels of ATNR persistence compared to the children without difficulties.
The findings of both of these studies are significant as it provides evidence of the association between reading difficulties, movement difficulties and literacy skills in young children with and without a retained ATNR.
If you have any concerns about your child’s reading, movement or literacy skills, give our Practice a call and we can assess your child to see if they still have a retained ATNR and give further recommendation to help manage this.
McPhillips, M. and Sheehy, N., 2004. Prevalence of persistent primary reflexes and motor problems in children with reading difficulties. Dyslexia, 10(4), pp.316-338.
McPhillips, M. and Jordan-Black, J.A., 2007. Primary reflex persistence in children with reading difficulties (dyslexia): A cross-sectional study. Neuropsychologia, 45(4), pp.748-754
Blogs by the team at Sprouting Health