The hyper-sensitive child and the Moro Reflex…

by Emma Penfold / 04 March 2018 / No Comments

Did you know that we are all born with primitive reflexes that are essential to our early survival but they must be lost in order for our brain to develop properly?

Jo Rodhouse

Jo Rodhouse

For example, an infant’s palmar reflex allows the baby to grasp anything that is placed in the palm but this reflex must be lost in order for the pincer grip to develop, which allows the child to develop fine motor skills of the hands. When primitive reflexes are retained, the development of postural reflexes and the maturing of the central nervous system (CNS), is impacted. As a result, the child can display immature patterns of behaviour and development.

The Moro reflex is a hugely influential reflex that is triggered in response to a sudden stimuli or perceived threat. It is part of the infant’s fight-or-flight survival response which helps alert us to danger and summon help. When triggered the infant will ‘startle’ throwing their arms in the air. In a neuro-typical developing infant, the Moro reflex is inhibited between two to four months of age.

So what happens if the Moro reflex is retained beyond four months of infancy? Your child will have an exaggerated startle reaction, which can present itself as a hypersensitivity in one or more sensory channels. He may become over sensitive and over reactive to sensory stimulus resulting in poor impulse control, sensory overload, emotional and social immaturity, anxiety and fears, anger and frustration. Other signs of a retained Moro reflex are motion sickness, poor balance & coordination, easily distracted with poor concentration & focus, an inability to adapt well to change.

Your child will be constantly on alert. This over-activation of the fight-or-flight response can impact all functions in the body tied to the adrenal glands, which will be overworked from continuous activation. The high cortisol levels released from the adrenals can also result in an inability to balance blood sugar levels and can have negative implications on healthy sleep patterns, energy levels, stamina and mood swings throughout the day.

It is often the case that the Moro reflex can be highly influential in the myriad of symptoms associated with ASD’s, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxic types.

It is fortunately very simple to establish if the primitive reflexes have been retained. If retained, a programme of neural stimulation can be highly effective in not only inhibiting the reflex but also, stimulating maturation of the CNS.

For more information or to book an appointment please contact Jo Rodhouse Neuro Developmental Therapy at Thame Therapy Clinic – 07802 614735 or or

Read a version of this article in the March 2018 Issue of Look Local Magazine.