What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

According to the NHS, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity/hyperkinetic Disorder is ‘a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness’. The exact cause of ADHD is not known. However, the diagnosis is based on the behavioural aspect of the child. Most of the children get diagnosed at a school-going age, around 6 years of age.

Most ADHD children have a cluster of retained primitive reflexes which are controlled by the primitive part of the brain. These are reflexes babies are born with to assist them to become upright in the first year of life. They should be suppressed by 4 months of age. These are mostly stimulated by head movements or touch, and when triggered cause very small but compelling automatic, movements. When a number of retained primitive reflexes are present together these movements are amplified and can result in hyperactivity.

The relationship between retained primitive reflexes and ADHD has not been fully examined until an Australian study recruited 109 boys, 54 of which were diagnosed with ADHD. The boys’ parents were asked to fill the Conners’ Parent Rating Scale to confirm the ADHD symptoms, whereas the boys were asked to do certain reflex tests to check for any retained reflexes. Those without ADHD were found to have fewer symptoms of retained reflexes than the ADHD group, who had higher levels of Moro Reflexes, Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflexes, and Tonic Labyrinthe Reflexes. Although these findings are only preliminary, it shows some support to the relationship between retained primitive reflexes and ADHD symptoms. Retained primitive reflexes can be treated and reintegrated through chiropractic adjustments.

One study,4 published in Activitas Nervosa Superior in 2012, found that boys with ADHD were more likely than those in a control group to retain both the Moro and Spinal Galant reflexes. The authors concluded that “ADHD symptoms may present a compensation of unfinished developmental stages.”

[“Why Is My Child So Clumsy?”]
Another study,5 conducted in 2013, found a correlation between two other primitive reflexes — the asymmetric and symmetric tonic neck reflexes — and ADHD symptoms in girls between the ages of eight and 11. “ADHD symptoms may present a process related to primitive neural mechanisms, such as primitive reflexes, interfering with higher-level brain functions due to insufficiently developed cognitive and motor integration,” the authors write. Other studies, conducted over the past several years, reach similar conclusions.

Treatment for Retained Primitive Reflexes
How can you be sure your child’s reflexes are progressing at a normal rate? Bring any concerns about your child’s development to an occupational therapist, functional neurologist, or developmental pediatrician, who can conduct a developmental assessment and report back on your child’s reflexes in relation to her life stage.

If your child has retained some of her primitive reflexes, a trained occupational therapist can guide her through therapeutic exercises that address lingering infantile reflexes, and replace them (where necessary) with higher-level reflexes. You can also engage in at-home exercises to help your child move past his or her primitive reflexes. Ask a therapist to recommend exercises aimed at your child’s specific delays; Oxford Integrated learning Centre (OILC), offers these suggestions to get you started:

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