Have you ever heard a parent proudly state ‘Oh my child didn’t need to crawl, they went straight to walking!’?
Well, when I hear this statement my heart sinks. As a Neurological Developmental Therapist I know that skipping a crucial stage in development actually does nothing to benefit the child. In fact, it may well result in learning or behavioural problems.
Neurological development is how the brain develops and builds connections throughout the body, going from basic brain stem functioning to the more complex higher brain functioning. This process is sequential and from the moment of conception the brain is being constructed. However in order to have good healthy brain development each stage must be transitioned before moving on to the next stage.
I always say that building the brain is like building a house. The foundations must be firmly established in order for the rest of it to be stable and successful.
Remember, there is a reason for every stage of development. Every movement has a learning function for the child and helps to build their brain in preparation for the next stages yet to emerge. Movement is the key to learning.
What does this mean? Well, to give an example of this, and one that we are all familiar with, when an object is placed in the palm of an infant they will immediately close their fingers around it and grasp it. This movement helps to ‘wire’ the brain. Doing this many times allows baby to understand and learn how to control the muscles in their arm and hand.
The closing of the fingers and grasping of the object is caused by a ‘reflex’. A reflex is an involuntary response to a stimulus. Developmentally, there are two main types of reflexes, primitive reflexes and postural reflexes.
Primitive reflexes begin to develop at nine weeks in utero. They are the survival reflexes and should be fully finished with by the age of twelve months. They help baby to go through the early developmental milestones by causing movements in response to certain stimuli.
Once they are inhibited (switched off) the Postural Reflexes emerge. Once these reflexes emerge it is said that higher brain functioning has begun. The postural reflexes allow for control over the body and are long term retained reflexes. We need these for day to day functioning such as; playing sports (kicking, catching, throwing, swinging etc.), riding bicycles, running, writing, reading, balance and many more activities. However, these cannot form correctly if some primitive reflexes are still present or if they were never developed properly in the first instance.
Ollwyn Moran is a trained Neurological Developmental Therapist and the founder of Creeper Crawlers, a revolutionary children’s clothing brand best known for its Easy Grip Crawl Suit. Made from 100% cotton and free of harsh chemical dyes, the patent-pending and award-winning Easy Grip Crawl Suit provides developmental benefits for babies ages 6-24 months. Learn more about Creeper Crawlers here.