Your Child Acts Like a Baby
I get asked this question on a regular basis; like once a week: “Why does my child act like a baby sometimes?” The answer is multi-faceted and I usually try to talk about the full answer as quickly as I can. In many cases, the right hemisphere of the brain, which controls SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, AND BEHAVIORAL REGULATION is underdeveloped and underconnected. You can read about hemisphericity HERE.
But there is another major player in the answer to this question. Most simply put, babies have very little function coming from their brain. For the most part, in the first year of life, they are mostly driven by the brain stem, which is the most primitive part of the brain. By primitive, I mean, it is not highly complex in its electrical connectivity, like the vast regions found in the higher parts of the brain. Also, it is responsible for some very basic, primitive things like heart rate, digestion, breathing, and reflexes like the rooting reflex, which causes babies to begin to suck when those cranial nerves around the corners of the mouth are stimulated. That leads to nursing. But did you ever notice that by the age of 12 months or less, most babies, whether they are nursing or not, no longer root? They can choose to suck when presented with the opportunity, but it is a choice, not a reflex.
That is a common and great example of a primitive reflex. What happens, in simple terms, is that as the brain matures and develops through movement in the first year of life, the reflexes become “suppressed.” This allows the brain to learn to control those movements without having a strong electrical signal coming from the brain stem, which disrupts the child’s ability to truly control their movements and even their thoughts. The primary reflexes you will see in a child are:
These are obviously brief descriptions, but if a child displays one or more of the primitive reflexes upon clinical testing, the consequences can be serious. A child with “immature” or “childish” behavior traits very often is being caused to feel similar impulses to a baby because that part of their brain is overactive and not integrated correctly!
Again, primitive reflexes are just one part of the problem and are never the full answer, but it is incredibly important to understand that this is one of the most common and important components to deciphering your child’s symptoms; especially if they are displaying immaturity or “baby”-like behaviors.
In case you’re wondering how common it is for a child to retain their primitive reflexes, the answer is VERY OFTEN. Every child I have worked with over the last 8 years has shown persistence of their primitive reflexes.
According to a study published in 2016 by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “Over a half (65%) preschool children had survived the primitive reflexes on the residual level. Eleven percent of them had no retained primitive reflexes. According to the psychomotor ability, 9% of the children were in the category of “altered development”, 29% in “delayed development”, 59% in “normal” and 3% in “very good development”. (Source:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5778413/)
If you’re reading this, you probably can relate to at least one of those symptoms I described. If you want to know more about how to test your child, shoot us an email and we will help you however we can. It’s hard to watch your sweet baby struggle. I’ve been there myself. We’re with you. As I tell my kids every day: “NEVER GIVE UP!”