The studies author’s (McPhillips et al, 2000) completed a research trial which aimed to determine if persistent primary reflexes have a role in disrupting the development of reading skills. The studied planned to show this by demonstrating that a reflect inhibiting motor programme was effective at reducing the level of ATNR response and that this reduction correlated with an improvement in a child’s reading ability.
The study recruited children aged 8-11 years from local Dyslexia groups. To join the study the children had to have a reading age at least 12 months behind their age, had a persistent ATNR response and an average verbal IQ. The 60 children were then randomly divided into 3 three groups.
Group 1 – The experimental group – Children in this group completed a motor programme for 10 minutes per day for 1 year. To programme aimed to repeat the primary reflex movements of the ATNR, MORO, TLR and STNR. As they hypothesised that the repetition of the motor patterns played a role in inhibiting the reflex.
Group 2 – The placebo group. Here the children completed a movement programme, but the movements were not based upon the reflexes.
Group 3 – The control group – Had no intervention and carried on as normal for 12 months.
The researchers measured the effect of the movement programme, on reading age, eye-tracking, writing speed, word spelling speed, phonological skills and the level of the ATNR response. The results they obtained can be seen in the image:
The results obtained showed that:
The ATNR level significantly reduced in the experimental group.
That although all the groups displayed an increase in reading ability, the increase in the experimental group was substantially greater.
There was a significant decrease in saccadic frequency (eye-tracking) in the experimental group.
That writing speed improved in all groups, but the experimental group had the largest increase (although not a statistically significant difference).
The researchers concluded that:
The repetition of primary-reflex movements plays an important part in the inhibition of reflexes and that this inhibition can be brought on much later in development than generally accepted.
That the retention of the ATNR impacts on cognitive development, as well as the more obvious motor development.
That assessing the underlying neurodevelopmental functioning, in particular the persistence of the primary reflexes when considering the basis of learning difficulties is important.
That motor programmes could be a practical technique for the development of reading skills.
Journal title – Effects of replicating primary-reflex movements on specific reading difficulties in children: a randomised, double-bling controlled trial.
Authors – McPhillips, M, Hepper P.G, and Mulhern, G (2000)