Tonic neck reflex is present in newborn babies. The reflexes are involuntary and involve reaction to certain stimulus. Read this article to know about these.
Automatic reflexes are an inborn phenomenon in infants. Even doctors say, that these reflexes are a normal part of the fetal development process. It’s important for parents to know about these reflexes and know what your baby is doing. These reflexes are involuntary movements and actions performed by the baby after he is born. These movements are spontaneous and help in identification of normal brain and nerve activity. These reflexes are of different types and few are specific in certain periods of developments. Amongst these, tonic neck reflex is also a part of his normal growth and development.
Tonic Neck Reflex in Infants
In an infant, it is also known as fencing position. This reflex action is observed when the baby’s head is turned to one side and his arm on the side stretches out. Simultaneously the opposite arm bends up at his elbow and his limbs on the opposite side remain flexed. This action is known as tonic neck reflex and lasts for six to seven months. But if this persists or the infant remains in tonic neck reflex constantly, then it is abnormal. This can be either asymmetrical or symmetrical. To know about these read the next content.
Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex
When the baby turns his head on one side, an asymmetric tonic neck reflex is said to be activated. The arm and leg will extend on the same side. Simultaneously his opposite limbs bend. This type of tonic neck reflex should be inhibited at the age of six months when he just begins walking. In case this asymmetric tonic neck reflex persists in the child later in the stage, it can affect his normal developmental process. The bad effects are observed as discrepancy between written and oral performance and losing control of automatic balance. There’s also a problem with hand-eye coordination. The child faces difficulty to control his arm and hand while writing.
If the child is right-handed, he faces difficulty to write on the left side of the page. Prolonged asymmetric tonic neck reflex, also affects development of lateral eye movement necessary for writing and reading. It also hampers visual tracking. It affects bilateral integration. In this case, the child faces trouble in integrated and differentiated use of both sides of body. Asymmetric tonic neck reflex hinders continued cross laterality and ambiguity of laterality in children above eight years of age.
Symmetric Tonic Neck Reflex
Symmetrical tonic neck reflex is usually observed in post natal development. This is present in normal development from eight to eleven months after the child is born. This type can affect his ability to crawl on knees and hands. If this continues in an older child, it can affect activities that requires integration of upper and lower portion of his body, like while swimming.
This also affects his sitting posture and he might have a tendency to slump while sitting on a desk or table. When the baby has grown, he can have a poorly developed muscle tone and poor hand-eye coordination also. Symmetrical tonic neck reflex also affects his ability to concentrate and sit still.
Although tonic neck reflex prepares the body in voluntary reaching, a continuous state can be disadvantageous. If the infant is unable to move out of his reflex and it continues even after six months, then there might be some disorder in his upper motor neurons. In any case, if you observe any abnormal posture in your baby, always visit a doctor to overcome the situation.