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Mental Health

ADHD & Spinal Galant Reflex

Dr. Belinda Palmer

“Do tags bother your child?”
“Do they have a hard time sitting still?’
“How is their concentration?”
“Do they still wet the bed?”
“Do they seem to lack focus or have a hard time paying attention?”

ADHD is probably what comes to mind when you hear these types of questions, but these are the first questions that come to my mind when I test for the Spinal Galant Reflex and see a positive response. 

Most people have never heard of the Spinal Galant Reflex but everyone had it as a baby. It’s one of several primitive reflexes you have as an infant. These reflexes are there to help get a baby through their first year of life and then they disappear (really, they are integrated in the brain) when they are no longer needed. However, when it doesn’t go away, it can cause a child (and adults) to have problems. Several studies show that children with ADHD could have a retained Spinal Galant Reflex. Some researchers even speculate that some key symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulty sitting still, fidgeting, and poor concentration, may be attributed to a retained Spinal Galant Reflex in the child.

What is the Spinal Galant Reflex?

Spinal Galant Reflex can be set off by any stimulus on the back. Typically, when testing for the reflex, the back is stroked vertically on each side. If the reflex is still present, the child will laterally flex to the side that is being stimulated. A positive will often look like the child is wiggling or is ticklish. Depending on how sensitive the reflex is, it can make it very difficult to sit still. This constant irritation can make it difficult to concentrate and focus. It can take a lot of energy for the child to calm the reflex and stop moving. Using so much concentration to remain still leaves little energy for them to focus and learn, making school hard for them.

The Spinal Galant Reflex typically integrates around 12 months and is thought to encourage movement and development of range of motion in the hips. It is believed that it prepares the baby for crawling and walking. If there is stimulation on both sides of the spine, this will activate the reflex, which frequently causes urination. A retained Spinal Galant Reflex could be the cause of bedwetting in older children. Also, if only one side integrates, it can lead to abnormal posture and walking as the child grows. This can then come off as clumsiness.

How to get rid of a retained Spinal Galant Reflex

The good news is that if the reflex is present, there are ways to get rid of it. There are several exercises like making “snow angels” that help it integrate. Once the reflex is integrated the symptoms will go away, no drugs needed. :) The earlier a retained reflex is integrated the better, but ideally before age 17. If an adult has a retained reflex, it is still beneficial to integrate it, but it may be more difficult.

If you think your child (or you) may have the Spinal Galant Reflex, have a professional test for the reflex. Often if a child is positive for one reflex they may have more, and all primitive reflexes need to get integrated.

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