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  • Writer's pictureDr. Stephens-Sarlós Erzsébet

Learning difficulties, behavior problems, clumsiness – what can the parent do?

boy doing a handstand

Learning difficulties and behavior issues can have various causes. Among these, the most common is immaturity of the child's nervous system.

First graders are typically 6-7 years old. According to research, in this age group there can be a difference of plus or minus two years between the actual age of the child and their age based on nervous system maturity. This means the difference in nervous system maturity between the least and most mature children in a first-grade class can be as much as 4 years. This is very significant at this age.

Unfortunately, for several reasons, more and more children are starting school with an immature nervous system.

There are numerous symptoms of nervous system immaturity. Let's take a look at 12 of the most common!

  1. Unable to focus for more than 4-5 minutes; doesn’t pay attention and asks for questions to be repeated.

  2. Constantly fidgets, fiddles, squirms, can't wait, interrupts the class, interrupts other people's conversations.

  3. Does not follow rules, unable to adapt to rules.

  4. Occasionally wets the bed (usually at night) or holds in their stool for several days.

  5. Motor coordination problems, e.g., can't throw, catch, or bounce a ball, has poor static or dynamic balance.

  6. Toneless, weak muscles, e.g., mouth frequently hangs open, eyes cross when tired, gets tired quickly during play or physical education, often wants to nap in the afternoon, shows tongue-thrust swallowing.

  7. Exhibits repetitive movements, tics, taps their foot or fingers, twists their hair, fidgets.

  8. Aggressive, lacks a sense of physical boundaries.

  9. Hypersensitive to noise, light, odors, and tactile stimuli.

  10. Confuses directions, struggles with tasks that require sequencing.

  11. Certain primitive (infant) reflexes can be observed.

young girl with headache during her school work

This list is not exhaustive. In addition to those mentioned above, there are several other symptoms of immaturity. Ideally, every child should start school without any of the above-mentioned symptoms hindering their life. The problem is, that when these symptoms are not addressed, the nervous system will remain immature and the problems will compound. The child will fall behind in learning, especially at the beginning of their school years, precisely when they should be acquiring fundamental skills like reading, writing, and basic mathematics at a proficiency level.

The child’s behavior and demeanor will become increasingly extreme. Those who were introverted, timid, and anxious will become even more so. Those who were aggressive, prone to fighting, or confrontational will see these traits intensify.

So how can you prevent the problems from becoming greater? In most cases, the answer can be found in the 12th symptom listed above. Retained primitive reflexes are VERY STRONG SYMPTOMS of nervous system immaturity. They persist because the cerebral cortex did not receive the appropriate quantity and quality of motor and sensory stimuli during the critical period. In the absence of stimuli, the cells in the cerebral cortex do not produce the neurotransmitters needed to inhibit primitive reflexes.

This can result in a situation where a school-age child is essentially still like a "little baby" in terms of their nervous system development.

However, with appropriate exercises, the nervous system can be stimulated and matured. To assist with this, I recommend the exercises collected in my book, and my video packages which include tests for the presence of retained primitive reflexes and exercises designed to inhibit primitive reflexes. Samples of these videos are featured on my YouTube channel.

The sooner you start doing reflex integration exercises with your child, the greater the chance that they will overcome the challenges and bring out their inherent abilities. This significantly increases the likelihood of the child becoming a balanced and happy individual.

And it's never too late. With an older child it just takes a little more time for the "maturation" process to be effective. A sixth-grader, seventh-grader, or older child will have already experienced many setbacks. But investing effort will pay off for them as well. All you need to do is to start and then consistently perform the exercises with them.

Wishing you much success! 😊

boy and girl sitting on an exercise mat

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