Retained primary reflexes in pre-primary-aged Indigenous children: The effect on movement ability and school readiness

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Stamopoulos, Elizabeth
article description
The research reported in this paper links children's movement skills with learning difficulties, particularly school readiness, in the early years. The aim of the research project was to (a) determine the prevalence and severity of retained reflexes, predominantly the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR), and (b) investigate the movement skill ability of pre-primary-aged Indigenous children in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. This provided an important first step in understanding and addressing movement skill deficits that may compromise the acquisition of foundation school readiness skills in young Australian Indigenous children. This project challenged the stereotypical assumption (by non-Indigenous Australians) that the majority of Indigenous Australian children have well-developed or even aboveaverage movement skill development, based on their being more likely than non- Indigenous children to engage in regular physical activity and perform well in sport. It was important to test this assumption if a comprehensive picture of the developmental challenges and educational disadvantages faced by Indigenous Australian children, particularly those in remote regional areas, was to be established. Sixty-five per cent of the sample of Indigenous children were found to have retained moderate to high levels of the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) which in previous research has been linked to developmental delay, not only in movement skills but also in areas strongly related to academic achievement.