I recently found myself stuck on a plane with no headphones. Luckily, the man sitting next to me was watching a film I know by heart, The Sandlot. Scotty Smalls’ stepfather was teaching him how to catch a baseball in the backyard, and though I was just as uncoordinated as he was at that age, I could not believe the kid’s reflexes didn’t save his eye from the classic frozen steak treatment.
Our reflexes are meant to protect us, but not every child develops and integrates them as expected. It is important to monitor reflexive milestones under a doctor’s supervision while remembering that the human body is amazingly adaptive if assessments reveal a dysfunction. Movement therapy techniques, such as MNRI, could help improve or restore basic motor functions.
What is MNRI?
The Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) process operates under the understanding that a person’s nervous, sensory and motor systems have the capacity to be in working and cooperating order. Despite diagnoses or labels such as Autism, ADHD and Cerebral Palsy, among many others, noticing an impaired reflex helps to identify which motor system is dysfunctional and could benefit from movement therapy.
MNRI focuses on retained primitive reflexes. Those are the important reflex milestones infants are expected to show but then integrate and lose to make way for more advanced development. Challenges arise when small children retain (continue to actively show) those reflexes past the appropriate age.
Properly functioning reflexes serve both protective and developmental roles. If not corrected, a dysfunctional reflex in infancy can take the place of a healthy, integrated motor system possibly resulting in an inability to self-regulate behavioral or emotional responses. Furthermore, an integrated reflex is supposed to help build the skills necessary for academic achievement and successful social functioning.
The broad, holistic strategies of MNRI enable it to treat general debilitation caused by both congenital issues or emotional or physical trauma relating to:
The MNRI Process
The MNRI process begins with an assessment. Age appropriate reflex tests are given to identify response patterns that are functional, dysfunctional or pathological. Functional patterns are present when they should be and fully integrated (not active or present) beyond the appropriate age. A dysfunctional pattern exists when a reflex is active (not integrated) in a child who should be past that developmental stage. Finally, a pathological pattern is more severe than a dysfunctional one. It identifies reflexes that are reversed (opposite response to what is expected), incorrect (another stimulus’ response) or a-reflexic (no response when there should be).
An MNRI expert designs an individual treatment plan based on the identified dysfunction(s). Treatment is based on how many dysfunctional patterns are identified, but each therapy’s priority is on those reflexes which impact the most positive functional changes in a child’s daily life.
Though strategies and techniques vary with the targeted motor reflexes, MNRI treatment generally follows a basic structure:
MNRI treatments are usually simple and therefore can be done in a clinical or home setting with the proper training.
How to Access Treatment
MNRI treatment can be affordable, flexible and accessible and contacting an MNRI resource center is the best way to begin. After assessing a child’s reflex challenges, professionals trained in MNRI methods can isolate and target dysfunctional areas for therapy. Sessions are done at the center, but parents and guardians are trained for home programs between visits. Parent involvement is greatly encouraged, as it only increases the possibility of meaningful, functional change in a child.
If visiting a resource center regularly is not an option, caregivers can learn how to administer full treatment themselves. There are resources and support online as well as MNRI courses. Parents work alongside professionals while detailing the specific needs of their children. Parent insight and questions have helped improve therapy techniques. Additionally, the opportunity to meet other families and share experiences with similar challenges can be invaluable throughout the treatment process.
The most comprehensive and intense training is offered annually at a conference. Highly qualified professionals along with Dr. Svetlana Masgutova, the creator of this holistic therapy, attend and offer workshops targeting specific reflex challenges. The MNRI Family Educational Conference is appropriate for families being exposed to the treatment for the first time, wanting to improve their existing methods and coming with their local resource center to share therapy strategies.
In lieu of visiting a center for training or to continue MNRI education after a course has been completed, centers offer a manual for at home reference. It can be purchased through the resources listed below.
Infants develop at such a rapid rate, it is easy for parents to become overwhelmed with information about what is or is not typical development. Your primary care physician will check for primitive reflexes and discuss options if a reflex is retained beyond the integration phase. MNRI is unlikely to have any damaging side effects but a health care professional should be consulted before beginning treatment. Remaining patient, persistent and positive during movement therapy contributes to the likelihood of realizing the progress and results in a child delayed.
A related treatment, Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT) is a program of exercises developed to assist with the integration of retained primitive reflexes. The exercises require little if any equipment and can be completed at home. Developed with an aim of improving skills, such as reading, balance and coordination, hypersensitivity, poor memory and attention skills, RMT allows the integration of the primitive reflexes no longer needed by the child. An additional bonus, RMT is a structured activity that provides increased opportunities for positive interactions, with less parental need to intervene.