Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex: Could it be making your child’s school work harder?


Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions. Babies are born with several primitive reflexes to assist with birthing and development, and they integrate or disappear overtime. One of those reflexes is the ATNR (Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex) also referred to as the “bow and
arrow” or “fencer’s pose” reflex. This reflex occurs when a baby turns its head to one side resulting in the arm and leg straightening out on the same side the head is turned and the opposite arm and leg bending.


This reflex should be integrated by 6 months at the latest. When this reflex does not integrate properly it can affect a baby progressing towards his/her next developmental milestones such as holding a bottle or toy with both hands at the same time, rolling, crawling etc. This reflex not
only interferes with developmental milestones in babies but can interfere with skills as your child ages such as independent feeding, visual tracking with reading, bilateral hand use, coordination, playing sports, and handwriting.

You may notice signs of unintegrated ATNR during handwriting if you see your child straightening their arm to write instead of bending the elbow, leaning back in chair to compensate for straight arm, writing in an overly slanted direction on page, or an extremely tight grip on the pencil. Studies also show that 50% of kids that have an unintegrated ATNR reflex display signs of dyslexia.

Physical therapy can provide your child the exercises he/she needs to assist in integrating reflexes that are causing difficulty in everyday tasks and activities. If you think your child may be showing signs of an unintegrated reflex, please reach out to us at Melanie Massey Physical Therapy and call us at 318-396-1969.

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