The Palmar or Grasping reflex emerges at 11 weeks in utero and is strongest in the first 3 months after birth. This grasping reflex is demonstrated by putting your finger across the palm of a babies hand causing the fingers to immediately close around the finger and grip it. If you provide resistance, as though to pull your finger out, the grip will get tighter. The reflex is powerful enough to support the baby’s weight.
The Palmar reflex helps develop the ability to grasp and hold objects, developing the gross and fine motor skills. By 4-6 months the baby can hold an object between the thumb and index finger in the pincer grip. At 5 months the baby starts gaining the ability and control to voluntarily release an object.
The Palmar reflex, like the Babkin reflex, is linked to oral motor development. When the child’s palm is stimulated causing the infant to grasps an object, it usually simultaneously triggers the Babkin reflex which causes the infant to bring the object to their mouth to explore. The hand-mouth connection plays a large role in understanding their environment and with speech development.
Characteristics and effects of a retained Palmar (Grasp) reflex:
- poor manual dexterity, difficulty with independent thumb and finger movements
- poorly developed pincer grip causing issues with writing and using utensils
- poor control of grip tension, may hold pencil too tight causing fatigue in hand
- difficulty with fine motor skills like buttoning a shirt, tying shoes, holding a utensil
- hand-mouth connection, may cause speech disorders or stuttering
- may move the mouth while drawing or writing
- child may handle(pick at, touch) their food while eating, may be a messy eater, nail biter
How does a retained Palmar (Grasp) reflex affect my child’s learning?
- poor pencil grip, fatigue and tension in the hand and shoulders
- difficulty expressing ideas on paper due to excessive concentration required to achieve handwriting
- may have a speech disorder or may stutter
- may involuntarily move mouth while writing
If this sounds like your child, there is a high possibility that their Palmar (Grasp) reflex need to be integrated so they can move forward.