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The TLR has two separate reflex patterns, the 'TLR Forward' and the 'TLR Backward', and they are dictated by the position of the head when the infant is held on a horizontal plane.

The 'TLR Forward' emerges at 3-4 months in utero and should integrate around 3-4 month after birth. TLR Forward is activated when the baby's head position is in front of the line of the spine causing the baby to immediately tuck its arms and legs in similar to the fetal position.

The 'TLR Backward' emerges at 3-4 months after birth and should be fully integrated around 3 1/2 years of age. TLR Backward is triggered when the baby's head position is behind the line of the spine causing an immediate extension(straightening) of the arms and legs and an arching and stiffening of the back.

TLR Forward Sketch.png
TLR Backward Sketch.png

The Tonic Labyrinthine reflex develops muscle responses enabling the core and limbs to react to subtle changes in the inner ear(vestibular system) caused by head movements. This is important for balance, auditory processing, and muscle tone, as well as developing their proprioceptive system(knowing where their body is in space).

Characteristics of a retained TLR reflex:

  • poor muscle tone, fatigues easily when lifting arms, wants to lean or sit

  • head appears heavy, tilts head to side or front

  • poor balance when looking up or down, walking up/down stairs can be difficult

  • may experience motion sickness, vertigo, fear of heights

  • child may exhibit mixed dominance, interchanges use of left/right hand/foot/eye/ear for same tasks

  • may have difficulty with cross-lateral skills causing coordination problems, stiff jerky movements

  • poor spatial awareness, child is disorganized, forgetful, loses track of time

  • poor auditory processing, challenged with multiple instructions and verbal learning

  • poor sequencing skills, effects speech, spelling, and composition

  • poor alignment skills, makes working with math columns difficult

  • poor eye movement(difficulty crossing midline), possible crossed-eyes

  • poor visual perception, words appear to run together with no spaces in between, letter reversals

  • poor spatial perception, difficulty judging space, direction, distance

  • child may appear disconnected to feelings, frustrated , low self esteem, lack of interest in schoolwork

  • unable to understand cause and effect


How does a retained TLR reflex affect my child's learning?

  • difficulty following multiple instructions, struggles with verbal learning

  • disorganized, forgetful, loses track of time results in incomplete, missing or late assignments

  • difficulty reading, takes longer, poor comprehension, frustration and avoidance of reading

  • difficulty with spelling and composition

  • difficulty with math and working with math columns

  • fatigues easily, lifting arms(writing) is exhausting

  • poor posture, will rest head on desk because head feels heavy, wraps legs around chair legs

  • may make same mistakes repeatedly, does not comprehend cause and effect

  • frustration, low self esteem, lack of interest in school


If this sounds like your child, there is a high possibility their TLR reflex needs to be integrated so that they my move forward.

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