Reflexes are a natural part of our normal human development and are necessary to assist us in functioning from a physical standpoint. In children who have autism, there is a marked risk for abnormal reflex responses for which parents are often not even aware. If your child has been diagnosed with autism, it is important to become familiar with the reflexes that you will most often experience, especially as your child starts school.
A common reflex complication among autistic children is a reflex known as “reflex of avoidance”. Simply put, this type of reflex is characterized by physical movement of your child in an effort to avoid an object or a person who is approaching them. In the school setting, for example, your child may cover his or her eyes while on the playground as a way to avoid the presence of other children.
While, for parents, this type of physical movement may seem to be one that is voluntary, in children who have autism, the movements to avoid objects or individuals is often reflexive and is maladaptive. When you notice this type of abnormal reflex in your child, the therapy with an autistic specialist should be considered as you will need to counterbalance this movement with a process known as “reflex of approach”.
In children who undergo therapy for “reflex of avoidance”, therapy often focuses on development the counter-reflex of approach which involves teaching your child how to accept or move toward an object or person they would otherwise be inclined to avoid. Since these types of social interactions are challenging for autistic children, you can expect there will be some degree of resistance at first.
In the long term, helping your child to overcome reflex of avoidance is important to health and social development. At home, your therapist will typically encourage you to play with your child in activities that involve kicking a ball or playing games that involve moving toward objects or accepting objects that are coming to them. By playing at home, while also engaging your child in therapy for the reflex abnormalities, you can give your child a better opportunity to overcome the abnormal situations that may arise at school when interacting with peers.
While there are many abnormal reflexes found in children, those children that have autism are at a markedly greater risk fro complications. If you find that your child seems to have complications with avoidance or acceptance, and that action is reflexive in nature, seek out the appropriate therapy to guide your child in more healthy reflex responses.
Sources: Does Your Baby Have Autism?, by Osnat Teitelbaum