The Reflex that Can Cause ADHD, Anxiety, ODD & SPD


Seven years ago, I never would have imagined that my daughter’s sensory processing issues, anxiety, general hypersensitivity, emotional immaturity, shyness, allergies and immune problems could all be linked to an infant reflex that was preventing her brain from functioning optimally.

The Moro Reflex is one of the most commonly retained reflexes that causes all kinds of challenges for my clients. This reflex is the first reflex to appear and it is the baby’s early fight-or flight response.

Your Baby’s Fight-or-Flight Mechanism

When your baby is startled by sudden sound, light or movement, their arms will spread out, they will take a breath and then cross their limbs in towards their body.

Since this reflex is connected and set off by sensory stimulation, if it does not disappear by four months of age, it can contribute to an array of difficulties with sensory processing and significantly affect the emotional resilience of a child.

When the Moro Reflex Doesn’t Disappear

When a child’s Moro reflex doesn’t integrate into the nervous system when it should, they are likely to be overly sensitive to sensory input which can result in sensory overload.

This can initiate the fight-or-flight response from the adrenals which can contribute to problems that extend far beyond sensory processing issues.

It can lead to issues with anger, anxiety, hyperactivity, poor focus, emotional outbursts and even aggression. It can look like everything from emotional immaturity, an anxiety disorder, to defiance and even poor parenting.

How a Retained Moro Reflex Impacts Learning

These kids might not just struggle with emotional distress and mood swings – it can affect their learning as well. Depending on the severity of how retained the reflex is, a child may be in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight.

When this happens, the brain cannot learn well because it is being flooded with cortisol and adrenaline putting it in survival mode. When the brain is in survival mode, it is operating from its lower brain levels also known as the primitive brain.

In order to learn and memorize, the brain needs to be in a relaxed state where it is operating from the cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for impulse control, planning, reasoning and all those other executive functioning skills. The result can be a child who is diagnosed with learning disabilities.

The Impact of Trauma

It is important to note that the Moro reflex can integrate properly during infancy and then resurface as a result of trauma which is why it should be considered if development occurred normally but there was a trauma.

A retained Moro reflex can cause issues that extend beyond brain function. As the child is in continuous over stimulation, their adrenal glands will begin to fatigue and this can start to affect their physical health resulting in possible issues with allergies, food sensitivities, asthma and even auto-immune conditions which can range from everything from eczema to PANDAS/PANS.

Of course, we all go into fight-or-flight or become startled, but the difference is that when our Moro is integrated into the nervous system, we still maintain postural control and do not have all the ongoing challenges that occur when this reflex is retained.

When the ‘Baby Brain’ is Still Calling the Shots

More and more children have an unintegrated Moro reflex because of the changes in our lifestyles, the way we raise our infants and insufficient floor time.

If the Moro reflex is present after six months, it becomes problematic because a child will have uncontrollable impulses and reactions that bypasses your child’s newly acquired higher order thinking and reasoning. The result is your child is hypersensitive to their environment making it more challenging to focus, regulate emotions and learn optimally.

The Moro Reflex is very much a foundational reflex and will have global impacts on learning, emotional and behavioural control compared to other reflexes that will cause impairments with specific skills.

When the Moro Reflex is retained, it can affect:

1.Emotional Resilience – It can present as an anxiety disorder or ODD.

2. Sensory processing – This can lead to a diagnosis of SPD or ASD

3.Vestibular, Visual and Oculomotor Function – ADHD, dyslexia, LD, ASD

Symptoms of a Retained Moro Reflex:

  • Poor emotional regulation
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Shy, anxious, hyperaware
  • Poor focus
  • Impulsive, aggressive, overreacts
  • Hypersensitive to sensory stimuli such as sound, light or textures
  • Diagnosis of ADHD, ASD, dyslexia, SPD
  • Motion sickness
  • Depression, Mood swings
  • Allergies, asthma, auto-immunity
  • Digestive issues, food sensitivities
  • Tense muscle tone
  • Light sensitivity
  • Difficulty with black print against white paper or screens
  • Challenges with various eye movements, visual perception
  • Difficulty with transitions (poor adaptability)

Integrating the Moro reflex can occur in as little as 6 weeks of targeted brain exercises which can result in a child feeling more calm, secure, focused and more able to learn.

Learn more about how primitive reflexes like Moro reflex as well as how to test to see if it is still present by registering for my free webclass where you can learn the three simple secrets I use to help kids reach their full potential in school and at home?

In this free web class, you’ll discover:

  • How to move past band-aid solutions so your child can learn, focus and be a calmer happier kid and you can have peace of mind.
  • A simple way to get your child learning at grade level and being able to manage their behaviour, without having to do hours of homework, tutoring or doing restrictive diets.
  • The secret sauce to your child becoming a star student and a happier, calmer kid
  • Did you know once the brain is bio-chemically balanced and weak and underdeveloped connections are strengthened then your child doesn’t need to rely on ongoing tutoring or IEP medications? This means your child can overcome their challenges with learning and behaviour without hours or years of tutoring or even relying solely on medication.
  • Plus a whole lot more…

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In Health & Wholeness,


P.S. – Learn more about my 6 month programs to help your child move past their apparent limitations by scheduling a free Clarity Call.