What is the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex?
This reflex assists the child in getting up on his hands and knees and eventually crawling using a cross lateral movement pattern. The STNR becomes integrated when the infant kneels on all fours and begins to rock back and forth.
This final rocking pattern needs to be smooth, easy and rhythmical in order for the infant to be able to crawl well, If this reflex does not integrate, the child may not learn to cross-crawl properly, a skill which is essential for thorough integration between the left and right sides of the brain, as well as training the eyes to focus and track.
The STNR is another very important reflex for academic success in school. A child may have difficulty maintaining certain postural positions if the STNR is not integrated. The upper and lower parts of the body will remain at odds with each other. This is most notable when the child sits at a desk or table and is asked to read or write.
The symptoms of the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex
When the child looks down, the arms bend causing the child to lay their head on the table instead of maintaining an upright reading or writing posture. The STNR is not only important for overall posture and muscle tone of the back and neck, but is also important for training vision, especially near and far visual focus.
Some symptoms of a nonintegrated STNR
- Problems crawling
- When reading or writing often supports head with hand or ends up slumped and lying over the table or book. May prefer to read or write while standing.
- In order to sit upright in a chair, a child sits on his legs or wraps them around the legs of the chair.
- If he has to sit on the floor, he will often sit with his legs in a “W” position.
- Attention and focus difficulty; trouble staying on task; squirming or fidgeting
- Vision difficulty; focusing at far and near distances
- Poor cooperation between the upper and lower body (e.g. somersaults, swimming butterfly and breaststroke)
- Often clumsy; weak upper arms
Exercises to help the brain developing the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex
Exercise One - The Stretching Cat Exercise
The stretching cat exercise is also known as child pose in yoga.
Begin sitting up on knees. Then, slowly move forward with arms outstretched. The arms
should be straight with the head on the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. While inhaling, return to
the starting position.
This should be repeated 10 to 15 times. Twice daily.
Exercise Two - Cat/Camel
Have child on all fours with eyes closed holding spine and body straight and still.
Ask them to fully tuck chin to chest and hold for a count of 5.
Return spine to straight. Next, fully extend the neck and lift chin up to ceiling. Hold for 5
seconds. Repeat 10-15 times. Twice daily.
Exercise Three - Cross Crawl
Ask child to go on all fours and ask them to move the opposite hand and knee forward at
the same time in a cross crawl pattern.
Ask child to practice this with focusing eyes on the forward hand. Continue for a few
If the child is finding this difficult, you can start by getting the child to lay on their back and
touching elbow to opposite knee (crossing the midline). Repeating the other side in a
Repeat 20-25 times