What is MNRI therapy and how can it help with development?
by Jordan Bell, OT

When you build a house you always start at the foundation. When working to help your child succeed it is important to do the same. In utilizing the Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) Method in occupational therapy we do just that.  MNRI is a treatment approach created by Dr. Svetlana Masgutova to address functional skills from the foundation up.

               What are primitive reflexes? How do I know if my child has retained primitive reflexes and why would they have them? How do retained primitive reflexes impact my child? What does treatment look like? How long will it take? All of these are questions I get when I first start talking about MNRI and the life changing results I have seen from helping children integrate them. Let’s break it down!

               Primitive reflexes are movement patterns that all babies are born with (they are part of our genetic makeup). The reflexes start to develop in utero as early as 6 weeks gestation and continue to develop throughout the first year of life. At that point they should fade into the background until they are needed again. Our reflexes are our “survival system”. Their purpose is to ensure the survival of our species so they are activated in times of stress. Stress can look different for different people. For one kiddo it could be a stressful birth (c-section, prolonged labor, lack of oxygen), for another it could be an accident/illness (hospitalized with RSV, fall off a bike, hurt in sport), and for others it could be a trauma (neglect, abuse, being in the foster care system, caregiver separation). There is no recipe for how much stress is enough to cause our primitive reflexes to get stuck and is different for every kid. Your child(ren) may have retained primitive reflexes if you notice difficulties with or a history of:

  • Attention
  • Anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma recovery, and other mental health concerns
  • Coordination (fine motor, gross motor, bilateral)
  • Education (reading, writing, math skills)
  • Feeding
  • Independence in daily activities
  • Medical trauma (NICU stay, surgeries, invasive procedures)
  • Neurological functioning
  • Regulation
  • Sensory Processing
  • Sleep
  • Toilet training (day and night time)
  • Vision (tracking, scanning, dyslexia)

This is not a comprehensive list but as you can see MNRI has benefits to most every kid (and adult) you know! Each child with retained primitive reflexes presents differently, our nervous systems while similar are all unique. It is common for kids to have multiple retained primitive reflexes (and adults too!). The key is finding out which ones are impairing function. MNRI starts at the foundation and works out. Treatment sessions are a combination of hands on manual techniques performed by the therapist and active movements performed by the child (obstacle course, movement tasks). We also work with families to create home exercise programs that work for them. In order to see success with MNRI, as in any treatment, it is important to be dedicated to the child’s home exercise program. My co-worker and I often say if you were trying to get in shape and went for one 30-minute workout per week and did no other work, would you expect to see noticeable changes in your strength? The same goes for therapy. If you rely on the one therapy treatment session per week to see improvements, they will be minimal. If you invest in your child and follow the program directed by your therapist you will see noticeable changes quickly and lasting changes in 8-12 months. The changes you see will vary by child and by what your goals are. Some of the awesome results I have personally gotten with my clients include:

  • Being able to write in complete sentences after previously working on handwriting/letter formation in OT for multiple years
  • Being able to tie shoes
  • Sleeping through the night consistently without medication
  • Learning to ride a bike
  • Loss of anxiety related to food/feeding (caused by history of neglect)
  • Child with high functioning Autism no longer requiring a 1:1 aid at school
  • Night and day time toilet training in kids of a variety of ages
  • Being able to decrease or stop taking medications for sleep, anxiety, and attention

More information on MNRI can be found at www.masgutovamethod.com. If you have any questions on MNRI or how it might help you child please feel free to contact me at jordanb@kineticedgept.com.