Crawling: The Link Between Learning Disabilities and Developmental Delays


There might be something to the old saying that “you've got to crawl, before you can walk.” Many times when we hear a baby has skipped the crawling stage, we give praise to the little one.

After all, it's an amazing feat to stand on one's own power at such a young age! As amazing as this is, we shouldn't write off crawling just yet. Research has shown that crawling provides many benefits such as optimal brain development and the formation of spinal structures.

Crawling normally starts at six months and lasts up to twelve months. Although an infant can develop just fine without crawling, it would behoove the parents to encourage crawling as much as possible to ensure optimal brain and body development. In the next paragraphs we''ll take a granular look at a few areas to how crawling is beneficial for development.

Primitive Reflexes and Learning Disabilities

It's been found that primitive reflexes, which are normally present at birth, are inhibited by crawling. The longer an infant hangs on to their primitive reflexes, the greater chance they have of growing into learning disabilities and developmental delays.

One example is a reflex called the “Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR)” which helps us operate our upper and lower body independently. As a baby raises their heads up they should also extend their arms and bend the legs which prepares them for sitting. This reflex normally disappears by the ninth or twelve month after six months of continuous crawling.

In this study, the correlation between learning disabilities and having a strong STNR was found to be very high.

...It has been found that at least 75 percent of those diagnosed with ADHD/learning disorders had immature symmetric tonic neck reflex (STNR) contributing to their condition.”

(Konicarova, Bob, Rabock, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 2013)

Integration- It's All About the Brain

The study is showing that most kids who have a learning disability also have a strong presence of primitive reflexes. The brain is like a sponge at this age and is rewiring itself constantly. The presence of primitive reflexes in developing child is like pressing the gas and brake at the same time in terms of developing.

At birth, the brain has grown 25% of adult size and by age three the brain is about 80% fully grown. Neurons are connecting their synapses at blazing speeds each time a new skilled is learned. It's a term called Neuroplasticity, the ability for our brains to learn new skills. Similar to how a stroke victim can regain their function after injury.

Crawling creates an efficient network of neuron connections which helps infants explore their world. Better movement helps them gain new opportunities to learn new skills.


Crawling Provides the Building Blocks for a Solid Spinal Foundation
A normal adult spine consists of three spinal curves that look like an S-shape from the side. These spinal curves work together to absorb shock, similar to how a spring works.

Crawling naturally causes the head to raise up which strengthens the neck muscles responsible for creating a proper neck curve. Six months of crawling reinforces the spine to stay in an optimal position and fortifies the brain to body connection.

Without the fortification from the neck and postural muscles to hold the spine in it's proper position, the spinal bones may be predisposed to early deterioration. An abnormal shift in spinal structure is like a house with a shifted foundation. Over time you may notice cracks in the walls and squeaky door hinges and while fixing these things may help temporarily, a quick inspection of foundation may reveal the root cause of the condition.

Even though a baby doesn't know it yet, each time they crawl is a step towards laying the foundation that all future skills will be built upon.

Build that Immune System!

A babies immune system is not complete when they are born. They acquire immunity through the mother's milk, which supplies antibodies to fight off bacteria and viruses. It's no secret that babies put things in their mouth. They expose themselves to new bugs which causes them to get sick. Fever, runny nose, coughing are all signs of a healthy immune response.It's nature's way of expressing health.

So....What If My Baby Hardly Crawls Or Skips It All Together?

At the end of the day, it would be beneficial to develop a clear brain to body connection, core, shoulder strength and proper spinal structure early in life. Crawling looks to be a great way to maximize this opportunity!

If your baby doesn't crawl as much as you think they should, they’ll still develop properly but may do so at a different pace than others babies who have spent more time in the quadruped position.

A lack of hitting milestones could be a sign that he or she may need a complete Nero-developmental evaluation. Our office focuses on correcting/improving Neuro-developmental abnormalities that may be present in infants and children. Early detection and correction of these abnormalities can help a child to take advantage of their brain's ability to rapidly learn and adapt to the world around them.