Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

First Advisor

Breann Lamborn

Second Advisor

Suzanne Morrison


Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity; Child; Infant; Reflex


Purpose: Typical development begins in-utero and progresses throughout the lifespan. Jean Piaget authored a theory that encompasses core aspects of the lifespan stages related to typical development of sensory and motor systems. Piaget outlined the developmental stages as: sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage. Within these stages, the typically developing child learns to adapt and respond effectively to his or her environment (Cole & Tufano, 2008). Dr. Jean Ayres described a similar developmental process, termed Sensory Integration. This process is defined as the coordination of the sensory systems in order for an individual to effectively interact with his or her environment (Ayres, 1979). For this scholarly project, Piaget and Ayres’ theories will be used in parallel to create a framework of typical and atypical development throughout the lifespan.

Another facet of typical development is the presence of primitive reflexes, which are initially used for protection against external stimuli, and later integrated into purposeful movement (Berne, 2006). The retention of certain primitive reflexes may cause sensory and motor dysfunction in the school-aged child (Goddard, 2002). Another cause of sensory and motor dysfunction in this population is attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which impacts approximately 9.5% of Americans under the age of seventeen (CDC, 2010, p.1439).

ADHD is defined as “a disorder of childhood and adolescence manifested at home, in school, and in social situations by developmentally inappropriate degrees of inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity” (Stedman, 2005, p. 136). Many of the characteristics of ADHD symptomology and retained primitive reflexes are very similar in presentation, and the purpose of this scholarly project is to explore possible correlations between the two (Konicarova & Bob, 2012; Konicarova & Bob, 2013; Taylor, Houghton, & Chapman, 2004).

Methodology: An extensive literature review was conducted on typical human development, including primitive reflexes, and atypical developmental behaviors that may occur if these reflexes are retained. ADHD was also thoroughly researched, specifically with regard to how sensory integrative behaviors are presented throughout development. Research exploring any possible correlation between retained primitive reflexes and ADHD was reviewed and analyzed.

Conclusions: A product was developed in the form of a scholarly article to explore a possible correlation of retained primitive reflexes and sensory-integrative behaviors in school-aged children diagnosed with ADHD. Included in the article is an explanation of atypical behaviors presented with retained primitive reflexes, ADHD and atypical behaviors, as well as research conducted on any possible correlations between retained primitive reflexes and ADHD. It is intended that this article will be submitted for publication in OT Practice, a scholarly magazine published by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). This scholarly article will be used to demonstrate the need for further research on this topic.