I flat-out hate surprises. Unexpected noises make me shake out of my skin, a gentle touch from behind when I'm unaware propels me up into the air, and questionable situations - unplanned, unexplained, out of my control - can be terrifying, regardless of their inherently positive or negative swing. Imagine living your life like it's 9/11 every single day of the week, waiting for a jolt, but not quite sure when it will occur. Picture bugs crawling under your skin. Visualize an impending sense of doom, even during the most beautiful and significant moments. That's how it feels to live in this body.

Today's occupational therapeutic conclusions were very apropos to the current thought-trends permeating my life. My OT, fresh from a weekend clinic, asked me to lay down on the mats in the colorful equipment room, and told me she - with support from her awesome intern - were going to check my Moro Reflex. This is one of the primitive reflexes, the startle reflex, present within us prior to birth and through infanthood, usually discontinued or severely lessened. It is observed as a pattern: startle, extension (arms reaching out), flexion (arms reaching in), and crying. With my back against the mat and my legs bent at the knees, my OT grasped my legs lightly and quickly jolted them. While it was surprising, I don't think I did anything much out of the ordinary. I heard her walk around to the top of the mat, a bit uneasy about what she was going to do and when, specifically. She paused, and then slapped the mat on either side of my ears. It felt like I jumped out of my skin (in reality, I jolted my arms - not unlike the Moro Reflex) and then as I was laughing from surprise, I began to cry. Or perhaps I cried and then laughed, all I remember was being shaken to my core.

Big surprise (hah), I have a relatively active reflex for someone my age. (Read: most of you would probably hunch your shoulders to your ears or blink.) Another step in explaining why I am the way I am, I suppose. My OT gave me a few exercises to help me tone down the intensity of this reflex - one of them is called Boing, which makes it that much more fun, and involves me falling back into a pile of pillows landing in extension (arms out) and then pulling myself back up to a sitting position with my arms in flexion (arms in) - essentially inducing this primal reflex repeatedly without the absence of control. The second exercise involves laying on my back, pressing my feet against the wall (almost like I'm ready to push off the side of a swimming pool on my back), and bouncing a large ball off the wall. There's also a two-partner grab-and-wrestle game with the ball that I might teach Josh in all of our spare time. It's very "This is MY ball, MINE!"

I'm essentially taking control of the remainder of this startle reflex, which is amusing really, as it's a reflex to having no control over loud, sudden events. Explains so many things - the need for structure, my dislike of loud, unanticipated anything. Good times, as always, in this sensory world I call home.


  1. It's all so interesting! It's amazing how it all connects.

  2. Hi Rach! You continue on your journey of discovery and amaze us on a regular basis! It's like you are training for the sensory olympics! Keep up the good (and hard) work.
    Love Ya!

  3. adrenals ... possible cause of big startle reflex can be low adrenal function, ... there are self-tests for adrenal function online


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