Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Lorraine Hammond

Second Advisor

Dr Tony Fetherston

Third Advisor

Dr Danielle Brady


The link between movement and cognition is not new, but remains steeped in controversy in the educational community. One of the reasons for this controversy has been the lack of substantial research that supports the link between movement programs and observable academic benefits. The results of recent research have indicated that the retention of primary reflexes, particularly the tonic neck reflexes in young children, can result in difficulties that affect the overall functioning of the child. The retainment of reflexes may lead to clumsiness, poor eye hand coordination, poor manipulative skills and consequently academic achievement may be compromised in some children (Sugden & Wright, 1998). This research is about determining the efficacy of Primary Movement program, a reflex replication program designed to reduce the effect of these inappropriately retained reflexes (McPhillips, Hepper & Mulhern, 2000). The research began by investigating the prevalence of retained Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR), the cause of significant motor difficulties, in a sample of approximately 200 preprimary children in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia using the Schilder Neurological Test which is one of the standard neurological tests to determine the presence of this reflex (McPhillips, Hepper, & Mulhern, 2000; Morrison, 1985). EJaseline data was also established for all children in the following areas: motor skills (using Movement ABC Assessment Battery for Children (Henderson & Sugden, 1992); language skills (using Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (Dunn & Dunn, 1997); and visual motor integration (using the Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration (Beery, 1989). Following the gathering of this data, an intervention based on the Primary Movement program was then conducted. The effect of the Primary Movement intervention was· compared on the above variables, to the results of a gross motor intervention and a free play intervention (control). As such this thesis investigates the efficacy of the Primary Movement program as an early intervention tool for preschool children in Australia displaying retained reflexes and associated issues such as motor difficulties, is evaluated.