Tuesday, February 28, 2012

MNRI: The Masgutova Method

About a year ago, I finally got Oskar "qualified" for Speech Therapy. Previously, when I had him assessed, the therapists had explained to me that he didn't qualify for services because he wasn't babbling or showing signs that he was trying to speak. My subsequent thought was something along the lines of  " Yes, that's the problem, you see. No talking. Hence the need for speech therapy". But I'm not a trained specialist, so what do I know? Apparently, the magic words to get him qualified were "oral-motor" therapy. I could get him qualified for swallowing and feeding problems.

Huge breakthrough! 

So I took him to a local therapy place, had a formal assessment done and the insurance paperwork approved and headed off to our first appointment with great anticipation. For 1/2 an hour, I watched this lady place a vibrating brush on Oskar's lips, try to get him to drink from a cup and have him bite on a Cheeto.  I paid my 180 dollars and went home. What a total waste of my time. And his.  I am sure that there are kids out there who have made great gains through Cheeto therapy, but we had been doing all this stuff since he was a year old and with his OT's from the school system. It just wasn't going to make a difference for him. 

Luckily, in the same week, I discovered MNRI. MNRI, otherwise referred to as the Masgutova Method or Reflex Integration, is based on the theory that some people, including kids with neurological problems, Autism, CP or kids who have experienced trauma ( physical, or emotional) don't always integrate their primitive reflexes properly.

You know how if you tip a newborn back they flail their arms like they are falling? That's the Moro reflex. Head- righting is the reflex that makes you right your head when you are tipped to the side so you can still see straight. Babinksi is in the foot. If you stroke the outside edge of a typical babies foot, they will turn their foot in and stick up a toe. Later in life, it's the reflex that helps you push off when you learn to crawl. It also effects speech and chewing and all kinds of things you don't generally think of as having anything to do with your feet. 

There are hundreds of these reflexes that we are all born with. They are the foundation for normal development. In the Masgutova Method, a core specialist can look at your kid and tell you what reflexes need to be integrated and then show you how to do the excercises needed. In most cases, the point is to coax the reflex to appear, and then keep going with it until it is integrated into the next step of development. In some cases, like with kids who startle easily or are anxious, it could mean calming an overactive reflex, like the Moro. 

We started about a year ago with just speech therapy once a week. This summer I had the amazing experience of attending an 8 day family conference here in MN. We are up to 3.5 hours a week of speech and OT using this method and about 5 hours a week at home. 

All of the therapists I know who are using the technique are very excited about it. I have heard it called the missing link, and that is the way I feel about it. At the conference, I heard of kids walking for the first time, or saying their very first words.

Oskar still can't speak, but since we have started this therapy he has a protective reflex, which means he will put his arms out if he is falling ( helpful one, that). He is stronger over all and more cognitively present. He can chew better, drink from a cup and a straw, his eyesight and tracking are better and we are trying to teach him to crawl. 

The technique is being used for kids and adults with neurological problems, ADD, Autism, learning disibilities and even eating disorders. 

If you are interested in this kind of therapy for your child, the hardest part will be finding a practitioner. There are clusters of people practicing in Northern California, Florida and Minnesota, but for the rest of the country, it's kind of hit or miss. We get services through an OT and a Speech therapist and insurance pays for it. 

Another option is to attend a family conference. They are intensive camps where your kid gets worked on 7 to 8 hours a day. Most of it is done on a massage table, or if you have a kid that can't sit still, the therapist will literally follow your kid around the room. They are between 3-8 days long all over the United States, and in Poland, where the Masgutova Clinic is. 

If you want to read more, here is the link for the Masgutova Institute: http://masgutovamethod.com

I wish they would put a list of practitioners state by state, but for some reason they still haven't done it. Unless you live in Minnesota, you may just have to Google MNRI or reflex integration in your area, or you can join "Children with Challenges" which is the Facebook Group for MNRI and post a message asking if there is anyone doing it in your city.  


  1. This is so interesting Blake. I am going to look into it from here in Amsterdam. Sending tons of love to you and Oskie, Jacky

  2. Hey Jacky, I went to his speech therapist today and she knows two people in Belgium who are practicing. Let me know if you want their contact info. They might know someone in Ams, or are maybe just right over the border or something.

  3. i want someone to feed me cheetos