The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR), also known as the “fencing position”, is a primitive reflex found in newborns. It occurs when a baby’s head is turned to one side, causing the arm and leg on that side to straighten and the limbs on the opposite side to bend. This reflex, which disappears around six months of age, is crucial for developing hand-eye coordination and helps prepare infants for voluntary reaching.

Key Takeaways

  1. Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) is a primitive reflex that’s found in newborn children and will normally disappear as the child grows, usually between 6 months and 1 year of age.
  2. The reflex is characterized by the turning of the infant’s head to one side, which results in an extension of the arm and leg on the side to which the head is turned and flexion of the limbs on the other side, mimicking the posture of a fencer.
  3. If the ATNR persists past the age when it is supposed to disappear, it might interfere with activities such as crawling, walking, grasping, reading, and other fine motor skills. Pediatricians, physical therapists, or other healthcare providers may need to be consulted for evaluation and intervention strategies.


The motherhood term, Asymmetrical Tonic Reflex (ATR), is important due to its critical role in a baby’s neurological and physical development.

It’s a primitive reflex found in newborn babies that starts to appear at around 18 weeks of gestation and usually disappears after six months.

This reflex develops the baby’s ability to coordinate and use both sides of the body separately, known as bilateral coordination, which lays the foundation for skills like reaching and grasping.

If ATR persists beyond six months, it may indicate an underlying neurological issue.

Therefore, understanding and monitoring ATR can be crucial in ensuring a child’s healthy growth and development.


The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) plays a profoundly significant role in the developmental journey of a child. It is often considered the ‘foundation of hand-eye coordination.’ Once a baby’s head turns to one side, the arm on that same side will automatically straighten, while the arm on the opposite side will bend, resembling the position of a fencer.

This reflexive response, which typically emerges around 18 weeks gestation, is vital to the development of a newborn’s visual motor integration, hand-eye coordination, and can even have a future impact on certain academic skills including reading and writing. In the phase of early development, ATNR fosters the coordination between the two sides of the brain, helps stimulate early hand-eye coordination, and indirectly guides the development of fine motor control.

The persistence of ATNR beyond the typical age of integration (around six months) might limit the future development of motor skills, neurological maturation, and learning capabilities. So while it is essential for infants, as their progression to crawling, standing, and walking needs a cessation of this reflex.

Therefore, it’s crucial for health providers and parents to monitor the development of ATNR as its timely integration plays a critical role in the child’s overall cognitive, physical, and intellectual maturation.

Examples of Asymmetrical Tonic Reflex

The Asymmetrical Tonic Reflex (ATR) is a primitive reflex found in newborn babies, and it gradually disappears as the baby grows, typically by six months old. Here are three real-world examples:

Newborn Care: A mother’s understanding of the Asymmetrical Tonic Reflex in her newborn could significantly aid in effective newborn care. For instance, when a mother is changing her baby’s clothes or diaper, she might notice her baby involuntarily stretching out one arm while the other bends, which is a common manifestation of ATR.

Feeding: While feeding, a baby may turn its head towards one side, and the arm on that side may straighten, while the other arm bends at the elbow. This helps them to be positioned correctly for latching during breastfeeding.

Pediatric Doctor Visits: During a routine check-up, a pediatrician may stimulate the ATR by turning the baby’s head to one side. The healthy response would be for the baby to extend the arm and leg on the side where the head is turned and flex the limbs on the other side. Failure to exhibit this reflex could be an indication of a neurological disorder.

FAQs on Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex in Motherhood

What is the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR)?

The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex is an infantile reflex found in newborn babies. It is triggered when the baby’s head is turned to one side, causing the baby to stretch out their arm on the same side and flex the opposite arm.

When does the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) appear and disappear?

The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex appears at birth and should integrate by six months. However, it can persist for longer in some babies.

What is the purpose of the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR)?

This reflex is believed to be supportive of the birthing process. It also aids in early hand-eye coordination development, which is crucial for survival and exploration.

What happens if the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) persists after it should have disappeared?

If the ATNR persists beyond the time it should have integrated, it can cause challenges, potentially affecting the child’s ability to perform tasks that involve cross-body coordination, as the child is unable to turn his/her head without triggering this reflex.

What can be done if Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) persists in a child?

If ATNR persists, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional. Certain exercises and therapies can help inhibit the ATNR and promote the development of more mature movement patterns.

Related Motherhood Terms

  • Primitive Reflexes
  • Neonatal Development
  • Pediatric Neurology
  • Motor Skills Development
  • Infant Reflexes

Sources for More Information

  • Healthline: This website provides extensive information on health-related topics including Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex.
  • Mayo Clinic: Another trusted source for health information, you can find professional articles and guidelines on this topic here.
  • Pediatric Therapy: This site is dedicated to pediatric therapy and developmental disorders, offering practical information on Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex.
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Here you’ll find studies and articles that discuss the impact of Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex on speech and language development.