Friday, July 18, 2014

Startle Reflex in CP: Please Don’t Scare Us On Purpose

Startle reflex (also known as startle response) is very similar to Moro reflex which is the reflex that newborns and infants show when they feel like they are falling. It typically goes away by six months old. If the Moro reflex continues for longer than that, it can be a symptom of Cerebral Palsy.
While it may look funny to see us jump response to certain noise (thunder, fireworks, someone jumping out and saying boo, clapping or laughing) what we are actually feeling is intense and unpleasant.

[Image is: Fireworks]

The closest description I could find was of the fight-or-flight response. (It’s what most people might experience during an actual threat to their safety and well-being. Being immediately threatened with physical violence, for example.) This is a response people have no control over. It a physiological response to a perceived harmful event, attack or threat to our survival. It starts in our brain, and causes automatic reactions that come with the startle reflex you can see.
What you can’t see?
- The surge of adrenaline causing our heart to suddenly race.
- Our shortness of breath.
- How “on-alert” we continue to feel after you scare us.
- How long it takes us to regulate ourselves. (Hint: It’s likely long after you’ve had your laughs and moved on.)
Just like you would never threaten someone’s physical safety and laugh it off as a joke, please don’t scare us on purpose. It doesn’t feel to us like regular surprise. It’s our response to a perceived threat. Our startle reflex is hard enough to deal with during fireworks or thunderstorms. The last thing we need is people who trigger it on purpose because it looks funny. When you do, you’re intentionally triggering a fear response.
It’s complicated by the fact that a lot of people with CP already feel vulnerable We don’t need extra reasons to feel on-edge or afraid.

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