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Why are bilateral skills important?

Why are bilateral skills important? Well, these skills are vitally important as we use them for so many different movements and actions that require both sides of our body to perform together such as:

  • walking
  • playing
  • catching balls
  • cutting

When you are unable to cross the body midline, it means that the two sides of the brain are not communicating acting with each other. It can affect the way we read and write ie we read and write from the left to the right side of the paper, crossing the page with our vision. The eyes must also cross the midline for us to be able to conduct this.

Bilateral coordination is also important for us to utilise a dominant hand and a non-dominant hand when conducting activities. It is also important for motor planning, visual motor skills and directionality.

Why are bilateral skills important?

What do you look for if your child has problems with crossing the body midline?

  • swap hands when conducting tasks such as writing, drawing, painting and colouring
  • use the left hand for activities on the left side of the body and right hand for the right hand side
  • poor pencil skills
  • difficulty visually tracking objects from one side of the body to the other ie reading
  • rotate the trunk to the opposite side when reaching across the body (this avoids crossing the body midline)
  • when playing football may use different feet to kick the ball
  • difficulties with coordinating gross motor skills ie crawling, star jumps, skipping, hopping
  • may avoid pencil/writing tasks
  • struggles to conduct self-care/independent living tasks
  • physical skills are less refined than peers when conducting both sides of the body together
  • reading
  • gets frustrated when engaging in fine motor tasks

Why should you get help if your child has difficulties with their bilateral integration?

Why should I seek therapy if I notice difficulties crossing the body’s mid-line?

Occupational therapy can help a child with these difficulties by:

  • developing a hand dominance
  • improve ability to visually track across a page so that reading develops
  • help with transitions in school where fine motor tasks and pencil skill is expected
  • aiding independent living tasks ie dressing, brushing teeth, washing etc)
  • improving gross motor skills ie throwing balls, kicking a ball, running, riding a bike

If a child with bilateral difficulties does not receive help, it will lead to:

  • increased pressure in school to keep up with peers
  • aid anxiety/stress
  • not wanting to participate in sporting activities ie football, netball, tennis, rounders etc
  • disliking handwriting and will opt out regularly

Here are some links that go hand in hand with the above:

Trouble riding a bicycle – try this!

Crossing the midline – more in-depth information!

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