Crossing the Midline, the benefits of lateralisation

HelloIMG_20150221_183734849!

How are you all? After Summer was born I really wanted to join a Mother’s Group. I had never been a part of one before. In Australia when your baby is born the Early Childhood Clinic will pair you up with a Mother’s Group (if you want), a group of Mum’s with babies roughly the same age who all live within a few suburbs of each other. Pretty cool idea. Sometimes it works better than other times. I really really like my Mother’s Group. They are supportive and caring women. Everyone is so versatile and different but accepting. What you want.

In one of our first meetings the Early Childhood Clinic arranged a session with a woman who was a specialist in baby brain development. She was really cool and talked about all sorts of things. One of the things that stood out and fascinated me was the concept of lateralisation or crossing the midline. Essentially we have two hemispheres of our brain and the midline runs down the middle separating each side of our brain and body. It is really important for babies and children to “cross the midline” actively. This can be done in all sorts of ways, one of the big ones is crawling. However, anything that gets them crossing one side of themselves over the midline works. This process of learning to cross the midline is called lateralisation.

Lateralisation is really important for all sorts of higher order functions, such as reading and logically following the words on the page, spelling, grasping mathematical concepts, coordination in sport and many other things. I always knew that crawling was really good for reading, but never really knew why. Lateralisation is why (or at least part of why, as far as I know). Kids who are not lateralised or who need more work in becoming lateralised do things like write backwards, may have reading difficulties or learning difficulties,  avoid crossing the midline in physical tasks, have trouble telling left and right etc. There are quite a few symptoms and displays.

twins playing 8 months

Essentially movement, even from a really young age, is really really important to our brain development and our abilities to learn and of course function and succeed in society! Our physical and intellectual development are so highly interrelated!

My older daughters did crawl for a few months. However, they were late to move, in part because they were premature and tiny when they were born. Also I just didn’t really know what I was doing! I was a new Mum! I didn’t know all the things I needed to be doing with them (lets be honest there is probably still HEAPS I don’t know about babies and I have had 3 of them). It was hard to get out of the house with baby twins, really hard.

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Now that they are four and I have been watching and observing them I have noticed that they do write backwards from time to time, fairly normal for 4 year olds, but also a potential indicator that they need to do more physical work crossing the midline! I have been watching and reading more about it and I noticed another big indicator. My twins largely do not have a noticeable dominant hand. Hand dominance develops usually by around 3.5 years. A few people have commented to me that they could be ambidextrous. I am right handed for writing, but prefer my left side for physical tasks. I thought perhaps they may be slightly ambidextrous too from watching them.

However, after reading more about lateralisation it turns out that true ambidexterity is quite rare. Strong hand preference is actually linked to a highly lateralised child. Children who are not showing a hand preference in actual fact have two sort of weaker hands, as oppose to two strong hands (which would be true ambidexterity). Developing a strong dominant hand is important and a positive sign! Also children who grow up never properly lateralising are generally not as well coordinated for most sports except for Baseball and Cricket. (Interestingly, I got a little into Baseball when I was pregnant and on bed rest with the twins. I learnt there were in fact a few ambidextrous baseball players. I now wonder whether or not in fact they just skipped crawling!)

Moral to my story is I am going to do some more work with all my children on crossing the midline. Maybe some crawling races and some other fun games we can come up with to help cross the midline. I am not hugely concerned or worried, I am sure my girls will all be fine and are well within the normal spectrum. They show no signs of having any learning difficulties or reading issues. However, it is interesting to observe and know how to help! And that more movement is the answer! There is always room for improvement right!?!

Anecdotally I was told that children who were never lateralised early in life and did have learning difficulties who then practised doing the physical tasks they missed in early childhood caught up very quickly!

So that my friends was a very long post and I am no expert in it so please if it interests or affects you in anyway please check other references and resources. I like to reference my more educational posts, but the information in this has largely come from talking to various people, rather than a specific book or website. However, I found it so interesting to learn about and couldn’t believe I had never heard about it before! And I wanted to share!

Have you heard of crossing the midline or lateralisation before?

Jess xoxox

 

10 Responses to Crossing the Midline, the benefits of lateralisation

  1. This is really interesting, Jess!! I’ve never heard it discussed like this before, although I’ve heard occupational therapists mention it in passing.

    When I learned to play tennis, I taught myself a two handed backhand because it felt better to use both hands. I know from scientific articles that with running , after 45 minutes to one hour, there is a distinct increase in cross-callosal brain activity. Perhaps that’s why I’ve planned every elective operation and get very good ideas while running 🙂
    Dr. J recently posted…Light at Night Can Cause Serious Health ProblemsMy Profile

    • Dr J that is really cool about your tennis playing. And I never knew that about the brain. So interesting how interconnected our mind and body really are!

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