Let’s Talk About Bilateral Integration
What is it?
- Bilateral integration/coordination consists of the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time.
- It is also a sign that both sides of the brain are in contact with one another and sharing/sending vital information back and forth.
- This is essential for coordinated and fluid movements that require use of both sides of the body.
- Without bilateral coordination/ integration, a child may present as clumsy, often fumbling items in hand, use of primarily one hand in activities, or switch hands rather than using a helper hand.
- These skills are impactful on functional activities such as self-feeding, handwriting, dressed, and much more.
Stages of Bilateral Integration:
- Symmetrical: the use of hands together completing the same action (for example pulling up pants, jumping rope, etc.). Symmetrical movements are often mastered first due to ease.
- Reciprocal: using one hand or leg, then the other (for example crawling, pulling, climbing, etc.).
- Asymmetrical: each side of the body performs a different and separate task, but both sides are working on the same activity. This phase of bilateral integration can be seen using a “working hand” and a “helper hand” (for example cutting, making a beaded bracelet, writing, coloring, etc.).
- Crossing the Midline: when both extremities cross an imaginary line down the body, dividing it right from left. For example, dribbling a soccer ball, hitting a ball with a bat, touching toes with opposite hands, etc.
Some Tasks That Require Bilateral Integration:
- Tying shoes
- Pulling up pants
- Putting on socks
- Jumping jacks
- Playing an instrument
- Riding a bike
- Catching a ball
Bilateral Integration Activities for Babies:
- Provided appropriate toys that can be held with both hands
- Provided teething toys to bring hands together at midline
- Holding their bottle with both hands at midline
Bilateral Integration Activities for Toddlers:
- Toys that require one hand to stabilize while the other manipulates objects (for example a shape sorter)
- Play Dough
- Drawing/ Coloring
Bilateral Integration Activities for Preschoolers:
- Cut play dough or TheraPutty and roll into snakes or balls
- Playing movements games such as Simon Says, Twister, Hokey Pokey, etc.
- Climbing at playgrounds
Bilateral Integration Activities for All School- Aged Children:
- Working on hand eye coordination (for example hitting a baseball)
- Making a bracelet
- Rolling out dough with a rolling pin.
- Zoom Ball
- Flying a kite
Importance on Academics:
- Academic skills rely on bilateral integration and coordination.
- Without these skills, a child may find it challenging to read and write.
- With reading, the eyes must follow the entire line before moving onto the next line of text. The eyes must cross midline to continue reading the rest of the words on the line.
- In terms of coloring, writing, drawing, the non-dominant hand is expected to stabilize the paper while the dominant hand is writing words or coloring.