Crossing the midline can be as simple as reaching your right arm across the front of your body to pick up a cup of coffee on the left side of the table. Or reaching across with your left hand to turn a doorknob on your right, or completing a simple jumping jack. Most of these movements we do without even thinking about it! However, when this skill is lacking, it can be very frustrating and challenging for the child to complete even simple daily living skills. The school age child may demonstrate challenges in his or her learning environment.
Why Crossing Midline Matters
When we perform activities that cross the midline of our body, these movements are helping build pathways in the brain that are extremely important for various skills such as gross motor, fine motor and cognitive skills. All movement requires a sense of balance. When the equilibrium is deficient, it can affect how we sit and may produce an increase in fidgeting and restlessness. Poor midline skills can also cause the learner to have scattered attention. Movements that cross the midline are important for fine motor skills, directional skills (such as up, down, left and right) and for interpreting symbols (such as letters or numbers). If a child has difficulty with handwriting and copying written work, often they may have challenges with midline moves as well.
Moves That Help
There are basic moves that have been researched and used to help build this skill. Groups such as the Educational Kinesiology Foundation d.b.a Brain Gym International (Dennison and Dennison 2010) have combined crossing midline moves with learning to help develop this skill in children and adults.
The Cross Crawl
Sit or stand while you reach across the midline of your body with your right arm to touch your left knee and then repeat with left arm reaching to right knee. Ideally this exercise is best performed standing if the child is able, and the more exaggerated the arm reach is the better. (This move resembles marching when done standing!) This move can also be done in a supine (laying on back) position as in a sit up with bicycle arms.
The Lazy 8 (Dennison and Dennison 2010)
Have your child draw the number 8 as if it is lying down on its side.Always start at the top and go left/around/up to the right and down. You can have them draw it on paper, a tabletop, or while standing vertical on a white board or chalkboard. The child can “draw” it in the air without a writing instrument by just using their finger acting as a pencil and making the shape in the air. They can also “draw” it on the wall without a writing instrument; just tracing the shape with their finger acting as the pencil.
Daily Routine Moves
Position their plates/cups etc. at meal time that encourage them to “reach across midline.” When they are dressing in the morning, have them “reach across midline” to pick up clothes, shoes etc.
Play games that use crossing midline moves such as: Twister, catching a ball off center of person throwing it, throwing a ball at a target, sitting back to back and passing a ball around each others body.
There are many sports that engage crossing midline moves: Tennis, baseball, ice skating, gymnastics
JJ Schweikert, MOT, OTR/L
Paul E. Dennison and Gail E. Dennison,(2010) Brain Gym: Teachers Edition, Hearts at Play, Inc