Monday, March 18, 2013

Bilateral Integration and handwriting


Bilateral Integration
Bilateral Integration is the ability to use both sides of the body simultaneously and independently in body-related, as well as mind-related actions.

Bilateral development is crucial for both growth and fine motor skills.

Bilateral integration is also an important factor in academic performance and mental activity.

On a body level, bilateral integration will cause the development of a dominant hand, a dominant foot, a dominant eye.

On a mental and academic level, we differentiate between using the left hemisphere (logical thinking, reasoning, analytic deductive reasoning) or the right hemisphere (holistic, emotional, big picture thinking, integration) for a given task, depending on the nature of this task.
Lateral Dominance
Acquiring a dominant hand is crucial, for gaining efficient everyday skills such as handwriting.

Purposeful use of the 2 hemisphere is vital for our system to be efficient and consequently directly related to academic performance and problem solving skills.

Different stages of Bilateral Integration

There are different stages of bilateral development through which the individual will proceed in sequential order.
Bilateral Integration
In this stage of development, both sides of the body perform the same action at the same time. Both sides of the body are essentially mirroring each other in this stage.

Jumping with both feet together, clapping the hands, performing star jumps.

For the older children:
Bringing both hands together in front of the face, moving both arms in the same way at the same time for a baby.
Bilateral Integration
In this stage of development, one side of the body does the opposite of the other side. While one arm comes forward, the other arm moves backward.

Crawling is the primary example in this context.

Walking, crawling (while swimming), working the stairs, climbing a ladder and many rhythmical activities are additional examples.
Bilateral Integration
This is the critical stage in the child's development. Asymmetrical bilateral integration occurs when each side of the body learns to perform a different activity, both related to the same task. This is significantly more complex than the previous stages because the brain has to coordinate 2 different streams of actions.

Coloring of paper, squeezing toothpaste onto the brush, cutting and similar activities are good examples here. The brain needs to coordinate for the non-dominant hand to keep still and stabilize, while the dominant hand does the action required.

Look at a child trying to tie a knot or the shoelaces, or even putting on a shirt, doing the buttons and you get an idea of the stage of bilateral development of this individual.
Crossing the midline
Crossing the midline is the 4th stage of bilateral development and integration. Now the brain has accomplished to coordinate the movement of the 2 sides of the body independently. The system starts on crossing the midline and the imaginary vertical line in the middle of the body. This invisible midline doesn't always divide the whole body, only some of the extremities/ sense may be affected.

The presence of the inability to cross the midline in a child at school age is a strong indicator for a poorly developed integration and almost certainly an indicator for difficulties in activities such as reading, writing, motor planning and consequently gross and fine motor coordination. Since this is also the time to learn patterns, strategies and procedures, inefficient patterns may be established from a child with poor bilateral integration.
Bilateral development and Academic Performance
Inefficient work in problem solving strategy may have a minor impact or even remain hidden with a bright child. There is enough mental capacity to work with a comparably low workload.

As school advances typically between the 3rd and 5th degree, individuals with poor bilateral integration tend to (fall apart). Their system becomes more and more unable to cope with the increasing workload. When this starts, motivation, interest and enthusiasm, self esteem and the willingness to accept a given challenge are likely to be affected often accompanied by the onset of behavioral components.