Everyone has a midline- it’s simply an imaginary line that runs down the middle of your body, splitting it into left and right. Many children with sensory processing disorder have trouble crossing their midline, ie. bringing an arm or leg across the line to the other side of the body, or even reading across a page with both eyes. Kids who find crossing the midline difficult usually compensate by turning their entire body or their head in the direction they need to move their limbs or eyes in. They’ve learned that when they move their whole self, they no longer need to overreach their limits.
An infant learns to cross his midline when he practices the creeping-crawling motions with his arms and legs as he prepares to crawl. Also when a baby learns to bring his hand to his mouth, that too is practice for this crossing the midline skill.
When a child can’t cross his midline to perform a task, it is usually an indication of extremely poor balance and coordination. Also, this skill directly effects one’s ability to read, write, and speak.
The good news is that a person of any age can learn to cross his midline. It just takes practice. Here are some activities and exercises you can do with a child who has difficulty with this skill:
1) Sit the child down in front of a piece of paper securely taped to the table so that the paper doesn’t move. The child can draw lines, pictures, do a dot-to-dot, or complete a matching worksheet (the kind with two columns on the paper, one column can be words and the second column can be pictures, and the child has to draw a line from the word to the matching picture. Alternatively, one column can be simple math problems and the other column can be the solutions.)
2) Sitting down, see if the child can place his right hand on his left knee, and then his left hand on his right knee. Then stand up, and do the same. Switch back and forth in a kind of rhythmic pattern- it helps to play music or sing a song and switch hands to the beat.
3) Practice batting! Help the child swing the bat all the way around to the other side of the body. Or play ping-pong and practice swinging with the child’s dominant hand by the opposite side of his body.
4) Learn to juggle! Sure to make anyone an expert in midline crossing. See my post about the book that can teach anyone to juggle.
5) Bathtime water play: Give the child 2 cups to play with while in the bath. One cup goes in each hand, the child should pour water from one cup into the other. The hand holding the cup being poured into stays at one side of the child’s body, while the hand pouring starts at the other side of the body and crosses over to the other cup. Make sure to switch hands.
6) Practice this exercise: Touch your right elbow to your left knee, and your left elbow to your right knee. Bring your knee up to meet your elbow. Alternatively, you can reach down and touch your right foot with your left hand or left foot with your right hand.
7) Stand opposite of the child, holding a flashlight. Move the light back and forth and teach the child how to track the light with his eyes without moving his head.
8 ) Once again, stand opposite of the child, and put your hands in the air, a bit out of line from the child’s straight vision. Put up a few fingers in the air, alternating hands and number of fingers, and have the child look at your hands, back and forth with his eyes without moving his head, and count how many fingers you have up.
There are many more activities and exercises one can do to develop this skill, I’m sure you can think of them on your own! Just make sure to have fun and it won’t seem like a chore.
Does your child have trouble crossing his midline? My son MeMe is pretty good at it, better than I thought he’d be. He still needs practice though. Crossing the midline is one of the huge things they work on in occupational therapy.
Thoughts, comments, ideas, and opinions, are all welcome. And personal experiences, certainly.