What is Bilateral Coordination & Integration?

Bilateral coordination is the ability to use the right and left sides of the body together at the same time or with alternating movements. The ability to coordinate both sides of the body together is an important skill for many motor skills. While the word “bilateral” means two sides, often times this term is also used to refer to the coordination of the top and bottom of the body as well.

Why is Bilateral Coordination Important?

Gross motor skills such as walking, climbing stairs, running, skipping, hopscotch and jump rope all require bilateral coordination skills. Fine motor skills such as holding paper while cutting with scissors or lacing beads require the right and left sides of the body to work together. Many functional skills require both hands or both legs to work together such as buttoning, zipping, using a fork and knife, using a rolling pin and more. In addition, bilateral coordination helps to develop hand dominance (whether you are right or left-handed).

Bilateral Coordination requires good body mid-line orientation and the ability to rotate and cross mid-line. Mid-line orientation is typically developed in the first 3-9 months of life. Children who have poor mid-line orientation or the ability to cross midline will have delayed bilateral coordination. Furthermore, early development of midline and crossing midline helps to develop both the left and right side of the brain, and not just the body. Children with poor bilateral coordination often struggle with simple tasks, as well as classroom and academic tasks.

Can poor bilateral coordination be treated?

Yes, children who have been identified as having decreased bilateral coordination can work with a Physical or Occupational therapist. Usually conservative and typical therapy approach works. Your therapist will help you design a program that will work both sides of the body as well as upper and lower body to help rewire and retrain your child’s body.

Activities with your child you can start now at home:

Here are 10 simple ideas to practice bilateral coordination skills in older children:
1.  Marching to music and clapping hands at the same time.
2.  Cross crawls – touch your right hand to your left knee and then the left hand to your right knee.  Repeat touching the opposite feet.
3.  Traditional jumping jacks
4.  Cross Country Jumping Jacks – place right arm and right leg forward jump and switch left arm and left leg forward.  Try opposite sides – place right arm and left leg forward jump and switch left arm and right leg forward.
5.  March in place sitting down while drawing circles in the air with both hands
6.  Try a task using both hands or both hands and feet at the same time – ie: dribbling a ball with both hands, kicking a ball and dribbling a ball.
7.  Play hopscotch – the skill of jumping feet apart and together requires coordination of both sides of the body
8.  Perform motor activities to the beat of a metronome
9.  Jumping activities – jumping rope, jump up and clap hands, jump up and touch your heels behind your bottom, jumping activities from one floor tile to another, for example.
10.  Animal walks that use both sides of the body – ie: crab walk, bear walk and crawling

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