As babies grow and develop certain milestones are often celebrated, such as rolling, sitting, crawling, and walking. As a pediatric occupational therapist, one of the milestones I always celebrate might not be visible to the untrained eye. Crossing midline, defined as the ability to reach across the body’s invisible midline with your arms or legs to perform tasks on the opposite side of the body, is a required skill for many higher level coordination activities.
This skill typically develops around 18 months of age. Oftentimes when children are referred for occupational therapy due to poor fine motor skills, handwriting, or coordination, they are not crossing midline efficiently.
Some ways to observe whether or not your child is crossing midline efficiently include:
- Watching to see if your child switches hands during drawing tasks. Do they switch from left hand to right hand to avoid their arm crossing over when drawing lines across paper?
- Evaluating hand dominance: by age 6, children should have developed a hand dominance. Children with poor midline integration may not yet have developed a hand dominance.
- Tracking an object across midline: this can be observed during reading, as decreased midline integration can lead to poor ocular motor skill development required for scanning.
- Observing ball skills: children who are not yet crossing midline may have a difficult time crossing their dominant leg over their non-dominant leg to kick a ball forward.
- Assessing self-care skills: putting on socks, shoes, and belts may be extremely difficult as these are activities that require one hand to cross over to assist the other in the process.
Children who have difficulty crossing midline may not be able to keep up with their peers, which may cause increased frustration during participation at school and in social situations. In addition, crossing midline is a required skill needed in order to complete more challenging bilateral coordination activities, such as cutting with scissors, using a fork and knife to cut food, tying shoe laces, writing out the alphabet, and engaging in sports.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.