Promoting Bilateral Integration
Many children with learning disabilities have a neurological impairment called “Dysfunction in Sensory Integration (DSI), also known as “Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Their brains have difficulties processing what they see in order to read and write. Symptoms include difficulties using both hands together to perform bilateral activities, lack of hand dominance in older children and avoidance of crossing the midline of the body.
Midline is an imaginary line that runs down the center of the body, dividing it into right and left sides. Children who have deficits in “bilateral integration” appear to be clumsy and struggle with fine-motor skills such as hand writing. Brain gym free exercises such as Lazy Eights and Double Doodle force children to use both hands together and cross midline as they make large movements at a blackboard. As these movements develop coordination between the right and left hemispheres—children develop bilateral integration. These activities are beneficial to all students, even those with no disability.
Performing Lazy Eights
A very large horizontal eight or infinity sign is drawn. The child traces repeatedly along the curves by either using a finger or drawing with a marker or chalk. The large, exaggerated movements create rhythm and flow that promotes eye-hand coordination. Lazy Eights develop visual tracking skills as the child watches his own hand movements. Students should perform the tracing activity three to five times with each hand and then several more times using both hands together on the marker.
The up and down, left and right curvy movements teach children how to make the same movements needed to form letters. However, tracing the large eight shape involves the whole body including the shoulder muscles—making it a multi-sensory experience. Some children may find using a marker that glides on a white board easier at first and then after practice begin using chalk on a blackboard. The chalk offers more resistance requiring the child to use the small hand muscles in preparation for forming letters and numbers.
Performing Double Doodle
Double Doodle involves coloring or “doodling” with a piece of chalk or marker in each hand at the same time. The teacher or occupational therapist might ask the child to form simple shapes, faces, letters or designs. This forces children to coordinate using both hands together and to pay attention to the direction of their movements. This activity promotes body awareness since if the child looks directly at one of her doodling hands, she will need to move the other hand without looking at it-by using her kinesthetic sense–that tells her how she is moving.
Promoting Visual Skills
In order to write children need to not only coordinate eyes and hands but coordinate using the eyes together as they move across the paper, fitting letters between lines. Tracing and forming shapes in the vertical plane while standing at a board positions the hands right in front of the eyes with the head comfortably straight rather than bent over a piece of paper on a desk. Lazy Eights and Double Doodle teach children how to perform written tasks by training their bodies and eyes using large movements so that they will eventually be able to do the same using smaller movements on paper.