Crossing Midline is a major foundational skill, yet so many kids can’t do it. Find out what crossing the midline is and what you can do today to help your kiddo!
I was once called into a Kindergarten class to help the teacher come up with some classroom sensory strategies for a kiddo that was fidgety in their seat. This kiddo also did not have hand dominance yet, struggled with the pace of the classroom, and needed assistance with self help skills.
As an Occupational Therapist of 15 plus years in the school system, I knew this kiddo needed more than some quick suggestions! As I spent more time watching this student, I realized something huge! This kiddo could not cross midline!
Crossing Midline is essential for self help skills, hand dominance and even the ability to sit and do a task.
The inability of crossing the midline negatively impacts kids and can lead to frustration, anxiety, and low self esteem.
Kiddos who struggle to cross the midline can be misidentified as being fidgety, lazy, uncoordinated, and a “slow mover”.
What is Crossing Midline?
Imagine that you have an imaginary line drawn down your body from your nose, through your belly button and down to the floor. This line is called your midline!
Ideally, you want to be able to cross your midline with both of your arms and your feet. This will let your body know what’s happening on both sides of it. It is also a big factor in being efficient in self care and everyday tasks.
When a kiddo can’t cross midline, they will bring one hand to midline and then switch to the other hand to complete the task. These kiddos will also rotate their body rather than move their arms across their chest.
Another tell tale sign of difficulty is that your kiddo will use their right hand to play with items on the right. And their left hand to play with things on the left. Or they will shift their body, while sitting or standing, in order to keep the materials that they are using to one side of the midline.
A student I was working with once told me it’s like a wall that his body does not want to go through. But when he does “break it down” it feels uncomfortable.
How does Crossing Midline Difficulties Impact Your Kiddos Self Care Skills?
Without being able to cross midline easily, self care tasks become harder to do. They also often will take longer to complete. Kids will use inefficient methods in order to get the task done.
Here are some self care skills that require crossing midline…..with MOST of them being done every single day.
- Putting your socks and shoes on
- Tying your shoelaces
- Brushing your teeth
- Putting your shirt on
- Taking your shirt off
- Putting a Belt on
- Ripping Toilet Paper
- Putting In and Taking Out Earrings
- Brushing your hair
- Putting your hair back in a pony tail
- Putting on your jacket
- Taking your jacket off
- Putting Make-up On
Many of these skills are required to be completed in the morning, one of the most stressful and busiest times for families. Difficulties with crossing midline can easily be overlooked.
As a mother of 4, I understand the challenge of getting out the door by a certain time. This is why parents often miss the underlying cause of their kiddos self care difficulties and will complete the task for them. I’ve been there, and I’m sure I’ll be there again.
Although crossing midline difficulties are present at home, they also have a big impact at School.
How does Crossing Midline Difficulties Impact School Performance?
A lot of times, challenges with crossing midline don’t get picked up until your kiddo gets to school. This is because they are required to do more things independently and within a specific time frame among peers.
Kiddos who can’t cross midline often complete tasks differently and less efficiently so they stand out.
Completing school tasks at a slower rate and differently than their peers, kiddos can develop performance anxiety at an early age.
Common school issues that a student may have related to crossing midline difficulties include:
- Does not have Hand Dominance by Kindergarten
- Is unable to turn pages of a workbook with one hand
- Has a difficult time sitting or standing in one spot while completing a task
- Struggles with school material organization on their desk
- Has trouble using shared school materials spread across desk
- Requires extra time to complete classroom tasks
- Has trouble completing self help skills like zipping and unzipping their book bag
- Struggles with putting their jacket on without using the flip over the head model
- Takes their jacket off by straightening their arms and shaking it off
- Struggles with putting papers into a folder
- Has difficulty using margins of writing paper
- Packing and Unpacking their book bag is challenging
- Has a hard time putting their book bag on their back
- Struggles with planning, focusing, and completing multi-step tasks due to taking longer to complete simple tasks and having to figure out how to do an activity
If this sounds like YOUR Kiddo, now what?
Know that there is something that you can do, today!
Begin providing opportunities for your kiddo to cross midline. I generally start with activities that require exaggerated movements. This way the kiddo can really feel and see their arms cross their body.
You will also have a better understanding of why your kiddo does certain tasks a specific way. This knowledge will give you more patience with them. It will also help YOU to support them more accurately.
Perhaps you will no longer see your kiddo as being difficult when they insist on holding their book bag by the handle. That is, unless you place it on their back for them.
How YOU Can Turn An Activity Into a Crossing Midline Opportunity!
The key to making an activity a success is two parts. First be aware of your kiddos body positioning to the materials they are using. Secondly, know which hand will be used for the main activity and which hand assumes the helper hand position.
Have your kiddo complete the task without switching hands. This is especially important for kids who don’t have hand dominance.
Sometimes, I will have a kiddo hold onto an object with their helper hand in order to stop them from trying to switch hands during an activity. If that’s distracting, have them sit on their helper hand!
Complete tasks that are larger in size to start with. For example, use a large piece of paper held in landscape. Check throughout the task, that your kiddos belly stays in the middle of the paper and that they don’t rotate or shift their body side to side.
Watch your Kiddo TODAY and see if they can cross the midline of their body!
If they can’t, watch closer to see which tasks they struggle with the most. Then start introducing some crossing midline activities with them!
You got this! Let me know if this post was helpful to you! I read all comments and would love to hear how this has helped you!
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Kelly is a licensed Occupational Therapist with 15 years of experience servicing school-aged children and Early Intervention. She is the founder of OT Perspective and a mom to 4 children. To learn more about her, check out her About Me page, here.