CONTRALATERAL MOVEMENTS

This post continues my explanation of the rationale of the movements we put into our routines.

The body goes through a series of developmental movement patterns, starting with Spinal Activation, then Homologous Movement, next Homolateral Movement, and finally Contralateral Movement. As each movement pattern emerges, the other movement pattern provides support and increases the depth of integration in the body and brain.

In previous posts I have explained the first three movement patterns (SpinalHomologous, and Homolateral). I want to conclude this explanation with the science behind Contralateral Movement.

Crossing the body’s midline

Contralateral Movement involves opposite sides of the body working together (e.g., arm and opposite leg, right hand touches left knee, left hand touches right ear, etc.). Contralateral movements integrate all the previous movement patterns. They also activate both sides of the neo-cortex.


Picture the body with an imaginary line that runs down the midline  separating it in half vertically from head to toe, thus dividing the body into right and left halves.

Being able to cross the midline indicates that the child has reached the point in his or her development that the right and left side of the brain are working together. In contralateral movements we develop diagonal movements such as creeping on our hands and forelegs with the ability to transfer weight so we don’t fall over.

I love this picture to the right where little Olivia can cross over her midline with both hands to grab and discover her little foot.


Right hand touching left knee

Leanne demonstrates another example of crossing the midline, using her right hand to reach over her body to touch her left knee.

Neurophysiologist and educator Carla Hannaford, in her book Smart Moves, talks about crawling, a cross-lateral movement which activates development of the corpus callosum, the fibrous bundle of neural pathways connecting the two hemispheres of the cerebrum.

When children do cross-lateral movements (arm and leg movements that cross over from one side of the body to the other) the two sides of the brain are forced to communicate, and this strengthens the nerve-cell pathways linking both sides of the brain through the corpus callosum.

The Corpus Callosum

The corpus callosum is the largest connective pathway in a human brain. It is made of more than 200 million nerve fibers that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  The more connections that are made between the two hemispheres, the easier learning is for an individual.

I think one of the best descriptions towards understanding the corpus callosum is found on the website of The National Organization for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum: https://www.nodcc.org



When we created the movement-actions for our songs, it was important to include as many of the developmental movements as possible in a sequential order, to help with the integration of the brain and body. Children need to be able to cross their midline,as this is a necessary skill for reading and writing; they must be able to cross the midline if they are going to be able to work from one side of the paper to the other.


A sideways Lazy 8

When doing cross-lateral or contralateral movements, it is easier to start sitting on the floor, to take away the issue of balance.  Children can play patty cake by clapping hands crossing the midline of the body.  They can also cross hands and draw a sideways lazy 8.

There are so many different types of movements and games that can be played to help integrate the left and right hemispheres. I promise I will devote another blog posting to more games and actions you can do with your child or students.

Have fun playing with all these movements!

All the best,

Liz

 

4 comments

  • Kevin Gibbs

    Kevin Gibbs Finland

    Hi Liz. I realize that this is an old post, but I'm very intiqued by this for two reasons: Firstly, I'm a personal trainer and I always want to better myself in terms of being able to understand the human body better. Secondly, I have a 13 month old child of my own and he has learned to crawl on all fours. However, it worrys me to see that he doesn't use his left leg well when crawling on this tummy - he sort of "forgets it" after the knee. He'll pull with the hands and push with the right leg, but the left one just doesn't do anything. He bends it up from the knee. What am I to do about it and what exactly does this mean?

    Hi Liz.

    I realize that this is an old post, but I'm very intiqued by this for two reasons:

    Firstly, I'm a personal trainer and I always want to better myself in terms of being able to understand the human body better.
    Secondly, I have a 13 month old child of my own and he has learned to crawl on all fours. However, it worrys me to see that he doesn't use his left leg well when crawling on this tummy - he sort of "forgets it" after the knee. He'll pull with the hands and push with the right leg, but the left one just doesn't do anything. He bends it up from the knee.

    What am I to do about it and what exactly does this mean?

  • Kids-Move

    Kids-Move

    Hi Kevin, Sorry for taking a bit to get back to you Kevin. Being a kindergarten teacher and finishing a course, I have been swamped. My apologies for being so tardy!! Thank you so much for reading the blogs. I am very glad you read this particular post. As a personal trainer, I know you get the value of purposeful movement to achieve results. I was a fitness instructor for 20 years teaching, both in the gym and in the water. I am glad that you have asked about your son’s crawling. Learning to crawl is such a critical movement made by infants as it stimulates the Cerebellum and sets the child up for so many cross-lateral movements. It is critically important you get your son to push off from his toes with his left foot. This is so important for walking, developing laterality later in life, and improving his ability to focus. I have included a video clip [forthcoming, early January] of my 21 year old daughter demonstrating how to do the crawling reflex. I have been very fortunate to train with Dr. Harold Bloomberg, a psychiatrist and Rhythmic Movement Specialist. Just this summer, I became an International Rhythmic Movement consultant, so I know with 100% certainty, how to help your son. First, You need to practice the crawling movement with your son; it wouldn’t hurt you any either to practice this movement to make sure it is fully integrated in you also. We always need little tune-ups and to also help us appreciate all the hard work involved in crawling. My daughter was exhausted after this short segment of crawling! You might want to start with a gentle foot rub to make sure the toes have no tension and gently roll the hips from side to side to release tension in the hips. This is best done lying on your stomach. 1) Have your child lay on his stomach resting his forehead on his hands like resting forehead on a pillow. 2) Take the right leg (the stronger leg in this case) and bend the knee out to the side, bring the right foot up to the level of the left knee. (You might want to put a soft cushion under the stomach to raise the hips to make this movement easier.) Both heels should be point up to the ceiling during the whole exercise!! All toes of the foot should have 100% contact with the floor when pushing away. 3) Press the right toes down into the floor or carpet as you gently guide the right foot down the straight left leg until the right foot is flat and both legs are straight. It is really important to have the toes fully extend and push until the foot is flat. 4) Repeat with the other leg. This exercise involves the hip to a large extent and could cause strong emotional reactions and/or dreams. Kevin, you should continue to direct your son’s foot with full extension of the toes, as often as you can, until your son engages his left foot and toes in the crawling process. It is best if you can guide your son’s foot until he is able to do it on his own. You can also take his left foot and have him push off in your hand. Curl the toes and have him push through until his foot is flat. For whatever reason, he apparently doesn’t as of yet have the sensation of pushing off with the left foot and this is a very important developmental step. I work on several adults who have not fully integrated the crawl or have it active and who need practice to re-integrate it. The crawling reflex is so important in helping integrate the Amphibian reflex, Babinski reflex and Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR reflex). I will talk about these more in upcoming posts. I will include videos of younger children in future posts. Let us know how this works out for all of you. Happy Holidays Liz JT

    Hi Kevin,

    Sorry for taking a bit to get back to you Kevin. Being a kindergarten teacher and finishing a course, I have been swamped. My apologies for being so tardy!!

    Thank you so much for reading the blogs. I am very glad you read this particular post. As a personal trainer, I know you get the value of purposeful movement to achieve results. I was a fitness instructor for 20 years teaching, both in the gym and in the water. I am glad that you have asked about your son’s crawling. Learning to crawl is such a critical movement made by infants as it stimulates the Cerebellum and sets the child up for so many cross-lateral movements.

    It is critically important you get your son to push off from his toes with his left foot. This is so important for walking, developing laterality later in life, and improving his ability to focus. I have included a video clip [forthcoming, early January] of my 21 year old daughter demonstrating how to do the crawling reflex. I have been very fortunate to train with Dr. Harold Bloomberg, a psychiatrist and Rhythmic Movement Specialist. Just this summer, I became an International Rhythmic Movement consultant, so I know with 100% certainty, how to help your son.

    First, You need to practice the crawling movement with your son; it wouldn’t hurt you any either to practice this movement to make sure it is fully integrated in you also. We always need little tune-ups and to also help us appreciate all the hard work involved in crawling. My daughter was exhausted after this short segment of crawling!

    You might want to start with a gentle foot rub to make sure the toes have no tension and gently roll the hips from side to side to release tension in the hips. This is best done lying on your stomach.

    1) Have your child lay on his stomach resting his forehead on his hands like resting forehead on a pillow.

    2) Take the right leg (the stronger leg in this case) and bend the knee out to the side, bring the right foot up to the level of the left knee. (You might want to put a soft cushion under the stomach to raise the hips to make this movement easier.)
    Both heels should be point up to the ceiling during the whole exercise!!
    All toes of the foot should have 100% contact with the floor when pushing away.

    3) Press the right toes down into the floor or carpet as you gently guide the right foot down the straight left leg until the right foot is flat and both legs are straight.
    It is really important to have the toes fully extend and push until the foot is flat.

    4) Repeat with the other leg.

    This exercise involves the hip to a large extent and could cause strong emotional reactions and/or dreams.

    Kevin, you should continue to direct your son’s foot with full extension of the toes, as often as you can, until your son engages his left foot and toes in the crawling process. It is best if you can guide your son’s foot until he is able to do it on his own. You can also take his left foot and have him push off in your hand. Curl the toes and have him push through until his foot is flat. For whatever reason, he apparently doesn’t as of yet have the sensation of pushing off with the left foot and this is a very important developmental step.

    I work on several adults who have not fully integrated the crawl or have it active and who need practice to re-integrate it. The crawling reflex is so important in helping integrate the Amphibian reflex, Babinski reflex and Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR reflex). I will talk about these more in upcoming posts.
    I will include videos of younger children in future posts.

    Let us know how this works out for all of you.

    Happy Holidays

    Liz JT

  • Tim Halpern

    Tim Halpern South Salem, NY

    Hi. While the above comments are focused on children, can they also be useful exercises for adults too? Thanks Tim Halpern

    Hi. While the above comments are focused on children, can they also be useful exercises for adults too? Thanks Tim Halpern

  • Kids-Move

    Kids-Move

    Hi Tim, ABSOLUTELY!!! All these movements and exercise can be used with adults and children alike. I worked with someone who had a stroke and she had lost all movement on her right side. We started with Spinal movements (basically me just rubbing up and down here spine) and then we started to work the right side of her body with homolateral movement. Once we had success (it did take a few weeks with me doing hand-over-hand lifting of the arm and leg together), we moved on to starting to have her hand cross the midline. I would gently bring her hand across her body and try to gently reach her hand across her body a little more each time. I'm happy to say after a lot of hard work, she has full range of her movements after her stroke 10 years ago!!! Hope this was helpful. Good luck with your journey. Liz Jones-Twomey

    Hi Tim,

    ABSOLUTELY!!! All these movements and exercise can be used with adults and children alike. I worked with someone who had a stroke and she had lost all movement on her right side. We started with Spinal movements (basically me just rubbing up and down here spine) and then we started to work the right side of her body with homolateral movement. Once we had success (it did take a few weeks with me doing hand-over-hand lifting of the arm and leg together), we moved on to starting to have her hand cross the midline. I would gently bring her hand across her body and try to gently reach her hand across her body a little more each time. I'm happy to say after a lot of hard work, she has full range of her movements after her stroke 10 years ago!!!

    Hope this was helpful. Good luck with your journey.

    Liz Jones-Twomey

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