The importance of crossing the midline in child development

I had an interesting encounter the other morning. While in a very public setting, a young mother with an infant announced to no one in particular that her son was not a crawler. She went on to say that he liked to scoot on his rear end, but he was not developmentally deficient in any way. No one had asked her why he was not crawling, and no one probably would have said anything about his scooting behavior.

Because I am somewhat acquainted with her, I mentioned that she might want to get on his level and crawl with him, as the cross body coordination would help with cross hemisphere brain mapping. You would have thought I had used four-letter words or something. She became very verbally aggressive and said that her husband was a medical student, and there were no developmental deficits.

No one is saying this child has any sort of deficits. Besides being a naturopath, I have a masters degree in education. Somewhere along the way, I learned that students who skipped the crawling stage did have cognitive impairment which would resolve once the student practice crawling for a few weeks. Not having any peer-reviewed studies to hand, I reached out to fellow NDs and asked their opinion. Fortunately, there IS scholarly advice on this matter.

Crossing midline all starts with crawling, which typically develops around age 7-11 months. Crawling is a very important developmental milestone. For many children, especially those with Autism, Dyspraxia (motor in-coordination), or Dyslexia, they may have “skipped” the crawling stage all together. Crawling is important because it works on upper and lower body dissociation, trunk/core rotation, weight-bearing/weight shifting, reciprocal movement patterns, and dynamic movement transitions (ie.: quadruped to side sit, quadruped to ½ kneel, etc.). This is also a precursor for crossing midline which is necessary for the brain to communicate across the corpus collosum, the thick band of nerve fibers which connects the two brain hemispheres. This is required for higher level skills such as reading and writing. In fact, research has shown that children with dyslexia have smaller, less developed, corpus collosums.

Furthermore, when a child has difficulty crossing midline, it can affect his/her ability to read. While the child is moving his/her eyes from left to right across the page, the eyes will stop at midline to blink and refocus; however, when this happens, the child will very frequently lose his/her place on the line and become confused as to where they left off. It also affects handwriting, as diagonal lines cross the midline, and the child may need to stop in the middle of the page to switch hands when writing from left to right. Many self care and daily living skills require crossing midline. For example, perfecting the skill of putting socks or shoes on requires one hand to cross over to the other side of the body.

Children who have difficulty crossing midline may appear ambidextrous because they are often observed using both hands, but they actually have a hidden neuroprocessing issue. Both sides of their brains are not communicating, resulting in decreased coordination, decreased motor control of movements and difficulties achieving higher level skills. Often, these children end up with two unskilled hands.

In my practice, we have a little test that we perform to see if the right side of the brain is communicating with the left side, crossing the corpus callosum   Although the corpus callosum is not the only path connecting the hemispheres, it is by far the largest and most important.   When there is a disparity between the scores of our test, t hen we know that there is some sort of energetic blockage.

Again, I am not saying that there are developmental deficits. I am not saying that all children should develop at the same rate for the same skills. What I am saying is that should your child decide to skip the crawling stage, please make sure that you provide enrichment for cross body movement so that the brain will map properly,

Until next time,

Dr. Polly

1 Comment
  1. Interesting read. When I was 11, I visited my sister who lived in Austin. I was friends with one of the girls who lived next door. Her sister was about 7-8, and each evening, the mother would have this daughter get on a platform on either the table or a pool table with a comfy covering. Each family member, would take one of her limbs, and simulate crawling movements, while the girl moved her head from right to left. She had missed that part of her development, and the doctor, teachers, whoever, indicated it would increase her abilities. She was not ‘deficient’ as you mentioned, but they recognized what was missing and incorporated this therapy. This was a long time ago, so this crossing midline awareness is definitely an important step in a child’s development. The fact that the woman in your story was so vehement, is clear indication to me, that there were enough questions in her mind already and she was ready to be offended. Those who protest too much….. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront. Some mom’s think ‘oh he skipped crawling’ is a sign of greater dexterity, abilities etc, and it is definitely not.

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"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6"
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