Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bilateral Movement

At learn-to-skate, I met the parents of a little boy on the autism spectrum. (A God-incidence. Out of all the parents at learn-to-skate in the bleachers, this mom and I found one another right away.) The little boy amazes me in so many ways. At a pre-school level, his facial referencing is nothing short of amazing to me. If my girl could have referenced like that at five or six, I think we'd be in a different place today.

He is absolutely adorable. Precious. His smile lights up the ice. ;) He's quite resilient. And quite the creative problem solver: He likes to fall on purpose, probably for the combination of proprioceptive input he gets from it and the attention he gets from the coach on the ice with the skaters.

I've been thinking about bilateral movement ever since I noticed this boy in learn-to-skate using his right side while his left side kind of limps along behind. According to this document, bilateral movement is is the ability to execute movements on both sides of the body, clockwise and counterclockwise, forward and backward.

Here's what I want to show you, to point out to you, in case you haven't thought about this. His mother gave me permission to tape this for my blog. Watch how he is moving his right side purposefully, and most of the time, his left side simply comes along for the ride, not actively participating. He amazes me that he's able to compensate for the super-strong right side, probably using his vision, to keep himself from traveling in circles. Do you see it, too? Look at how hard he works! And he's got to learn to feel, to use that left side:

He takes a few steps where he's intentionally moving that left side, but not many - there's quite a contrast between the two. The occupational therapist at school has not noticed this yet. And the more we watch him on the ice, we see why he is not yet skating like the other children in his class. He's mostly using just one side.

Is your child with autism or sensory processing disorder using both sides of his/her body to his/her full advantage? Or is one side limping along? I'm watching my own girl more closely, now.

One of my soap boxes: I don't think that we parents and professionals notice stuff like this often enough. We fail to recognize how hard a child must work in order to maintain posture, to walk across the room, to write with a pencil, to cut with scissors, to do all the things we take for granted when our neurology is not challenged. This little boy falls on the ice on purpose and he usually asks his mom for a bathroom break or two. I suspect he may be working a lot harder than most of the other kids on the ice and he needs the little break. (I could be wrong.)

In kids with autism, I sometimes see kids acting out, and labeled a behavior problem or non-compliant or trying to escape a task when, in fact, they do not have their neurology working for them. And professionals and school staff tend to lump all of that under an umbrella of "autism" instead of addressing this bilateral movement issue as a separate piece by viewing behavior through a lens that understands the difficulties involved when a child's neurology is not working the way a typical child's is.

Food for thought.

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