What is laterality?
Laterality is the distribution of functions across the two cerebral hemispheres. The preference for one side of the body over the other (right or left) to perform actions depends on this distribution.
This laterality comes from the binary organization of our nervous system. In fact, this duality is found in our body: two ears, two eyes, two lungs, two kidneys, etc.
Our brain, in turn, has two specialized hemispheres responsible for controlling the entire complex dual system. Cortical lateralization is also present in these cerebral hemispheres, which specialize for different cognitive functions.
A well-established laterality is a facilitator of different learning processes from the age of 4 or 5, and might be a risk factor if this is not the case.
When do we speak of crossed laterality?
We speak of crossed laterality when laterality of hand is different for feet, eyes, and ears.
Homogeneous laterality occurs when hand, foot, eye and ear are uniformly one-sided (left/right dominance).
Crossed hand-eye laterality has been the most studied and is often associated with learning problems, especially in the processes of reading and writing.
It must be distinguished from forced laterality,when a person is forced to use the hand opposite of the hand that they would naturally use (for example, a left-handed child who is forced to learn to write with his right hand).
Crossed laterality and learning
From primary education onwards, children with ill-defined or crossed laterality may have specific learning difficulties.
Around 25% of school-aged children exhibit learning disabilities related to laterality (Ferré, Catalá, Casaprima, and Mombiela, 2000).
Among the most common symptoms, the following should be highlighted:
- Difficulties inreading, writing, and arithmetic skills.
- Problems with spatial and temporal organization.
- Difficulties in spelling encoded information.
- Psychomotor impairment.
- Letter reversal in writing and reading.
In fact, crossed laterality is very common in diagnoses of ADHD and specific learning disabilities (SLD), so comorbidity is high.
Among the difficulties in the development of laterality, the most frequent is usually known as relative crossed laterality, in which the child normally uses his dominant eye and writes with the subdominant hand. In these cases,it is important to point out thatif the decision of correcting crossed laterality is reached, it is recommended to act on hand dominance before eye dominance: this is less complicated and promotes the child’s neurobiological tendency.
Exercises to prevent crossed laterality
As professionals, we should be aware of the laterality processes underlying the child we are treating. There are several activities aimed at reinforcing laterality, promoting control and knowledge of one’s own body, as well as spatial and temporal awareness. Some interesting activities are:
- Target games: bowling, darts, throwing paper balls into a wastebasket, etc.
- Games involving hand pressure or modeling: ask the child to create figures with slime, play-dough, etc. with a different hand each time.
- Sculptor’s game: tell the child to stay still. Approach him and move his body parts to leave them in the desired position. Afterwards, the child must replicate the same “sculpture” with your body.
- Gymkhanas by using left-right verbal instructions: hide something and guide the child to find it, by only giving verbal directional instructions.
- Tangrams: tangrams are excellent forimproving laterality. Different formats can be used (traditional physical tangrams, tablets and computer).
Interactive activities with NeuronUP to improve laterality
Among these activities, the following can be found:
Program the Robot:
This activity consists of mirroring the position of colorful light bulbs on a robot. “Program the robot” is a very well-rounded activity loved by children. By practicing this activity, kids will train sustained attention, selective attention, hemineglect, spatial relations and processing speed.
This exercise involves forming a geometric figure by moving its vertices without its sides crossing each other. It is ideal for working spatial visualization and planning.
The Mysterious Garden:
This activity involves determining the spatial correspondence of a stimulus that has been previously provided. Patients are shown images of flowers, animals and bugs, and must place them exactly where they were in the model. This activity trains the spatial relation.
Let the Games Begin!:
This activity is especially stimulating. The goal is to move the soccer balls to the soccer field and the basketballs to the basketball court and all while the balls are in constant motion, trying to get to the other side. It is an ideal exercise for training planning, selective attention, sustained attention, hemineglect, and processing speed.
These are just a few examples; within the platform, there are many variations and levels to achieve very thorough training and to improve laterality in an innovative and fun way.