bilateral coordination

Bilateral Coordination, Explained by Fort Myers Pediatric Occupational Therapists

Bilateral coordination, sometimes referred to as bilateral integration, is a critical developmental skill with which some kids struggle. It involves using both sides of the body together, and can impact both fine and gross motor skills Children who have difficulty with bilateral coordination may be diagnosed solely with developmental coordination disorder, but it’s also closely associated with other conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental delays and disorders.

As Fort Myers pediatric occupational therapists, we recognize there’s been an increasing awareness about what bilateral coordination is as well as what deficits might look like. A reported uptick in bilateral coordination deficits could also be partially attributed to COVID closures, as lots of kids lacked regular exposure to certain activities (PE class, playground time, etc.) that can help build these skills.

How Do I Know If My Child Has Poor Bilateral Coordination? 

Some indicators of poor bilateral coordination include:

  • Trouble cutting with scissors.
  • Struggles with handwriting.
  • Difficulty tying shoes.
  • Having a hard time dressing themselves (pulling on socks, pants, and shoes).
  • Trouble with fasteners, like buttons, zips, or snaps.
  • Clumsy movements.
  • Trouble catching a ball.
  • Awkward clapping.
  • Troubling using a bicycle pedal.

Parents should note there are actually three different types of bilateral coordination: Symmetrical, reciprocal and leading/supporting.

pediatric occupational therapy Fort Myers

Understanding Pediatric Occupational Therapy

Pediatric occupational therapy isn’t widely understood by most folks. After all, kids don’t have an “occupation” do they? (In fact, they do – it’s play & learning!)

Occupational therapy (or OT for short) is a broad discipline that can cover a lot of ground for kids with a wide range of delays, disabilities, injuries, and other challenges. Pediatric OTs are professionals who work specifically with infants, toddlers, and school-age kids to help them develop critical life skills that will boost their overall development. At FOCUS Therapy, our occupational therapists want these kids not just to function,  but to thrive!

Signs your child might benefit from an assessment by a pediatric occupational therapy professional:

  • Trouble with fine motor skills, such as using scissors, proper pencil grasp, manipulating small objects.
  • Difficulty with self-care tasks, like dressing themselves, buttoning & zipping, focusing/following through on instructions.
  • Sensory regulation. You might notice they’re extremely picky eaters, bothered by loud noises, and struggle with transitions between activities and/or environments.

Learn more about occupational therapy for kids here.

occupational therapy Fort Myers

Occupational Therapists: Essential Oils Aid Self-Regulation in Children With Autism

Many of our Fort Myers occupational therapists at FOCUS Fort Myers believe in a holistic approach to treating children with a wide range of delays and disorders. What that means is we focus on “the whole child,” and not just a series of symptoms or conditions – and treat with evidence-based therapeutic strategy and (hopefully, where it’s possible) avoid the need for pharmaceutical intervention. Part of this can involve essential oils, powerful plant extracts that have proven effective in a wide range of applications from boosting focus and attention to promoting relaxation and calming.

Often referred to as “aromatherapy,” (and many do smell very good), our occupational therapists wouldn’t bother to mention it if it were simply expensive potpourri. Far from a gimmick, the truth is there is real science to support the effectiveness of essential oils in numerous applications – from promoting healing in prematurely-born infants to helping a child who struggles with transitions calm and self-regulate.

Exploratory Study Promotes Essential Oils as a Benefit for Children With Autism

On analysis conducted by researchers at AirAse found that certain combinations of therapeutic grade essential oils applied topically every night for several weeks were associated with positive improvements in children’s behavioral, cognitive and emotional well-being.

occupational therapy exercises

Our Favorite At-Home Occupational Therapy Exercises for Children

The FOCUS Fort Myers occupational therapists have years of education and experience in developing goals and a plan-of-care for our pediatric patients, with the goal of promoting the highest level of functioning in everyday life. But as parents, you don’t need a degree to carry these lessons over with at-home occupational therapy exercises. There are many ways you can help strengthen your child’s skills and development with occupational therapy exercises – most with items you probably have around the house, if you need anything at all. The idea is not just to improve your child’s development of independence and life skills, but to have fun and spend quality time doing it.

Some of the strengths and skills you can target with occupational therapy exercises at home include:

  • Body awareness
  • Visual perception skills
  • Coordination
  • Language skills
  • Muscle strength
  • Direction following
  • Texture exploration
  • Emotional regulation

Because every child is different, it’s important to discuss your plan for at-home occupational therapy exercises with your child’s FOCUS occupational therapist, to ensure safety and the best results.