Bilateral Coordination & Hand Dominance
Bilateral coordination is about how we use both sides of the body together to complete tasks in a refined and functional way - there are a lot of things we use this skill for without even realising! Some examples of where we put this into practice include tying our shoelaces, getting dressed, and play activities such as building and puzzles.
Development of bilateral coordination skills occurs through the development of neural pathways connecting both sides of the brain. Without the capacity to use our hands together, we would have significant difficulty in being able to complete tasks that depend on coordinated and refined movements. Some things to look out for that might highlight poor bilateral coordination skills:
Fumbling or dropping of items
Completing tasks more slowly than expected
Difficulty moving one hand in relation to the movements of the other
Using only one hand for tasks that require both.
Alternating between left and right hand for tasks that are dependent on hand dominance, such as handwriting.
It is crucial that a child develops single handed dominance for tasks like handwriting, which have complex motor movements and are dependent on repetition for skill refinement. Swapping between hands for tasks such as these requires the brain to process as a new pattern, reducing automaticity and confidence in this skill.
How do we know which hand is dominant? A child will begin to demonstrate a preference for one hand between the ages of 2 and 4, and this is generally established between the ages of 4 and 6. When hand dominance is unclear, it is important to observe how a child manages different tasks, including how they reach for items and how they may position themselves to support this. Working with your Occupational Therapist can be valuable in understanding what hand your child uses dominantly, and supporting your child to refine their skills to develop consistency with hand use.
Having strong bilateral coordination skills supports your child to be able to complete tasks with confidence, so that they can continue to develop their skills as the demands of tasks increase. Talk to your Occupational therapist to discuss how you can support your child to develop these skills. For more information on hand dominance and bilateral coordination, have a look at this fact sheet from the Royal Children’s Hospital: https://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/ot/InfoSheet_B.pdf