How to support speech by crossing the midline

Touching toes crossing the midline

Crossing the midline promotes coordination and communication between the left and right sides of our brains. Today I am going to show you some really easy activities you can do to cross the midline and build up connections in the brain.

What is the midline

The midline is an imaginary vertical line along the centre of your body from head to toe.

What is crossing the midline

Crossing the midline is anytime a part of your body crosses over the centre of your body. For example when we put shoes and socks on. We cross the midline when we use our right hand to write from the left hand side of the paper or to throw a ball with left hand but kick with your right.

Tying shoelaces
Tying shoelaces

The left side of our brain is active when we use the right side of our body.  Crossing the midline is important to practice using both sides of our brain at the same time.

Why crossing the midline supports speech development

Our brains and bodies are pretty complicated and in some cases autistic brains will be working differently to neurotypical ones.  The left side of the brain is the more organised side whilst the right is more creative.

Two sides of the brain
Left and right side of the brain

It is important that our brains build connections between the left and the right sides so they can work together.

One suggestion as to why my son is non verbal at aged 7 could be that he may be trying to use the wrong side of his brain to process language. For the majority of people the left side of the brain controls the ability to understand and speak language. It is the right side of the brain that controls recognition of things, touch, hearing and paying attention. There are many different processes required in the formation of speech and with multiple areas of the brain required to work together.

Essentially we need both sides of our brain to work together in order to speak. 

Building Connections

There are some very simple exercises like touching your right knee with your left elbow that make a connection between the two sides of your brain.  Essentially each time we cross the midline we are connecting the two sides of our brain up and letting them communicate and work together.

Knee to elbow
Knee to elbow

This will also support bilateral coordination (using both hands together). A key skill required for skills such as dressing and writing.

How to cross the midline

How you approach this will depend on the person’s age and ability.  For young children you can use messy play and mark making. Doing large Xs will mean your arms move across your body also lazy 8s where you do the shape of an 8 horizontally as if it is lying down. Dancing, clapping games and climbing such as in a playground is also great for crossing your body.

Clapping to cross the midline

With my son when he needs some calm time we might put some music on and do a few exercises lying down.  For example I will help to move his opposite knee to elbow, so the right knee touches the left elbow and then repeat with the opposite sides.

Similar activities can be done standing up, again meeting the opposite knee to elbow or touching your toes on the opposite side. Another exercise is to move your neck slowly from side to side.

touching toes to cross the midline
Toe touching

You can use a gym ball rocking side to side, doing circles or back and forth rocking.

These should be fun activities, remember to not force a child to move in a way that is uncomfortable or unnatural to them. If you have concerns about your child’s movements or ability to cross the midline by pre-school age then talk to an occupational therapist.

A good place to look is Brain Gym who provide lots of simple activities to support whole brain learning. For more ideas see:

The OT Toolbox – Bilateral coordination activities

Your Therapy Source has a crossing the midline printable with some easy exercises.

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  1. 26th September 2020 / 10:24 pm

    Gymberoo was very big on this. The human body is very complex #KCACOLS

  2. 27th September 2020 / 9:12 am

    That’s really interesting! I knew about the midline but had never really thought about ways you could cross it before or why it might be useful. Some great ideas here that should be easy to fit into our normal routine. #KCACOLS

    • admin
      27th September 2020 / 10:31 am

      I was surprised how simple it is too

  3. 29th September 2020 / 2:21 am

    This was really interesting. Something that all parents should be conscious of. Thanks for getting me thinking about this #KCACOLS

  4. Shelley Whittaker
    29th September 2020 / 3:47 pm

    This is so interesting and something I knew absolutely nothing about! Thanks for sharing #KCACOLS

  5. 3rd October 2020 / 5:15 pm

    Super interesting post. I have done some training on movement play and how we can promote children’s all round development. Thanks for sharing, sending love xx #KCACOLS

  6. 4th October 2020 / 3:59 pm

    You got me thinking about this. Interesting share #kcacols

  7. 5th October 2020 / 9:31 am

    These are great ideas, and such an interesting read xx #KCACOLS

  8. Tracey Carr
    7th October 2020 / 11:33 am

    I didn’t realise that such small exercises like this could improve speech development. It’s very interesting. The way the body and the brain work never ceases to amaze me!! #KCACOLS

    • admin
      7th October 2020 / 11:47 am

      It really is fascinating how the body and brain works

  9. 8th October 2020 / 2:27 pm

    I’d heard of the midline but didn’t realise how important it was to ensure both sides can work together. Who knew such simple exercises could have such an impact on things like speech.

    Katrina x

  10. 10th October 2020 / 4:01 pm

    I’ve never heard of the midline before – how interesting! #KCACOLS

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