Laterality Problems in Brain-Injured Children
Everyone knows someone who has a child with a problem. Parents who have a child with a learning problem are desperate for information. When a parent of a child with a learning problem contacts The Institutes, the questions he or she asks are usually the same ones that are asked over and over again.
Are there any other kinds of visual problems that can cause reading or learning problems?
Yes. Although convergence problems are more common, we also see children who have laterality problems. These problems can affect reading, auditory competence, mobility, language, and manual ability, especially writing. Children should develop hemispheric dominance by the time they are six years of age, which is to say a child should be clearly right-sided or left-sided by then.
Handedness is the most obvious sign of a child’s laterality. In order to achieve complete neurological organization, a child must have complete hemispheric dominance in all areas of function. This means that the child must not only use the same hand consistently but that this hand should match his eyedness, earedness, and leggedness. If a child is right-handed, he should also be right-eyed not only at far point but, what is more important, at near point.
For example, if a child is right-sided (right-handed, eared and legged), but is using his left eye as the dominant eye instead of his right eye, this can cause problems when he begins to read or write. Words will often reverse so that “saw” looks like “was” to him. When he wants to write “d” he will write “b” no matter how many times he is corrected. He will continue to make such mistakes because “b” actually looks like “d” and “d” actually looks like “b.” Even the most patient and loving people who try to help this child will unwittingly cause him great frustration because they mistakenly think he does not know the difference between “saw” and “was” or “d” and “b.”
This child does not have an intellectual problem – he has a very real and very complicated visual problem. A child with extreme laterality problems will actually draw and write upside down and backwards. Children with laterality problems have great difficulties spelling. They often write words without any vowels at all. These words are very hard to read, not only for parents and teachers, but the children themselves often have no idea what they wrote yesterday because they cannot decipher the strange words any better than anyone else. When they write, they flip their three-ring notebook paper over so that the ring holes and margin are on the wrong side. They often leave a very wide margin of half a page on the left side of the paper.
Such a child needs a neurological program that will help to establish which side should be dominant (this is a genetically determined factor). Once the correct side is determined, a program of neurological organization will help him to become one-sided on all areas. When this is handled he will be able to read, write, and learn as well as anyone else.
How can i help my daughter choose a dominant side? How do i know if she should be right-sided or left-sided. Does it matter?
Eighty five percent of us are right-sided, and the remaining fifteen percent of us are left-sided. The genetic predisposition for one side or the other comes from our parents. Some children show an early preference for one side over the other and continue this preference throughout childhood. Others switch back and forth in the early years. It is best to observe carefully without interfering with the process or imposing one side or the other. Problems occur when a child child who is really meant to be one side is encouraged to use the opposite side. This is much more likely to occur in children who are naturally left-sided. Sometimes parents or teachers force these children to use their right hand in the mistaken belief that this will “make life easier” for them. This will create a laterality problem where one would not have existed if the child had been permitted to use his left hand.