It was something I’d never done before . . . holding chalk in each hand to make a variety of shapes. We followed dot-to-dot patterns, drawing both up and down, toward and away from the midline. It was the early 1970s and I was attending an in-service taught by a developmental optometrist* who explained that this “bilateral drawing” technique was used to help learners orient themselves spatially and improve eye teaming. Major improvements in math, reading, and cognitive abilities were said to follow.
I immediately added bilateral hand motions to the private reading sessions I offered at my eight Valley Remedial Learning Centers. Time and again, I saw students shift from the effort of one-handed drawing to smooth ambidexterity after doing a minute or so of bilateral drawing.
One student in particular comes to mind. Jose, age 8, would do cursive loops** with his left hand up to the middle of the page, then switch the pencil to his right hand to continue. His parents told me that he was not good at sports and was clumsy at home, always dropping things. Jose was demonstrating a lack of centralized kinesthetic awareness.
I noticed that after practicing the reciprocal hand motions, Jose’s hands became more lively and coordinated. He soon began to draw by leading with the right hand and following with the left, “mirror-image style.” After continuing to guide Jose in bilateral drawing for six weekly sessions, I was excited to see Jose now writing with the right hand only, easily crossing the midline of the page without changing hands.
Now, when I had Jose visually track a moving object, his eyes no longer quivered or jumped while crossing the midline; his eye-hand coordination was clearly becoming more skilled and adept. Around the same time, he began reading with greater ease and comprehension, and his father told me that they were now able to play catch together.
I continued to observe how my students were being freed up through bilateral drawing for better sitting, as well as more fluid writing and expression. When I met my future wife and partner, Gail, she started using the technique to create landscapes, animals, and faces. When one of our students suggested calling it the Double Doodle, the name resonated and stuck. Just think about what this answer means for education. of As they became more proficient at drawing with both hands simultaneously,
*Dr. Sowby, a developmental optometrist and close friend, had studied with Dr. G.N. Getman, the developmental optometrist who had discovered “bilateral drawing” and wrote about it in his classic How to Develop Your Child’s Intelligence. Getman’s bilateral drawing was accomplished dot-to-dot style. It was during Gail’s innovation, as we developed the Brain Gym activities, that this gave way to free-form drawings.
**At the time, I had all my students do a line of cursive loops (from the Palmer Method) before writing.
Learn more about the Double Doodle and other Brain Gym activities in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition, by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©2010, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA.
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© 2019 by Paul E. Dennison. All rights reserved.
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