The Left-Handed Child

My grandmother came from a family of three girls. All three girls were left handed and were forced to write with their right hands in school, because to write with their left hands was considered unacceptable … and, back then, conformity was stressed.

My left-handed daughter is fortunate today in that she is not only being encouraged to write left handed, but she has a left-handed teacher.

It’s a Right-Handed World
Since only an estimated 10 percent of boys and even less girls are left handed, society hasn’t made great strides to accommodate them. This can cause some difficulties as the left-handed child learns to cut, color and write.

Some children show a definite hand preference by the time they are 1 year old. Children up to 2 or 3 years of age may switch which hand they use, but, generally, have a dominant hand.

Years ago, teachers forced all children to write with their right hand. This is not done in most schools today because left handedness is seen as acceptable and more is known about the harmful affects of forcing a child to switch hands. The brain hemisphere that controls handedness also controls language in most cases, so forcing a child to change dominant hands can cause language problems, such as stuttering, and can cause reading difficulties.

Not a Cause for Concern
Don’t worry if you have a lefty. These children do encounter some obstacles, but these can be overcome. We read and write from left to right, which is natural for a right-handed person, but not for a left-handed child. The left to right movement may be confusing and can cause some reversals.

Left-handed children can write just as neatly and easily, although they may smear their writing by dragging their left hand across what they’ve just written. Some left-handed children develop a hook style of writing that looks as though they are trying to write upside down. This occurs when the child positions his hand and paper the same way as a right-handed child. The problem is that teachers are usually right handed and don’t teach left-handed children the proper positioning for writing and cutting.

Left-Handed Problems
Some people believe left-handed children are more accident prone. This is because the kids are living in a right-handed world. Doorknobs, many utensils and even toys are developed for right-handed people. Lefties are clumsy with scissors and tools that are made for the right hand. This can cause accidents and injuries.

A left-handed child may have trouble learning sports skills because a right-handed person has difficulty teaching a lefty the proper positioning. Equipment is built for right-handed people. A left-handed child needs a baseball mitt for the right hand, a golf club that is the reverse of a right handed club and a bowling ball drilled with the finger sizes reversed.
But in some sports, such as tennis and baseball, the left-handed child has the advantage. A lefty tennis player confuses the right-handed player because the ball is coming from the opposite side. In baseball, the left-handed player is in a better position to run to first base after completing a swing. Left-handed pitchers and first baseman also have advantages due to the position and their use of the left hand.

Musical instruments also pose special problems. Some instruments, such as piano or saxophone, are played with both hands. Stringed instruments, such as the violin, may have to be strung in reverse, or the left-handed child must learn to bow with his right hand.

The best thing parents can do for lefties is to let them develop normally. Don’t try to influence handedness. Left-handed children can develop just as normally as right-handed children. They will adapt to doing things in a reverse manner and special left-handed tools and utensils are available for lefties.

Famous Lefties
Billy the Kid, Julius Caesar, Ty Cobb, Jimmy Connors, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, W.C. Fields, Gerald Ford, Ben Franklin, James A. Garfield, Judy Garland, Lou Gehrig, Betty Grable, Goldie Hawn, Herbert Hoover, Rock Hudson, Samuel Johnson, King George VI, Harpo Marx, Michelangelo, Marilyn Monroe, Arnold Palmer, Picasso, Queen Victoria, Raphael, Ronald Reagan, Robert Redford, Nelson Rockefeller, Babe Ruth and Harry Truman.

Leftie Trivia
• Animals have a hand preference much the same as people. Most cats are left handed.
• Lefties usually are faster on keyboards because they’re more equally skilled with both hands.
• Three former presidents were left handed: Reagan, Bush (Sr.) and Clinton.
• All three presidential nominees in the 1992 election were left handed.

Katrina Cassel lives with her husband, five of their children and an assortment of pets in the Florida panhandle. She is the author of five books, including “Celebrate Creation” (Shining Star), “The Junior High Survival Guide” (Concordia Publishing H