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Left Handed People

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When Left is Right

Left-Handed Toddlers

By Carma Haley Shoemaker


One in every 10 people is left-handed, and males are one and a half times more likely to be left-handed then females, according to Lefthanders International. Medical researchers have looked long and hard for what causes people to be left- or right-handed. Their answer? The same reason why brown-eyed people have brown eyes: genes that manifest their trait one out of every 10 chances. With 90 percent of the population being right-handed, how can parents help their "lefty" learn to successfully navigate his or her world?

On the Other Hand

What do left-handed people do differently that distinguishes them from right-handed people so dramatically? According to Martha Pieper, co-author of "Smart Love" and columnist for the Chicago Parent, being left-handed means simply having a preference for using the left hand for a variety of tasks, including reaching, throwing, pointing and catching.

"Stating someone is left-handed also implies a preference for using the left foot for kicking, to begin walking, running and bicycling," says Pieper. "There are no hard and fast rules for determining which hand or foot the lefthander prefers to use for a particular task. Most will prefer to use the left hand or foot for delicate work. They may also have a dominant left eye, preferring to use the left eye for telescopes, camera sights and microscopes." Pieper says that, in general, being left-handed means having a dominant right side of the brain.

Lefty Lore

In past societies, there was no sympathy for left-handed persons. Lefthanders International shares stories of children forced to change their dominant hand in fear for their life, their safety and their acceptance. As left-handedness was seen as a curse, children caught using their left hand for reaching and grabbing were often scolded and forced to use their right hand in order to make it dominant. This was an enormous effort for both parent and child. It is stated that to accomplish the change in handedness, the left hand would be tied behind the child's back, down at their side or across their chest to make it unusable for normal activities, forcing the right hand to take its place.


Most tools, utensils, office equipment and dishes are made for the right-handed person. There are tools for left-handed people, but most must be special ordered from retailers who specialize in them. According to Pieper, this is just the beginning of the battle for a parent of a "lefty."

"The problem most left-handers encounter is that the world is configured for right-handed people," says Pieper. "And teaching a left-handed child can be a difficult task, especially if the parent is not left-handed. A child can become quite frustrated when attempting to imitate a parent or sibling who is not left-handed and may even give up on the task all together."

Learning to Teach a Lefty

What can a parent do? Pieper says it's easy -- learn to teach. "Parents who are right-handed often try to do things in the opposite of what they know when teaching their children," she says. "While the concept is good, this method is hard on both the parent and the child as it never seems to work how it should. In order to have the child see the hand movements in the proper direction, sit opposite the child rather than next to him or behind him. A left-handed child is just the mirror image of a right-handed one. So be your child's mirror."

Sue Shackles, a mother from Buckley, Wash., first noticed something different when her daughter, Sophie, was an infant. "It became more apparent as she got older -- she is left-handed," she says. "The biggest problem was when I tried to teach her to manipulate items. You can't sit next to a leftie as a right-handed mom and show them how to do something, because to them, it's Greek. Tying shoelaces was exceptionally difficult. The solution, which worked best for us, was to sit across from her, and have her copy my movements as though we were using mirror imagery. When I moved my left hand, she moved her right. You can utilize this for almost every problem -- how to hold a fork, or a pencil, etc."

Myths of Lefties

While there are many myths related to left-handed children, here are the most popular.

Lefties are More Apt for Creative Genius: A really interesting question is whether there is any connection between left-handed people and creative genius. As one of the most common myths of left-handed people, Pieper states coincidence rather then consequence.

"Some of history's most creative minds have been left-handed," says Pieper. "Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Ludwig van Beethoven, Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were all left-handed according to history. But just as we can name all these wonderfully talented left-handers, we can also name just as many right-handers. There are no concrete facts to prove or disprove any relation between being left-handed and being exceptionally in any field. However, even if it isn't fact that left-handedness gives rise to creative genius, left-handed children and parents can take comfort to know that they are in good company."

Lefties are More Clumsy: As they are thought to be "out of the norm," left-handed children are often labeled as clumsy. But is it true clumsiness, or just a matter or having to adapt? "Left-handed children, when attempting to accommodate to an opposite world, appear awkward using tools that have right hand preference designed into them," says Pieper. "However, right-handers display even more awkwardness using left-handed tools than left-handers do using right-handed tools. This is probably because right-handers are less used to adapting. It's not a matter of being truly clumsy, but instead, it is that a child has not yet overcome or adapted to that right-hand based obstacle."

Lefthanders International has designated August 13 as International Left-handers Day. This August may be a great time to start celebrating your child's uniqueness, versatility and left-handedness. "I have always accepted what life has to offer and tried to teach my kids the same philosophy," says Karen Hawkins, an Internet professional and freelance writer from Bridgton, Maine. "I believe THE most important thing you can do for any child is to accept



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