How Many Lefties are Among Us?
Statistics show that about 1 out of every 10 people worldwide are left-handed.
James T. deKay, author of The Natural Superiority of the Left-Hander, says, “[I]f both parents are left-handed, there’s a good chance that 50 percent of their children will be left-handed, too. But if neither parent is a lefty, the probability shrinks to only 2 percent.”
Famous lefties include Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Julius Caesar, Winston Churchill and Barack Obama.
How Will I Know if my Child is Left-handed?
Some parents will be able to tell which hand a child prefers by as young as age 3 but for most, this happens around age 5. (2)
A quick left-handed test is just to watch which hand your child uses to handle a spoon, or pick up and throw or roll a ball.
Challenges and Advantages for Left-handed Children
Perhaps one of the lingering challenges is the historical view that being left-handed was a bad thing. I still hear conversations amongst some of my parenting friends about whether or not they should try to teach their lefty to be a righty.
Gina Landfair, an occupational therapist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, says, “ ‘[D]on’t force a round peg into a square hole. If you suspect your child’s a lefty, don’t attempt to transform him into a righty. This just causes more problems later.’” (2)
It can also cause physiological problems as in the case of my uncle who was forced by his teachers to use his right hand instead of his left, and it actually gave him migraines and made him throw up.
Writing presents a challenge in terms of:
• Positioning of the paper – Lefties cannot write on paper positioned vertically. It needs to be tilted.
• Grip on the pen/pencil – Lefties tend to use a “hook” kind of grasp so they can see what they’re writing, but should be encouraged not to do that
• Smearing ink – Be sure to buy quick drying pens and watch out for markers as lefties will smear the ink across the page as they write.
• Computer use – Your child will need a left-handed mouse.
You can read more writing tips in this article Tips for Raising a Lefty.
Many daily activities can also present challenges most of us wouldn’t think of such as:
• Tying shoes – Try demonstrating shoe tying in a mirror, so your child can see how it’s done. It’s also an idea for your child to practice tying the shoes with them off, and then with them on. (2)
• Cutting with scissors and crafts – Your child will need scissors especially made for lefties. Tri-tip crayons and pencil grips will help your child with craft implements designed for right-handers. You can see more tips on that in Help for left handed children.
• Playing a musical instrument or sports – Left-handed guitars are available and piano is a two-handed affair, though the dominant hand will be playing the bass instead of the melody. Kind of confusing.
Tennis, baseball and hockey all offer equipment for lefties, and soccer doesn’t require any kind of specialized lefty-versus-righty equipment.
• In the kitchen – Hand-cranking can openers are designed for right-handed people. Electric or “over-the-top” can openers are lefty-friendly options.
• Buttons and zippers – Girls clothes traditionally have the zippers and buttons made for right-handers, and boys for left-handers.
Lastly, we really need to help lefties take full advantage of the strengths that come from being left-handed.
“Research suggests the right hemisphere of the brain is dominant in left-handers” and show advantages in spatial awareness and perception that come in handy in sports and other activities “demanding rapid reactions and good spatial judgment such as tennis and fencing. Many also seem to excel in other right hemisphere functions such as visual concepts, creativity and music.” (5)
So, let your lefty be a lefty and discover a new world with your child.
1. Raising a Left-Handed Child in a Right-Handed World. Stevens, Cara. Parents.com. Web. Accessed: Mar 31, 2014
2. Tips for Teaching a Left-handed Child. Douglass Fliess, Sue. Education.com. Web. Accessed: Mar 31, 2014.
3. Help for left handed children. Anything Left Handed. Web. Accessed: Mar 31, 2014.
4. Raising a lefty. Murray Giles, Caitlin. Chicago Parent. Web. Accessed: Mar 31, 2014.
5. Tips for Raising a Lefty. Ripton, Nancy. Canadian Family. Web. Accessed: Mar 31, 2014.
Reviewed April 1, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith