We live in a right-handed world and left-handers can struggle with a number of daily tasks due to the way a product has been designed.
Take scissors as a prime example; or tin openers, potato peelers, corkscrews, and knives (try cutting a slice of bread in your left hand with an ordinary knife and you may well end up with a doorstop!)
And then what about handwriting?
One in ten people are left-handed.
In our interview with Mark Stewart from Left n Write we look at the struggles faced by left-handers and how you can help to correct your child’s poor left-handed technique at home.
What are the common pitfalls of being left-handed?
Handwriting can become a major obstacle for left-handers if they do not have a good technique and this may have a negative effect on their academic and life chances.
Where the right-hander draws the pen/pencil away from the writing, the left-hander comes from behind the writing and this can lead to problems such as smudging, finger-spacing and being unable to see words to be copied.
Without appropriate guidance, left-handers can develop poor handwriting habits such as a “hook” style, arched hand, mirror writing, writing from right to left and others.
What provision is there in schools for teaching left-handers?
As far back as 1996, the Teacher Training Agency admitted : “It is true that initial teacher training does not, at present, contain guidance about how to help left-handed children”.
Despite our best efforts, in conjunction with Morrells Handwriting, there is still nothing about left-handed children in the latest Initial Teacher Training Curriculum produced in 2018.
Although some schools do know how many left-handed children they have in school, the vast majority do not.
When asked about left-handers and the support available in 2016 by MPs in Parliament, the Department for Education provided the following written reply:
“The Department does not collect information on what proportion of pupils are left-handed, nor on whether being left-handed has an impact on likely educational achievement”.
How can parents correct poor left-handed technique?
Parents and teachers can easily correct a poor handwriting technique.
I have shared a few top tips below to help you.
Components of writing left-handed
- Mind the elbows! Do not sit a right-hander to the left of the left-hander. They need to have enough space to write comfortably.
- How to hold the pencil/pen: encourage the dynamic tripod grip.
- Where to hold the pencil/pen: in the “v” shape between thumb and forefinger.
- Where to place the paper/book: line the edge of the paper/book with the edge of the arm.
- How to place the arm and wrist: encourage a straight arm and wrist.
- How to move the arm across the page: keep it straight.
What is the importance of a good left-handed technique?
- No pain!!
- No smudged work
- No messy hands!
- Being able to see what they have previously written
- Good self-esteem/confidence
- No frustration!
- Good marks
- Fair marks for well-presented work
- Greater chance to achieve full academic potential
How will I know that my child is going to be left-handed?
You usually have a dominant eye, hand and foot. In some children this dominance will be defined at a very early age (18 months +), but for some children it can take quite a few years.
There is no definitive age by which you will know for certain. Some will be completely right or left side dominant, i.e. eye, hand and foot are all right or all left.
However some children may be right-eye dominant, but left-handed and left-footed (or the other way around!). This is called ‘cross lateral’ and people who are cross lateral may be clumsy or not too well co-ordinated.
There are a number of simple tests which will be able to give you a good idea of your child’s dominance:
- Eye – ask the child to look through a kaleidoscope or camera and see which eye they put it to.
- Hand – see which hand they use to hold a pencil or feed themselves with a spoon. Do not try doubled-handed activities, such as using a knife and fork , as this may skew the answers.
- Foot – ask the child to kick a ball and see which foot they use.
Can you recommend any resources for left-handers?
There are a number of really useful resources available which can potentially make a real change to your child’s educational and life chances.
To find out if your child is left-handed and for practising cutting and pre-letter formation skills, the book “So You Think They’re Left-Handed?” is useful for both you as a parent and your child.
The Grotto pencil grip is also particularly good as it is really secure and stops the thumb rollover on to the index finger.
Easy ergo left-handed pens and pencils which have the grip moulded into the barrel and are also really refillable.
Left-handed pencil sharpeners are a useful item too and providing them with proper left-handed scissors can make cutting a lot easier.
As far as handwriting is concerned, there are the three books “Left Handwriting Skills” which are available separately but also as a fully photocopiable and CD version for schools. Numbered book 1, 2 and 3 they are roughly aged from 4 to 16 , but dependant on current technique.
The Writewell mat, which can be used for both left and right-handed children, is a useful
aide-memoire and will help them to achieve a good technique, but the books are more fun and instructional for the child.
For all the resources and information on training, you can visit www.leftshoponline.co.uk.
If you are looking for more help and advice on appropriate products for your child, you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org and our team are always happy to help.