Evewoman : Parenting: How to handle your left-handed child
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Parenting: How to handle your left-handed child

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It’s natural for parents to assume that their left-handed child is disadvantaged. Don’t look upon your left-handed child as odd. She is one among millions and it’s easy enough to iron out the few practical problems she may have. First, it’s important to never force her to use her right hand and never assume she is going to have difficulties in school.

If you look around, you’ll find many successful people who are and were left-handed such as Leonardo da Vinci. Thankfully, nobody tried to make him conform to the predominantly right-handed world.

As good as peers

Forcing left-handed children to use their right hand may trigger a stammer. This is because the centre that control speech and manual dexterity in the brain are closely linked. When you interfere with one, you risk impairing the other.

At least one in ten of school children are left-handed and as good at mathematics, handwriting, and practical tasks as their right-handed colleagues. Reading is where things may go wrong. This is because the natural eye-movement for left-handers is from right to left. When reading, our eyes must move from left to right. This disadvantages left-handers. Some overcome this without problems while some don’t and may need extra help with reading.

How to help

There is a lot you can do to help your left-handed child. Teach the pre-school child to tie shoelaces and a tie and also to do up buttons.

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Provide her with left-handed scissors and teach them how to cut fringes around paper to help their hand-eye coordination.

To train the eyes to scan from left to right, make a series of pictures which the child has to put in the correct order such as building a house or getting up in the morning, or ask her to put objects in order of size (always going from left to right).

Draw an arrow at the top of the page in her reading book or have a piece of wool down the left-hand side. The eyes can also be encouraged to scan more accurately by using a card with a window cut into it so that she can only read from left to right.

Teaching her to swim, cycle and knit helps build up good motor coordination. Older children can be asked to draw a sequence of shapes, letters or dots-and-dashes going from left to right. Teach her sequences of numbers from one-ten, one-100 as well as days of the week and months of the year.

The challenge

Writing is the major area of worry for many parents of left-handers particularly if the child is prone to the hook; an awkward style of writing with the child’s elbows sticking out from her body and the top of the pen away out over to the left.

Some children may have a tendency to write back-to-front. Leonardo used to ‘mirror-write’ meaning his writing could only be read when one held it up to a mirror. Many can’t see the words they have just written because their left hands obscure the page. There is usually smudging of the page when ink is used.

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The solution is to hold the pen with fingertips about one to one and a half inches from the pen point and to use a rubber band to indicate the correct place in which to keep her fingers.

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