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Left-Handers in Society

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purpose of page | parents | educators | the school desk plague
intro | basic problems | intrinsic bias | socio-cultural bias
tips: music, sports, medical, daily life
employers | product design | misc comments
index & references
archival page
comment form

hand preference questionnaire
"the world of sinistral subterfuge"
what handedness has to do with brain lateralization

best with Netscape Navigator 3+ | author & editor: M.K. Holder, Ph.D.

p a r e n t s
p a r e n t s
p a r e n t s

Don't know how to help your your left-handed child learn manual skills? Check your local library for left-handed manuals (see Diana 1972 in the bibliography for brief, illustrated sports tutorials). The Lefty Tips page includes tips for music, sports, and daily life (e.g. coping with 3-ring binders, learning to tie a necktie, where to find left-handed items, etc.) There is also a section on medical problems called diagnose this!

e a r l y    d e v e l o p m e n t

Many concerned parents have questions about the development of handedness and manual skills. For instance, several mothers of 4-year-olds have told me that pre-school teachers have told them that their child is "falling behind" other kids by not having established a hand preference by age 4, and that these teachers were "encouraging" pre-schoolers to be right-handed. This is not good advice from the teacher because (a) many children do not develop a strong hand preference until around age 7 or 8, and (b) forcing a child to switch the hand s/he prefers to use might induce serious learning problems!

Based on scientific and clinical research findings, the following information is relevant for parents and K-6 teachers... It is not unusual for babies and toddlers to have a preference for one hand, then develop a preference for the other hand, then be ambidextrous for a while, and then switch back to the first hand preference; the typical course of development for handedness is often complex and highly plastic [changeable]. While some children develop a hand preference relatively early, one should not really expect to see a stable preference for one hand to develop until the child has started writing a lot (as late as 2nd or 3rd grade).

Part of the reason for this is that handedness for writing is related to hemispheric brain specialization for language abilities, although we are not certain precisely how this works (for more on this, click here). There is evidence that some left-handed children who have been forced by parents or teachers to switch to the right hand, have consequently developed various learning disorders, including stuttering, difficulty learning to read and/or write, etc. (Jones 1918; Lauterbach, C.E. 1933a, 1933b; Bryngelson 1935; Johnson & Duke 1935; Clark 1959).

Thus, I strongly encourage parents and teachers to let children develop their own hand preference, at their own speed. The best thing you can do for a left-handed or ambidextrous child is to be supportive, find a left-handed friend or family member to teach them skilled manual tasks, and try to obtain whatever left-handed items needed for the child to perform well and safely (scissors, baseball glove, etc.)

I also suggest that if you have a child or student with learning difficulties (such as trouble learning to read or write, mixing up letters or numbers, getting concepts backwards or inverted, stuttering, etc.), let a specialist help you. You could start with your school's special education instructor or a clinical developmental psychologist (some university clinics offer free or inexpensive testing). Many learning problems can be easily overcome if diagnosed early, or can lead to lifelong problems, if overlooked.

If your child is having trouble with physical coordination, check to make sure that s/he is placing her/his feet properly (usually the weight-bearing foot is the one opposite the active arm during trunk movements. Also be aware that if the leading eye is opposite the active arm or leg, this can sometimes cause difficulty with precise aim (see the comment below):

"Like many left-handers I am also left-eyed, but ended up right-armed and right-legged. This means when I throw a ball I must judge where two lines (line-of-sight and line-of-throw) must cross at a distance instead of simply keeping the two lines parallel as when your dominant eye and arm match. The sooner you realize what the difficulty is the sooner you will master your aim!"
John Heaney, USA

c o m m o n   s c h o o l   p r o b l e m s

Parents, you wouldn't believe some of the things that well-intentioned teachers have done (and are doing) to left-handed children. Read through these comments for an idea of what your kid might be up against at school. Talk to your child and his/her teacher and find out how your child is being treated.
The most common & serious problems left-handers face in school are:
Learning to write:
Forcing a left-hander to switch to the right hand may precipitate the onset of serious learning disorders; improper instruction on how to position paper and pencil can lead to awkward, uncomfortable, and/or slow writing.

School desks:
Modular desks are mostly half-desks attatched to the right side of the chair.

Lack of equipment:
(scissors, rulers, etc.)

Lack of sports equipment:
(e.g. baseball gloves, hockey sticks)

Coaching and musical instruction:
Right-handed coaches and music teachers often do not know how to instruct left-handed students.

Test-taking logistics:
The student can't write fast enough (on an awkward right-handed desk) during timed tests, or is accused of cheating because of how one must twists one's body in order to write at a right-handed desk.

Undiagnosed learning problems/abilities:
There is a higher incidence of left-handers among children with childhood learning disorders and among children "gifted" in math and science. Either way, a child whose abilities are not properly appreciated will not get the sort of instruction s/he needs.

b a d   e x p e r i e n c e s . . .

"Hello to all parents, I am a mother of 2 and I am a left-hander all my life. When I was young, grandma used to beat me blue black for using my left hand - she even tied my left hand up. When ever I get excited I tend to stammer and they used to laugh at me, it was towards my latter life that I learn it was because I was force to used my right hand that cause this problem. Even till today whenever I speaked in my dilect I still stammer, in English I am all right but when I get upset I still have this problem. It is embrassing at time especially in my line of job, speaking in public (I am a tour guide) so parents please don't force your child, let it be what they are. Don't handicap them in spite of good intention. We left-handed face many problem in school and and at work, but we overcome it naturally like eating at the wrong side and school desk not made for us, writing with a fountain pen can be a real killer - you get smugges all over, but you learn how to cope with it. Hope you will think about what I say, thanks."

"I was told I did everything backwards (not a good start). I believe myself to be a backward person. I have been incapable of learning how to play sports, play a musical instrument, or enter my creative vault. I believe it is because I have been viewed as "backward" by people who were important to me as a little girl. Celebrate your child and their differences."
Jean J., Ashland, MA, USA

a d v i c e . . .

"Please remember when teaching left-handed children the importance of giving them examples to follow in a left-handed manner. Don't allow your children to just use the left hand without making any other adjustments in body position, foot position, etc. It won't work and the child will be needlessly frustrated. You can make a difference!"
Barry D. Benowitz, USA

"Until now (as a right-hander) I was completely unaware that left-handers experienced the difficulties with things I considered "normal". As a mother of a left-handed son (7 yrs old) I never realized the frustrations he feels at times. Anyone who would force a child to switch to the right is not considering their child's well-being at all. Left-handed children need to nurtured and developed into self-confident adults just as you would any other child. I think it is very important to... support him/her fully in whatever their needs may be. I also feel that this support will enable them to adapt better to both hands so any dangers with tools, etc. can be prevented when they get older. My goal is to encourage my son to develop his skills (especially in writing) with his left hand and to make it as comfortable and normal as possible."
Barbara McAulay, USA

"I am right-handed, but my eyes were open when my son was born. We even celebrate left-handed day and we all use our left hand on that day [13 August] to celebrate my son and how special he is."
Gayle, Westminster, CO, USA

"I remember my older sister teaching me to tie my shoelaces by letting me "mirror" her. When it came to using a knife at the table, I picked up the knife in my right hand, just like every one else, but I didn't have to switch the fork to my right hand; my parents figured it was easier that way. I use a knife for almost all other tasks in my left hand. My parents always let me choose which hand to use and they tried to adapt their teaching method as best they could to help me."
Sharon Kerick, USA

"I have known nothing other then being right-handed. Bringing up my children I natually correct them whenever I see them use their left hand. My son however (9 yrs) seems to be ambidextrous, or is he left-handed but I won't let him be? I do let him do some things lefty (i.e. miniture golf, bats left and right). How do I know if I should let him write left-handed?
Anonymous, USA

At 9 years old, your son is probably already writing with the hand he prefers; so why not just let him write (and do other things) with whichever hand he chooses? Difficulties often stem from forcing a child not to use whichever hand s/he prefers... Unless s/he is experiencing some problem, let your child develop in a way that is most comfortable and natural for him/her.
M.K. Holder

"When I began 1st grade, my mother, bless her heart, wanted to have my teacher "switch" me to become a "righty". My teacher said, and I quote, "You'll really mess him up if you do that! He'll be alright." The teacher was right. I am a 39-year-old "LEFTY" and proud of it! And because I've had to "adapt" at times in this right-handed world, I feel I am a much stronger person, able to tackle anything! Please don't make your child something they are not!
Paul David Conley, USA

"A left-hander will be brought up better if either parent is left-handed. Always get the left-hander to teach you how to cope in this mirrored world."
G.K. MacGregor, UK

"Left-handed children are children with better opportunity to face the challenges of life. They are more challenged, not disabled. With proper motivation and care, these individuals grow up to become very able and successful people."
Donald Lim (right-handed), MALAYSIA

"To a left-hander, the worst experience is being forced by his parents to use the right hand instead of the left one."
Josephine Leung, HONG KONG

"I grew up knowing I was left-handed but thinking I was right-handed. My parents just let me do whatever, and I usually did what I saw them do. Now I get easily confused when told or asked directions. Parents need to realize it is very confusing when no help is offered. I am now 18 and am still trying to figure out which is left and which is right. It takes me a couple of minutes to reply when asked, and it really makes me feel stupid. Parents need to help the left-handed child to realize they are not awkward or stupid, but special."
Jennifer Vaughn, USA

"I couldn't remember what my parents did to help me as a child. So I called my ma the other day. I found out that when starting school the teacher tried to force me not to use my left hand. They fought against it. They also helped me by just letting me do what was comfortable for me. Showing me to use my eating utensils the left-handed way, and other little things like that. I asked my ma why I couldn't remember any of this, and she replied "I guess we did a pretty good job, then". Letting your left-handed child be left-handed is probably the most important thing you can do. Help them every way you can and just let them know how special they are."
Jennifer Anne, USA

"I've heard a lot of stories about parents who want their kids to be right-handed because "it's easier in life to be right-handed, and besides, it's not like it really matters" as if they can just rewire their kids' brains. The kid then is smacked or punished for using their left hand, the kid starts doing poorly in school, the kid screams and kicks up a huge stink -- shouldn't this clue the parents in that no, this is not just something that doesn't matter that you can change at will? If you could change a child's handedness as if it were nothing, then you wouldn't have so many kids with dyslexia and stuttering who had it tried on them. You wouldn't have kids cutting school, you wouldn't have kids screaming like banshees during dinner when you take the fork out of their left hand. Your kids demonstrate with their unavoidable tendency to use their left hand that no, this is not something that is trivial to change, and yes, you are causing heartache and unnecessary pain and anguish by trying. Do you honestly think that the inconvenience of looking for a left-handed scissor when you're 40 is really more severe than the inconvenience of stuttering or being dyslexic for the rest of your life because your parents or teachers tried to muck with your cognitive hardwiring?"
Janis Cortese, USA

"Whatever the child does at an early age is what is most natural for him/her to do and it should be left that way. In trying to change that behavior in a young child, you are sending a strong message that it isn't ok to be what you are and that you must adapt yourself to meet the expectations of society. It's not the best premise to raise a child."
Anonymous, USA

"Lefties have their own way of doing things and learning. We are not your "mirror" image and we do not do everything the reverse of how a right-handed person would do it. Let us learn at our own speed and our own way of learning it. Keep your [derogatory] comments, no matter how well intentioned, to yourself. You have no idea how a seemingly small remark can really screw up a kid's head for years to come. No two lefties do all things left-handed in the same way -- there are varying degrees."
Judithanne Young, California, USA

"I am left-handed and had to fight to stay that way. Luckily, I was branded a "problem" child and moved to a new teacher half way through first grade. Educationally, I benefited; socially, this created more problems with the other children. Today I use my right hand more than my left due to manufacturers and conditions of performance for tools. Yet I can use chop sticks and most hand tools with either hand. I enjoy freaking my friends out. (A small pay back attitude I guess.) I believe that until a mass awareness occurs about left-handers being like everyone else (well maybe more special...), problems will always surface. Although today I hope people are spending more of their time worrying about more important things than persecuting left-handedness."
Shawn-Nol, USA

"This comment goes out to all those parents who have left-handed children: Did you realize that a ... percentage of left-handed people have a learning disability? My parents thought I was just rebellious and stupid, little did they realize that I had dyslexia until 20 some years later. So why not get your left-handed children tested early for a learning disability, and realize that left-handers tend to be more artistic and sensitive and intelligent [see below]. So give them a break if they don't seem to follow the norm... because they are usually the ones who create it."
from a left-handed person

There is no support for the claim that left-handers are "more artistic, sensitive, and intelligent". However, anyone with an undiagnosed learning disorder certainly has to be creative in order to survive; s/he must find detours and work around their particular problem (if math is a problem, art is one possible alternative escape route). I would only amplify your point: test any child having trouble in school early for learning disorders; even a mild problem can snowball into a big, lifelong problem.
M.K. Holder

"I was born left-handed, but implemented to be right-handed due to society bias. In Japan (my home country), using chopsticks by left hand is considered as bad manner. So I can't accuse my parents' intention to change me to be right-handed.... But it costs me a lot. I want to warn parents of left-handed kids try not to remold them as far as possible. Due to remolding, I suffered from bad physical coordination.... It is not only inconvenient but quite humiliating, and sometimes dangerous.... There should be no room for moral value to come into this picture..."

See the Lefty Tips page for more specific practical advice.

g o o d   e x p e r i e n c e s . . .

"I am also a left-hander, I am 14, so far I have no problem with my daily life as I have very understanding and caring parents."

"I wish my mother had seen this web page while she was alive. One of the few things she did right was raise holy heckydarn at school. I had a teacher who said there were no left-handed students in her class. Then she met my mother. I'm still left-handed."
Carol, USA

"being left-handed is cool"
Anonymous, USA

"My parents always encouraged me in my left-handedness, they never tried to "correct" my writing or other left-handed activities. As a result, I do many things well left-handed but also learned to use my right hand for other activities as well. Being a lefty has been fun with few limitations along the way. (Example: not being able to find a left-handed baseball glove or golf clubs). As far as I'm concerned handedness should be a non-issue like hair or eye color. Lefties rule!!"
Beth, USA

"As a child (I am now 24), I faced two response to my left-handedness. The first was from my parents and close family. They made it a point to praise my ability to use both hands with almost equal skill in a variety of tasks. They made me aware at an early age that many left-handed people (e.g. presidents Ford and Reagan) were exceptionally successful in our society. I was verbally supported when I chose to use one hand over the other at any particulalry important or common task. I am forever grateful that I was made to feel both special and normal about my left-handedness in the more public areas of my childhood.
      In schools, I actually faced occassional ridicule for using a different hand, and also had instructors, on more than one occassion, try to convince me to use my right hand where I chose my left. I am able to function with minimal difficulty in a technical scientific field and in everyday life because I have developed the ability to use either hand for most tasks, and the early support of my family is the primary factor in my manual success."
Anonymous, USA

"The left-handed trait skips generations in my family. My mother, who is right-handed already understood the difficulties her two left-handed children faced because her mother was left-handed. How fortunate we were at home and in school where it was perfectly acceptable to be a southpaw. We were taught to write correctly as any lefty should. It takes some patience and encouragement to handle some right-handed tools, but I don't count myself as awkward using most of them. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I felt secure about being a lefty. I encourage parents of southpaws to invest in lefty tools which are more widely available today."
Texan Southpaw, USA

c a n ' t   t e l l   l e f t   f r o m   r i g h t . . .
"I always thought that I was alone in that I could not tell my left from my right, until I read a comment from someone else with the same problem. It is always a problem when I have to stop and think about it. Since I wear my watch on my left arm it makes it easier. I'm 38 years old and until now I though I was alone. No more!!"
Ray, USA

"I thought I was the only one in this world who can't distinguish between left and right hand. I think it is my parents and teachers fault because they bid me to write on my right hand. When they ask "Can you write on your right hand?" When I was young I would say my 'right' hand is the hand that I know how to write. Now I can write both left and right hand and still confuse which one is right and which one is left."

"I am in the 5 to 10 percent of people who cannot tell their right from their left. I have to pause and think about it almost every time. If it were not for a scar on my left hand, I would be lost. However, if I know that more left or right decisions will be required, I remain conscious of that hand and can get by."
Anonymous, USA

"I am in absolute shock!! I thought that I was the only adult in the world who could not tell her left from her right!!! During the years my children were small they constantly had their shoes on the wrong feet. Putting my own shoes on is all luck. I put on one shoe and if its comfortable I put on the other. When driving, I tell my husband to turn right when I mean left and left when I mean right. I can't drive in reverse either. Once I was helping a blind man to cross the street, and I led him right into the side of a car. I can't believe that I am not alone in the universe. I always thought that I was just an airhead."
Dawn, Buffalo, NY, USA

"I am a forty-year-old left-hander who falls in that category of people who "can't tell my right from my left". I did not know until reading these comments that other left-handers suffer from this problem as well. I usually say "Nancy's orientationally-challenged". I always thought it was some sort of brain damage or a condition like dyslexia.
         This problem has caused me years of misery, as it has completely interfered with my ability to learn to drive. If I try to take lessons, whether from professionals or amateurs, the teacher always ends up barking out suddenly, "OK, make a right at the next light". By the time I figure out which way is right, how to manipulate the turn signal correctly, which way to turn the wheel, etc. I am so frustrated that I'm nearly in tears.
         Drivers Ed teachers, please pay attention to your left-handed students' problems with orientation. A little understanding of the problems we face in learning will go a long way to helping all of us."
Nancy McPoland, USA

"I can't believe it! I have always thought there was something wrong with me because I can't tell my left from my right....
        My former girlfriend would get mad at me when I drove the car because when she would give directions I would sometimes drive past the intersection before I could figure out which way I was supposed to turn... I have always had to think about which was the right or left side and I sometimes still get it wrong. My family knows of my problem and they just point in the direction I should turn.
        When I took my pilots flight test, the instructor told me to make a 360 degree left turn. I turned right and never even realized it until we were back on the ground. I passed anyway."
Al Schmitt, USA

"Difficulty telling left from right is not necessarily related to handedness or being forced to switch, in my experience. I am right-handed. I have never been left-handed. Both my maternal grandmother and I are unable to automatically tell left from right. As far as I know, she has also always been right-handed. The trick I've found most useful in coping is one I was taught in kindergarten:  If you put your hands palm down/away and extend your thumbs, your left hand makes an L."
Cathy, USA

m o r e   c o m m e n t s   for  p a r e n t s

e d u c a t o r s
e d u c a t o r s
e d u c a t o r s


 Are you helping all of your students to optimize their learning potential?
           Or will you be remembered this way?

 Are you aware that some people literally cannot distinguish left from right?

 Can you name 7 common school problems faced by left-handers?

 Do you know how test-taking logistics can affect the performance of
           left-handers, especially at higher educational levels?
           Look under "test" in the index.

 Let's eliminate the school desk plague!

b a d   e x p e r i e n c e s . . .

"I was educated in the USA in Catholic school in the 60's. My left hand was beaten until it was swollen, so I would use my right right hand. Unfortunately, for the nuns anyway, I write mirror (letters in correct order but written backwards) with my right hand. Let the child decide, encourage creativity, and don't buy them lefty scissors! They are not very common. I couldn't use a pair today if my life depended upon it! Oh Dear! Have I assimilated?."
Anonymous, USA

"My fourth grade teacher, in an attempt to "cure" my left-handedness, would force me to use my right hand to perform all of my school work. If she caught me using my left hand, I was hit in the head with a dictionary. It turned out that she believed left handers were connected with Satan. Left-handed bias in the classroom has got to stop. In many ways left-handers should be more successful in the educational environment. It's the tools and paradigms that are their real handicap."
Michael Salazar, USA

"I have two really grim memories of my early school days.. one of having my left hand tied behind my back & not being allowed to eat lunch... the other is of TRYING to learn to write and having the teacher tilt my paper to the proper angle for a RIGHT-hander! Every time I fixed it, she tiled it back... now I write from the top with my hand twisted around & I smear up everything I write...thanks, teach..."
Liz Burnside, USA

"I've been told its changed, but when I was in third grade (1963) I had already spent two years being told to use the right hand. The third grade teacher told me left handers grow up to be communists. This was during the red scare and the assassination of Kennedy. Took me a while to realize she was nuts!"

"I started my schooling on Guam, where corporal punishment is still used. My earliest and most severe problem with being left-handed was not a desk, or the ever popular scissor problem. I had a teacher who would smack my left hand with a yard stick everytime she caught me writing with my left hand. To this day I never forgot this, and to this day I still heavily favor my left hand. I had to learn to adapt and make the best out of what comes my way, and by doing so I have become adept at using either hand in most situations. My primary role at work is computer support and believe me you will not find to anyone's mouse on the left side of their computer. I concluded long ago that societal norms in general are ruled by the majority, and we have to learn to play by their rules if we want to get anywhere."
Anonymous, USA

"Like many others, I was punished in early elementary school for not writing with my left hand. I was spanked. Guess what? It didn't work. Punishment obviously does not work. Neither does teasing. My co-workers tell me my arms are on backwards. I'm an adult and can take the teasing. Please don't do something like this to small children who would take this comment from an adult seriously."
K. Richter, USA

"I need help NOW! My son is 6 and 1/2 years of age. Last year I tried to speak to his teacher two times about the possibility that he might be left-handed. She even pointed out some of the things he does that might indicate that he is left-handed. But, when I asked her for help, or to refer me to someone who could help him, she never did. I try to encourage him to try using a pencil in his left hand, "just to see how it feels" and when he does his letters are neater, and more often correct, and yet, he himself chooses to use the right hand. What do I do? I wish that teachers would treat parents with a little more respect -- after all we care about our children too."
Ann Ham

"Don't treat left-handed kids too different. Don't do the "special!" bit, but please don't put them down, either. If you ask a kid if they're left-handed, and they say yeah, don't make them do everything with that hand! They know what hand they should use for what. And I want to emphasise to left-handed teachers not to make great friends with these kids, or righties will cry favoritism."
Anonymous, USA

Pay attention boys and girls, teachers and administrators: That was a lovely example of a coded message! All efforts towards equal rights share the same fearful and timid caution/opposition voiced by the above anonymous contributor. This website does not advocate "special" rights; it advocates equal rights. Anyone who thinks that offering EQUAL respect for someone different constitutes "special" treatment needs to do some soul searching. Relax. It's really easy: You simply treat others as you want to be treated. (Professional educators know how to treat all students fairly, and need not be warned against "making great friends" with a child.)
   Teachers, try this exercise: have all your right-handed students complete some task/s using left-biased equipment (sports, music, scissors, etc.), then use their resulting newly-found appreciation of how the world looks to left-handers to stimulate a general discussion of the problems that minorities face in society. Focus on (a) ways in which the majority can accomodate minorities, and (b) what stategies are open to minorities for exercising their equality.
M.K. Holder

"I am a mother of a left-handed son. He has entered second grade this year and is experiencing difficulty with writing as well as following verbal instructions. I was recently clued in to the left-handed dilemma through a friend. She explained the differences in the way lefties use verbal information. A lot of the things she explained were very true of my son. I approached his teacher with my concerns and she basically chalked everything up to inattentiveness and laziness. I could not accept that and did some reading of my own. I also learned that many lefties are dyslexic. I have finally convinced the school system to test him because of his continual backwards writing and inattentiveness. No results yet but the problem as I see it is, the majority of the world as right-handers, have no idea whats going on in the left-handed world unless you have one in your family and begin to try to understand the differences. I have also found that many educators are not sensitive to the needs of the left-handed child."
Elizabeth Richardson, USA

"I once had a teacher who would not hand me my tests and assignments back to me, unless I took them with my right hand. He had a speech to go along with it, nothing really mean but annoying nonetheless. It was something like: 'Taking things (pencils, papers, boxes, etc.) with your left hand is a bad habit you have to stop now. It is not the correct way, and I will not have any of MY students do it. You understand?'"
Anonymous, MEXICO

"My mother was very insistent with my teachers that I not be "switched", I'm lefty. It seemed that many of them just ignored the issue of my Handedness. Frequently I would hear the comment "I don't know how to teach you. You're lefted-handed. Just do the best you can." This encouraged me to use being left-handed as an excuse for not mastering difficult tasks. Definately not to my best advantage. Of course they already knew I was lazy because of my reading difficulties!"
Kathy, NH, USA

"In reading over the comments to educators, I'm fascinated to see how many of us still remember with pain the criticism of our writing skills. Though I was never forced to use my right hand, my 4th grade experience was absolute torture because my teacher forced me to spend hours at school and at home learning to slant my letters to the right. I constantly recieved bad grades in writing that kept me off the honor roll... and not getting on the honor roll made me think I wasn't very intelligent. (Like so many left-handers, subsequent tests put me in the gifted category.) What a waste of time it was to spend all those hours learning to slant my letters to the right. And what a torture it was to be so singled out for negative notice."
Glenda Savage, Atlanta, GA, USA

"When I was in Grade 8 I broke my left arm, leaving me in a cast from my elbow to the tips of my fingers. My geography teacher gave an exam one day which I was unable to write. He insisted on giving me the exam orally in front of the other 30 students in the class. This was very intimidating and I became very frustrated. My parents were very upset over this and went to speak to the teacher. His reply was it was my own fault because I was left-handed. That same year a classmate broke his right hand but did not get this unfair treatment because the teacher's response was to the effect that he was normal. That was over 20 years ago and I still remember it as if it happened yesterday."

"I am an ambidextral. However, due to an ignorant Kindergarten teacher, I now only write with my left hand, while alternating between the two in all other areas. Back then, when first learning to write, I would use both hands. The writing styles for each hand were different and noticeable. My teacher would constantly yell at me in front of the class for this, which, as a terrified 5-year-old, induced me to make myself use only one hand. That episode is still very clear in my mind. I wish now, at 24, I had the opportunity to confront that woman for the way she reacted to something I believe I had no control over. Her behavior was inexcusable."
Brooke, USA

"In second grade I had a teacher who forced me to write with my hand turned so that I held a pencil the same way a right-handed student would. It was so unnatural for me and my handwriting was awful. I never understood why it made any difference whatsoever which way my hand was turned as long as I could shape the letters correctly. It was very upsetting to have this "differentness" pointed out in front of other children."
Anonymous, USA

"My teachers in elementry school forced me to write with a right-handed slant, after failing to get me to write with my right hand (they tried hitting my left hand with rulers). To this day my handwriting is very hard for any but me to read."
Graham Foley, 39 years old, USA

"I always received terrible marks for penmanship in school, although the rest of my marks were quite good. My father, also a leftie, used to have his hand whacked with a ruler when he attempted to write with his left hand. Now my son, who is in grade 2, has his spelling words marked incorrect if he inverts any of the letters, although he has spelled the words correctly. He told me the other night that he hated being left-handed. It breaks my heart to see him feeling so defeated, and brings back some unpleasant memories."
Anonymous, CANADA

You might consider having your son checked for dyslexia -- you can start with your school's special education teacher. Having trouble inverting numbers and letters is *NOT* just part of being left-handed; rather, it is a separate problem that can be sucessfully managed, but you'll need the help of a specialist!
M.K. Holder

"Elementary teachers... all of you that would not accept my slant... shame on you"
Alice Wonders, USA

" Baseball: I am a lefty. Out of my 9 coaches only 2 have let me play middle infield, and only 1 has let me play 3rd base. I think that some coaches just don't have any respect!"
Nathen, USA

COACHES: Check out the sports tips for left-handers and their coaches.
M.K. Holder

"I have five daughters. Three right-handers and two left-handers like myself. The two left-handers both had the same teacher and the teacher called me in for a meeting to discuss a problem. In the meeting I found out that the problem was that I need to correct the girls left-handness because it was causing a problem with their writing skill and form. She didn't know I was left-handed. The teacher also informed me that the girls being left-handed will hinder them in their jobs when they get in the work force. As a child, I had a teacher that made me put my left arm behind my back and made me learn how to write right-handed. Needless to say I still write left-handed. It was difficult to learn to tie shoelaces, tell time."

"I am a lefty from a moderately lefty-supporting family (thanks Mom!), so I never realized the true bias the public has against left-handers. I decided to do a paper this semester on this topic and was told to talk about it. Moments after I said "Lefties and.." I was cut off with insults and ignorant dismissal of the importance of my topic from my classmates. Luckily, my teacher is ambidexterous and shut up my class. Then, we surveyed the room for left-handed desks, of which there were just enough for one. Finally, my class realized how annoying little things like having to choose a seat in the back or stupid computer mouse are like to us."
Mike, USA

t e s t - t a k i n g   p r o b l e m s . . .
"Had you noticed that lefties are disadvantaged in some IQ tests and school or college tests? I mean specifically the ones which use multiple choice booklets. You have to twist your arms around each other to line up the questions (on the left) with the answers (on the right). You definately lose time doing this -- and in most of these tests time is important. So we have to solve the IQ test of the most efficient way to overcome the problem before we even start the test."

"I am a 15-year-old who has only been through one set of school exams. I only completed one of them. I find tests and exams very frustrating because I can't write fast enough (I'm left-handed) to complete them on time. It would be nice if educators would stop assuming just because I didn't have time to write down the information, that I don't know it. My hand gets cramped very easily, and I have great difficulty writing neatly with markers. Many educators don't believe that being left-handed affects your schoolwork very much. It does. I would appreciate it if educators would realize this and act accordingly."
K. Belyea, CANADA

"I am a lefty, and have always been a very good student. However, on timed tests I have always been running against the clock and been less able to produce an amount of written material in comparison to my right-handed schoolmates. I believe that by writing from left to right we are handicapped on very tightly timed tests and the additional strain that we put into the process can be very hazardous. What impressed me most upon being admitted to a Medical School after a series of such tests is that the proportion of fellow lefties is smaller than it used to be in high school. I allow you to reach your own conclusions."

"Dear teachers, Please do not try to force us left-handers to write like right handers. It is really painful having to hold our hands bent all backwards like that. It also causes people to stare. And it is also rather akward to write like that on a right-handed desk, like the ones on so many college campuses. I think it should be required for all college classrooms to have at least five left-handed desks. It is so hard to write on right-handed desks, especially when we need to use books. And I have often been accused of cheating on tests due to the way I have to sit at right handed desks."
E. Davis, USA

"I often wonder if my typing disorders, which afflict my left arm worse than my right, are due to the fact that my left arm has done far more work than my right, with no support, since most desks suit righties and leave the left arm hanging.
       Also, I've found that when taking standardized tests like the SAT and GRE, even if one puts in the test application that one needs left-handed accommodation, the test-taking location is unable to adequately accommodate. I wonder how many test points I lost because of that?"
H. Kelley, USA

I discussed this issue with the Executive Director of ETS's (Educational Testing Service) Customer Response Center. He provided the relevant text from the S.A.T. Supervisor's Manual:

"If possible, seat left-handed students at tables, desks with full-sized writing surfaces, or left-handed tablet-arm chairs. If the use of chairs with right-handed arms cannot be avoided, seat left-handed students so that there is a vacant writing surface to their left."

I was told that for all tests administered by ETS (SAT, GRE, TOEFL, etc.) similar supervisor instructions exist. If you arrive at the test-site and find the accomodations for left-handers to be unacceptable, you have less than a week to file a complaint. [See SAT test-site complaints (complaint form) or FAX: 609.771.7710 || GRE test-site compliants or FAX: 609-951-0820 ]
M.K. Holder

For additional descriptions of problems some left-handers experience with test-taking, see the index under "test-taking logistics".

a d v i c e . . .
Educators who teach 10-key adding machines in Business and Math classes, please read this. Math, geometry, engineering teachers, read this. Driver's Education teachers, read this. Coaches: Check out the sports tips for left-handers and their coaches.

"PLEASE do not punish your left-handed students! PLEASE! When we are allowed to write with the hand we prefer, we are often among the most creative and unconventional children you can find! Maybe we aren't cookie-cutter like the rest of the kids in class -- but it's your *job* to deal with these children. As a left-handed adjunct professor of physics, I know that I prize the bright, unusual students in my class, and you should, too."
Janis Cortese, USA

"I have always been left-handed and was encouraged by my mother to keep using my left hand. However when entering the first grade in a Catholic school we began to write. I picked up the pencil and began to copy from the black board. I can to this day hear the nun and her words in my head. In front of the whole class she called me "spawn of the devil". I remember going home and crying to my mother of my teachers words. The next day I remember my mother going down to the princpal's office and gave her a piece of her mind. After that I wasn't harrassed... but I could tell that nun didn't like me or my being left-handed. Please be aware of what you say to a child. Your words have a lasting effect... both positive and negative. They all make an impact!"
AnnMarie, USA

"When I attended Catholic school (first, second and third grade) I was forced to wear a glove on my left hand, to make me write right-handed. I now write with my right hand and do other things with my left. I'm still confused. My age is 75, born 1922."
Henry Tetrault, USA

"Consider classroom desks. Most have the writing surface attached to the chair on the right side which enables a right-handed child to comfortably write. I've seen a few for left-handers, but not many. If your school district can not affort to purchase additional desks, allow the student to turn the chair slightly. This is much more comfortable for me, and allows for better handwriting.
Janette M. Jakobs, USA

School desk design can be a serious impediment to scholastic achievement for left-handers (adminstrators take note!). Need proof? Read this!
MK Holder

"I do not write in... a back-handed manner (i.e. wrist bent so that the back of the hand is approaching parallel with the top of a page). My wrist remains straight.... This is also the position that my mother adopts when writing with her left hand. My mother has very beautiful penmanship. Both my mother and myself orient the page being written on in a tilt to the right (i.e. the page is "leaning" over to the right on the desk). I personally find that a left-handed person who writes with the bent wrist and leans the paper in the opposite direction (tilting to the left) must not enjoy the activity much. It look painful."
Heather Laundry, USA

"So what if we can't slant our letters to the right side? I got bad grades in handwriting all of my life. If you can read it (mine can be read), then why worry about which way the letters slant? PLEASE don't try to make left-handed students write with their right hand. That really...[stinks] -- talk about bad handwriting grades. See what kind of grades we get if we all had to write with our right hands. I would have flunked out of elementary!!!!"
Mary Ann, USA

"Writing:  In grade school they tried to have me hold my paper at a 45% angle like those right-handed. I always came home with grey hands. I finally taught myself to turn the notebook sideways (90%) so that running my hand across the page was on the blank area. Once that was accepted, I began receiving praise on my penmanship."
Debbie, USA

"Being a lefty in school, I have come up against many problems. For example, using a right-handed desk gives me a terrible arm ache. It is quite uncomfortable to write over the spiral part of a notebook, and mouses on the right side of a computer are very difficult. I don't mean to complain, but left-handed people need a few changes."
Mary, USA

"I am now forty-four years old and have been fairly successful in life but the aftereffects of being treated like some kind of weird science project during public school still linger. One of my fondest memories is grade two when another boy and I (also a leftie) won province-wide printing contests. I also can still remember and it still hurts, kindergarten when my teacher whom I adored hollered at me for doing the cutouts backwards three times in a row. That scene still stays with me clearly after all this time. So I guess what I want to say is try to see it from the child's point of view. Don't leave so many scarred lefties out there."
Anonymous, CANADA

"I would like to see employers order enough left-handed scissors for the primary grades because each year I have to purchase a new pair for my daughter and this singles her out in a classroom."
Julie Anne Smith, CANADA

"Still to this day I get smudge marks when I write from my left hand being dragged through what I just wrote. My advice to teachers who get messy papers would be to have some patience with their students, and they'll eventually learn to adjust to these minor setbacks."
Leeandra, USA

"I am the only left-hander in a large family, which made me a bit unusual, which I enjoyed. However, the efforts of my teachers to make me write with my right hand made me miserable. I actually felt discriminated against, being unusual, became uncomfortable. Please don't try to change people, try to make it easier to be what they are."
Giles Gregg, Warwickshire, ENGLAND

"I strongly believe that the education system not only fails left-handed students by inflicting a right-handed education upon them, but also fails them by not stimulating the potentials inherent in the left-hander. The former is a type of degradation, the latter is plain bad education. Given the right-brainedness of a left-hander [see note below] there needs to be special attention given to the implications of better spatial understanding, of better global perception -- the synthesizing approach as against the right-handed analysing approach. Schools do not do this and the society loses the benefits of such potentials of left-handers unfulfilled. If a left-handed person makes good, it is despite his/her general education. This is a crime that we all have to pay for."
Ian Hutchesson, ITALY/ex-AUSTRALIA

NOTE: Much of the neurobiology of handedness and brain specialization for language has been so over-simplified in the popular press that it is quite inaccurate. "Right-brainedness of left-handers" is misleading. Clinical neurological studies indicate that over half of left-handers and ambidextrals also have the same left-hemispheric specialization for language as right-handers; only a small percentage of left-handers and ambidextrals have non-typical patterns of hemispheric specialization (see my research pages for more information). Nonetheless, Ian's point is still relevant: people vary greatly in their abilities -- the best education offers students many approaches to problem-solving.
M.K. Holder

"Why is it that penmanship lessons are always taught as though everyone is right-handed?"
Michael Lechter, USA

"I am a real left-hander, I'm 21. I had real trouble at school. Teaching me how to write was the first real problem. Learning was real slow until they discovered I was dyslexic. I had/have trouble reading and writing. What they dicovered was that I am very creative. What I found out being in a other school for dyslexic people was that a lot (80%) were left-handed. So keep looking for sings [signs] if you have a left-handed student. It isn't always obvious that somebody is dyslexic."

NOTE:  There is a higher incidence of "left-handedness" among people who are dyslexic; there is also a higher incidence of "left-handedness" among some "gifted" students. I, too, have been amazed at how students with classic symptoms of dyslexia can go though school systems unnoticed/undiagnosed. One of the brightest students I have taught had textbook symptoms and her dyslexia was not diagnosed until a year before she graduated with her B.A. at university! In her case, she survived by majoring in dance. But she suffered through years of school teachers calling her "stupid" and "lazy" in front of her classmates. Even in university, with documentation from a psychologist describing her dyslexia, one professor refused to administer her oral, rather than written, exams.
M.K. Holder

"I have the privilege of turning 50 this year. I am continually appalled by the number of young left-handers who write "upside down." I urge teachers to notice children who are left-handed and instruct them in the correct placement of their paper and book. That is, the book should be placed to the right and the writing pad to the left. I started out as an "upside down" writer because the teacher instructed all us first graders to "place our books on the left and our Big Chief writing tablets to the right". When I made it to the third grade, my very old (at least to me) teacher almost instantly corrected me, it was somewhat traumatic to change, but I am thankful she made me do it."
Kelly R. Green, USA

"Please do not force kids to write with a hand that is not natural or comfortable for them to use. If you notice a child switching BACK to a position after having been forced to change, it should tell you that that position is most comfortable."

"I am a 19-year-old "Lefty" and Proud of it. However when I learnt running writing [cursive] at the age of 8 I was taught by a right-hander who had no patience for "Leftys". The result was my writing became illegible. The following year my teacher lost patience with me and sent me to spend the day with the 6-year-olds to embarass me into improving my writing. It worked and became the MOST HUMILILATING experience of my life. Luckily the following year my teacher was more sympathetic and helped me... My advice: don't ever treat anyone like this as they may never be able to get over it."
Helen, Western AUSTRALIA

"I still remember a comment made to me in third grade. "Oh, you write so well -- for a left-hander!" This has stuck with me all those years. As educators, we must avoid making such statements in general, let alone in terms of hand preference. As harmless as it may have seemed, the traumatic experience still has an affect on me."
Daniel Haithcox, USA

"Since the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, then that means left-handed people are the only ones in their right mind... You can take that to the bank."
Charles Thomas

No, you can't take that to the bank. This catchy little saying is one of the most common myths about left-handers. Research shows that almost half of all left-handers also have the same pattern of left hemispheric brain specialization for language abilities as do right-handers. See What does Handedness have to do with Brain Lateralization (and who cares)? for more on this.
M.K. Holder

"I am a 15-year-old lefty (and proud!). When I was in elementary school, the school gave us scissors to use in class. However, all of the few pairs of left-handed scissors were dulled and impossible to cut paper with. However, the righty scissors were new, sharp,and plentiful. I finally gave up trying to find and use the lefty scissors, and I used the better righty ones instead. To this day, I still use righty scissors because it is nearly impossible for me to find any decent lefty ones. My hand has paid the price for this, for my left hand becomes cramped and swollen if I use scissors too long. Teachers of the world -- don't treat lefties differently by giving them low-quality scissors and other left-handed items! Work on equal rights and equal opportunity for ALL students, lefties included!"
Emma Nicole Frost, USA

"I was forced to write with my right hand. I developed a light speech disorder. I notice that this disorder is more obvious if I engage my hands while speaking. I would like to know if there is any research results supporting this."
Anonymous, TURKEY

Some research has shown a correlation between forcing a left-handed child to use his/her right hand for writing and onset of speech-related problems, such as stuttering. See the section on development and bibliography for references, and look in the index under "speech disorders".
M.K. Holder

"I have a left-handed Special Education teacher friend who was in a meeting where handwriting was discussed. The educators in the room were griping about the loss of standards and how handwriting ought again to be taught, that no student should be allowed, after a certain point, to write in print -- only in cursive. This fellow raised his and and asked, by a show of hands, who were the lefties in the audience. A few hands went up. He then asked who in that group was in the habit of writing in a print style. Most of the same hands went up! I believe it would be helpful for teachers to understand that many times student's style of writing has much to do with handedness."
Anonymous, USA

"When I was 7 years of age (and left-handed) my school teacher would take the pencil out of my left hand and place it in my right hand in order to write. I became a right-handed writer but remained left-handed for every other activity, such as throwing a ball, eating with a fork, etc. I don't believe teachers of today would do that. I must admit, though, that I became a very neat writer, using the right hand. However else it may have affected me in later life I have no idea but often wondered about it."
John Larocque, CANADA

"Just a word to those who think that allowing left-handers to write with the hand we prefer means putting up with less than perfection -- I am left-handed. I have a Master's degree in physics, and BS's in physics and astronomy. I learn languages VERY quickly. I have been a pianist since I was 10. I am a sold artist and writer. While I cannot write longhand for more than a word or two, and my signature is illegible scrawl, I type so fast that I literally max out keyboards. We are accomplished, intelligent, and creative. Allowing a student to use their left hand is not tantamount to coddling disability or political correctness. It's encouragement for what may well be the most creative, intelligent, and accompli.. [end of comment buffer]"

"I guess I was lucky in the fact that my kindergarten teacher did not try to make me right-handed. Rather, I was ambidextrous and was made to choose one hand over the other. I'm ambidextrous in some things, and right-handed in others, but a lefty in writing. To this day, I'll never understand why my teacher couldn't have just let me be ambidextrous. I mean, what's so bad about being ambidextrous in writing, or in anything else? It just makes you more versatile. When one hand gets tired, just switch to the other hand!"
Kim Tennison, USA

"I am 26 years old. I was fortunate to have both my father and my younger brother as "lefties" and we are the dominant "left-handers" in our family of five. My father taught us to write properly because he knew that we could write perfectly if taught correctly. He taught us the proper way to write through his example. Unfortunately, my school teachers were not that way. They, like many in my school, thought left-handers were some type of side show. One teacher made it a point to slap my hand and try to position my body and my paper in the usual "awkward" fashion. I was upset and told my father what had happened. This made him so angry that he went with me to the school the next day and pointedly informed the teacher that she will not turn me into a freak of nature by her "writing" standards. I remember my teacher blushing (she was quite tiny and my dad is 6'4") and she never tried it again. (Way to go, Dad!) Though my dad's perserverence, I am a 26-year-old woman whose handwriting is probably more legible than a right-hander's.
        So I want the teachers to know that there is no reason for us to position our bodies awkward, turn our papers sideways, twist our arms in an uncomfortable fashion for that "right-handed slant". We can write fine, thank you, and I would rather you improve your handwriting than try to correct mine."
Stacey, USA

"I am a teacher and I still find it amazing that classrooms still are not geared to accomodate left handed kids -- or teachers for that matter. My big pet peeves are student desks build for right-handed kids and overhead projectors that are definiately built for right-handed teachers. If I use an overhead pen, I generally end up wearing everything I have written.... My mother, my two sisters, my brother and I are all left-handed so my poor father must have felt that he was the minority. I admire my mother immensely because she fought my elementary school when they thought that they would like to literally "tie my left hand behind my back" and have me write with the other hand. I think she was so vehement about it because that it exactly what happened to her. She was ridiculed and disgraced for being left-handed and the school authorities broke her of "the habit". Educators, let's all have a little understanding for the left-handed kids in our classes and let's not do to our kids what seemed to be the acceptable method of doing things in the past."
Rick Patterson, CANADA

"I am a baby boomer who grew up a determined lefty in spite of the ruler blows to my left knuckles in third grade. I am now a teacher via an earlier career as a carpenter and contractor. A major unit in my 8th grade science curriculum deals with the brain. I go into great detail about learning style, brain dominance and "handedness". It is amazing to watch eyes open as those of us who are left-handed in the classroom gang up on the "right" side of the class. Although I have noticed no measurable increase in the number of left-handed students coming through my class in recent years, I do believe that we have an increasing tolerance for variety in handedness and side preferences. Lots of work still to do on awareness, though. It IS frustrating, though, to see my students' continued refusal to accept the left-handed scissors that are in my classroom (I do not have any "right-handed" scissors in the room)."
Kelly Lane, Box Elder, SD, USA

I'm all for letting right-handers try to cut using left-handed scissors, in order to enlighten them re: 'what's the big deal?', however, classroom goals must be to accomodate all your students, including keeping right-handed scissors for right-handers. Why not set an example for your students that left-handed teachers can be more accomodating than many right-handed teachers, not equally discriminating.
M.K. Holder

Beware fake lefty scissors!
"I want teachers and parents to know and understand that so-called ambidextrious scissors are NOT ambidextrious! There even some so-called left-handed scissors out there that are only left-handed because the handles are made for lefties. True lefty scissors have the blades arranged in the opposite manner from right-handed scissors. As a child (and adult) trying to use normal scissors I have to twist and contort the scissors to see the line I am cutting. My cutting doesn't turn out very nice. When I am working in a classroom I either bring my own scissors, or I don't do any cutting for the teachers. I shouldn't have to bring my own scissors. Teachers should be supplying left-handed scissors for their occasional left-handed child, just like they have scissors available for their right-handed child. Left-handed scissors are virtually impossible to find in stores. The only ones that I have found are fake lefty scissors. Go through a lefty supply center to get them."

"Evidently the scissors manufactures in the USA have struck up a deal with school system. More this year than in previous, I am getting parents in my store for left-handers looking for Fiskars scissors for their left-handed child. I continue to enlighten them on the fact that there is not a pair of scissors that work in both hands which is all that Fiskars professes to have for the left-hander. Since the companies are going to such lengths to set the little left-handed child up to fail with the so called scissors for both hands, a day of reckoning for these companies is in the near future."
Mike, USA, leftylane1@aol

"I would like to tell all elementary school teachers that the emphasis should not be on how a student writes, but the fact that they are trying to write. I will never forget the humiliation of being in the first grade and having to go to the reading specialist because I formed my letters wrong. For an entire year, I was corrected constantly on how I wrote my letters. To this day I still feel the scars of ignorance and I have always been ashamed of my handwriting. Things only got worse when I was subjected to cursive. I took twice as long to learn how to write it and even now it looks atrocious. My only snaity is my ability to type. At least computers aren't biased. I just want educators to allow students to form their letters in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Chances are, your students' letters all look the same and it's not a question of whether the "a" is written with the circle first or the line first. It's all equal."
Lara Hilbert, Wisconsin, USA

"As a high school teacher myself and a long-time student, I too have fought the "right-handed" slant on the handwriting front. My own dear Mom, a teacher and fellow lefty, taught me to write as a child by ignoring the "proscribed" methods and to slant the paper in the way that was most comfortable for me to reach it. It gave my elementary teachers fits, but they didn't mess with a teacher's kid... Mom did not, however, EVER allow me to "curl" my hand or "write upside down". My handwriting is less than Palmer Method perfect, but is reasonably legible, although I no longer know how to write in cursive, as I use a sort of "script-printing". The only cursive I use is my signature for official documents. My students have never comlpained about not being able to read things I have handwritten on their papers or on the chalkboard, and some of my lefty students have felt free to try getting away from the things they learned in those torturous handwriting lessons in their elementary school days. I guess my point is this: if you are a right-handed teacher trying to teach a left-handed child to write, allow the child to find the positioning that is comfortable for him. Allow him to explore various ways of holding his hand, writing tool, and paper until he finds what is right for him. As long as you and the rest of the world are able to read what he has written, what difference does it make?"
Lisa K. Metzler, Lubbock, Texas, USA

"I'm a 17-year-old male in high school. I always like sports, but I was never that great at them. I believe that's because I was forced to use my right hand and play the way right-handers played. If I were able and taught to play like a left-hander I believe I would be great at sports. I would like to advise educators, especially those who teach K - 3rd grade to encourage possible left-handed students by offering left-handed desks and scissors. I would also like to ask teachers and employeers to be patient with our hand-writing, it's not easy writing around those rings on the notebook."
Josh Bellew, USA

"I am a 16-year-old leftie. I never had any trouble in school with teachers making me write with my right hand. When we played baseball in P.E., I was always forced to bring my own glove from home. I have also had major problems with soup and punch ladles, can openers, knives, ice cream scoops, etc. In elementary school when I worked in the lunchroom I could never serve the mashed potatoes because this required using one of the "right-handed" scoops. Regan Bryan, California, USA

"Please be patient with us southpaws. We usually need more time to complete work at what is usually a desk designed for a right-hander. We also tend to be more creative as opposed to directly analytical. In addition, we usually respond much more positively to active group learning, rather than the traditional lectures modes. Often Dyslexia or some form of A.D.D. [Attention Deficit Disorder] often accompany this otherwise wonderful trait. Remember, do not ever imply with your students that right-handed means correct-handed. For someone younger than ten-years-old this could definitely contribute to the self-conciousness and a low self-confidence level during these vulnerable, but precious ages of childhood. Have patience and thanks."
Emily Downs, SCOTLAND

"A lot of teachers tried to make me hold a pencil more like a right-hander since I looked "uncomfortable." Just keep in mind that the acts of pushing and pulling are different and require different muscles. Lefty's hold their pencils different because the act of pushing a pencil across paper is different from the righty pulling the pencil across as they write."
Catherine Horey, USA

"When I was learning to write my mother (a right-handed teacher) got me to write on a blackboard to stop me from hooking my hand around when I write. So essentially I write in the exact opposite way to a right-hander. I don't know whether this is a good thing or not, but at least I don't get a sore wrist. I also enjoy calligraphy but have never bothered to get a leftie pen. I simply write sideways holding the paper at a 90 degree angle to my body. It works, although I often have terrible problems spelling!"

"I'm left-handed. I find it harder to understand arithmetic type problems. I have a much easier time learning the english arts and literature. Many math teachers don't realize that even rulers are right-handed. The numbers on a ruler are (as we see it) on the top, and read from left to right. Thus, when we drag our hand across while drawing a line, we tend to "fall" off the end of the ruler that we cannot see. This is just one of the problems of a right-aligned world. I'm now in 10th grade, and until recently, when I read a book on left-handedness, I found many other problems. I also know that there is a lefty's magazine, though I've yet to see one. It is said that it reads from left to right. I also find writing and reading backwards much easier. I can even type as fast forwards as I can backwards!"
Lathan Chambers, USA

The magazine referred to is Lefthander Magazine, published by Dean Campbell of Lefthanders International, Topeka, Kansas 66608 USA.
M.K. Holder

"In every class I've ever taken where notes were to be turned in, I have been required to use a spiral bound notebook, with my writing to be on the right hand page. During each of those classes, I have ended up with calluses and sometimes abrasions on my left hand. Why not let us write on the left hand page, or use a thin looseleaf notebook? I dreaded my college English classes, for just this reason. Otherwise, they were my favorite classes. I always ended up having to rewrite my notes, which cut out on my study time considerably."
Sissy, USA

"I am a practicing veterinarian and just wanted to let educators at all levels know that left-handed students can do as well in medicine (specifically handed related duties like surgery) as anyone else. I was told many times that I would not be able to become a surgeon because of my left-handedness. One of my surgery instructors even objected to teaching me hand ties because they were not designed to be done by lefties! I have prevailed and even though there is an absolute pausity of left-handed surgical instruments available, I perform surgery regularly and well."
Patrick Flynn D.V.M., USA

"Please do attempt to correct for my left-handedness. If you show me (physically) I can make the conversion faster and more efficently than you turning the tool around, the instrument upside down etc. is amusing but impractical. I have been correcting for your deficiency (right-handedness) for all of my life. You have just begun to consider how to make the left "turn" the right way."
Brent Moran, CANADA

See the Lefty Tips page for more specific practical advice.

g o o d   e x p e r i e n c e s . . .

"This is to any right-handed person: I have had many troubles with people who won't take left-handers as they are and it isn't fair. I have had to adapt to right-handed everything and the only thing I have going for me is that I am very talented music wise and I have a music teacher who is left-handed."

"It only takes one teacher to make a difference in a lefty's life. My first grade teacher, when teaching us how to print, took the time to come individually to my desk and show me that I needed to slant my paper to the right to be able to hold my pencil correctly. She made it quite clear that I was to ignore her comments to the rest of the class about how to line up their papers. Although my parents had already been keeping me from writing "upside down", it only took a few minutes of this teacher's time to "legitimize" the way I should write as a left-hander. I am now 46, and this teacher was probably in her 50's at the time, so she was perhaps very enlightened for that era. It is hard to believe that the grade school horror stories persist. My handwriting is very clear and legible, while my left-handed brother and son both write in hard-to-read tiny printing. While no teacher challenged their left-handed writing, they also were left to their own resources when learning to write. Teachers basically said, "Oh you're left-handed. Well, do whatever works for you." I think this is also a disservice to lefties."
Anonymous, USA

"When I was in grade two my right-handed teacher tried to teach me how to write! I was the only lefty in the class and the only student who after 2 weeks was still on the first page of my writing book. My teacher was very patient with me but I was terribly upset with my inability to write! A student teacher who was a lefty spent about a month working with my class and when she left I was all caught up the rest of my class!"
Dana Marie Merrigan, Newfoundland, CANADA

"I was lucky at school as from the age of 5 until 11 I was taught by left-handed teachers. Thus I have no problems writing. In spite of this my hand-writing is atrocious. I feel the use of the left hand is not usually the problem, I suspect that most of the problem is that we're never given enough time or desk space to find a comfortable position. All said I think I was very lucky to be taught by people who were able to relate to my left-handedness."
Benedict Arnold, ENGLAND

"I recently began a series of tennis lessons with a group of five right-handers. Many praises for our coach who made a conscious effort to remember I was left-handed and always gave me specific instructions and tips for left-handed play! I know it took lots of extra effort on her part, but this is the first time I've actually felt comfortable while mastering a sport."
Jackie Hunley, USA

m o r e   c o m m e n t s   for  e d u c a t o r s

s c h o o l  d e s k  p l a g u e
s c h o o l  d e s k  p l a g u e
s c h o o l  d e s k  p l a g u e

School desks may seem like a trivial concern to right-handers (so what if desks are a little frustrating or uncomfortable for left-handed students?), but anything that interferes with a student's ability to learn and perform warrants serious attention. Students who find themselves physically limited by their desks are often (a) uncomfortable (even to the point of causing serious back pain), (b) frustrated, (c) have trouble concentrating on schoolwork, (d) cannot write as fast during timed exams or routine note-taking, (e) are disadvantaged compared to their right-handed classmates, (f) might be accused of cheating because of twisting their posture to fit the desk (see below), and (g) the cumulative effect can make the difference between a student making a passing or a failing grade. Administrators, educators, parents, students: you can each work towards solving this problem.
(1) When you order desks for new schools, order at least 10% left-handed desks. The best solution, of course, is to order desks which have no intrinsic bias -- desks at which one can write comfortably using either hand. (2) If insufficient desks exist, place small tables with chairs in classrooms to accommodate left-handed students, and/or see if Parent Teacher Associations are interested in fund-raising for new desks. (3) Stress to your teaching staff the importance of proper desk configuration for left-handed students; encourage them to be creative in their problem-solving.

(1) Help your administrators understand the importance of having sufficient left-handed desks, (2) Make sure that in your classroom left-handed students can work comfortably; if you have to, take it upon yourself to find small tables & chairs, (3) Some children are embarrassed to "singled out" -- help them, and the other students, understand the importance of everyone being able to work comfortably.

(1) Help administrators, teachers, and your left-handed child understand that it is important for your child to have equal accommodations to right-handed kids! (2) Ask administrators if it is possible to purchase left-handed desks, or desks with no bias, (3) Ask teachers if it is possible to find small tables, if desks are not available, (4) Tell your child it is ok to ask for equal accommodation, so that s/he can work comfortably, (5) Talk to other parents of left-handed children about fund-raising for desk purchase.

Left-Handed Students:
(1) If you have problems at school because of having to sit in a right-handed desk, don't be afraid to talk to your teacher, your parents, your principle, and ask if there is some way to solve your problem (even if they say there is no money to buy new desks!). You can give them this address and ask them to please read it:
Also, insist on a comfortable desk when you are taking important national standardized tests, like the S.A.T.

Let's end the school desk plague!

"For me, the fact that school desks always had the arm rest on the right hand side suggested that there was something intrinsically better about right-handed kids. This was reinforced by teachers who never understood or tried to help lefties with handwriting, sports, etc. I hope that those days have gone."

"Nothing racks the nerves of an otherwise well prepared student on the day of an exam than to have to twist one's whole body around to be able to write on the right handed arm chairs. I feel that forced use of such chairs was a severe detriment to my college grades."
Anonymous, USA

"Dear teachers, Please do not try to force us left-handers to write like right handers. It is really painful having to hold our hands bent all backwards like that. It also causes people to stare. And it is also rather akward to write like that on a right-handed desk, like the ones on so many college campuses. I think it should be required for all college classrooms to have at least five left-handed desks. It is so hard to write on right-handed desks, especially when we need to use books. And I have often been accused of cheating on tests due to the way I have to sit at right handed desks."
E. Davis, USA

"Ever since I started Jr. High and had lecture classes where you had to take notes my grades started slipping. Once an A student I became a C student. I could never seem to pay attention to what my teachers were saying. Just recently, now that I am in college, I was determined to find out why I kept zoning out, so during my classes I would try to remember the last thing I thought before it happened. What I have discovered is that I always become discouraged because I can not write quickly enough because I am always trying to adjust on those small right-handed desks. I believe that this may happen to other students as well. They start feeling stupid because they can not keep up, thus making their grades drop. Left-handed desks are essential, and are needed in every school and university."
Jennie, USA

"As a college student having to use those infamous right-handed desks, I can attest to the serious back pain they caused me from contorting my body to sit and write. This happened after only two months of using these desks. After locating a left-handed desk, which was no easy task, I began using only left-handed or full desks and noticed my back pain quickly subsided. For all educators who have these (right-handed) desks in your classroom, please take caution and help provide those left-handed students with a comfortable learning environment. If they are more comfortable, they will be more attentive in class."
P.J., Texas, USA

Contorting one's body around a right-biased desk can cause serious back pain.

"You rarely ever see a school desk for left-handers to write on. The uncomfortable feeling of trying to write on the school desk is unbearable. There are many left handers in this country, don't you think that it's about time that desk's were made for us? I am really tired of putting my notepad on my lap to write!"
Tamera Watson, USA

"It is very hard for students who write with their left hand to work at desks designed for right handed writers. We end up trying to curve our bodies to fit the right hand design. Even in high school and college, there may be only one or two left-handed desks out of forty desks. Couldn't desks be designed that the top writing space could be adjusted to the left or the right? It doesn't sound that difficult of an engineering feat, does it?"
Anonymous, USA

"In high school I always had to hunt for a left-handed desk (which usually was in the back of the room). In college when I was in the auditorium classrooms I liked to sit to the right of an empty seat. The flip up table was always on the right side of the seat (except for a few seats) and I sat next to an empty seat so I could take notes more effectively. This was not always possible. When that was the case, it was very hard for me to take good notes."
Beth Mc, USA

"It's really frustrating to sit in a college classroom where in order to keep up with the notes or take a test it's necessary to use 2 desks, one turned around so that it makes a complete writing surface on which your left hand can rest. What's more frustrating is sitting in a full classroom where this option is no longer available and trying to keep up with all of the right-handed students; it's very uncomfortable and sometimes impossible."
Anonymous, USA

"When as a college student, I was confronted with those postage-stamp sized tablet-arm desks on the right, I brought a legal sized clip board to class, turned it upside down and clamped it to the desk. This extended the writing surface farther to the left and made it easier to take notes. In my work I sometime have to take notes where there is no desk. I use a clip board with a writing pad. When it is time to write I reposition the paper so that the clip is on the right side of the paper (the board and paper are at right angles.) This puts the clip out of the way of my hand which is above the line and it also creates an arm rest to the left of the paper. If I fill up the whole sheet I have to reposition the clip once or twice since the paper is hanging off the side of the board."
Erick Lorenz, USA

"Educators, some not all, do not understand what it is like to be a kid in school, not only is it difficult to sit in this oval shape desk, but getting in trouble for turning your desk to write... be patient we're trying to cope."
Rene Hamelton, USA

"I would like that it be easier for a child to learn to write left-handed, and there be more left-handed desks, so that my arm doesn't keep falling off the desk."

"I did very well in school, so this comment is not from someone who is bitter about school. Nonetheless, my school experience would have been much, much more comfortable and conducive to learning if I had had access to a left-handed desk in my classes. This is especially true for taking long tests. I estimate that I had access to a left-handed desk approximately 1% of the time I was in school (K through 4 years ofcollege)."
Anonymous, USA

"As being a college student, I spend many hours in class, taking notes. Unless there are tables, I am forced to sit at a desk, most of which are for right-handed people. There are a FEW left-handed desks, BUT they are normally at the end of the rows in the lecture halls. I like to sit in the middle of the room, so that I can see everything. I just think there has got to be a better way to organize the desks so that left-handers have a choice of where they want to sit, not where they have to sit."
Jolene Benedict, USA

One can always do it the hard way; in my classes anyone can bring a lose chair or desk from another classroom and place it wherever. I find that many students will not (or cannot) do this for themselves; educators, keep an eye out for folks too large to fit comfortably in the small desks, left-handers, folks with poor eyesight or hearing, etc. and ask them if it would help to set up a different seating arrangement. If they are embarrassed, encourage them that it is ok; if they are not physically able to do it themselves, see that it is done for them. I've found this can literally make the difference between a passing or a failing grade.
M.K. Holder

"I thought the desks in high school were biased towards righties but I recently started my freshman year at Cornell University and in some of the auditoriums the desks are tiny and impossible to use as a lefty. It has been very hard to write, especially during exams."
Avi Lissack, USA

"I feel the use of the left hand is not usually the problem, I suspect that most of the problem is that we're never given enough time or desk space to find a comfortable position."
Benedict Arnold, ENGLAND

"In my high school, most of the desks are right-handed, but the desk surface covers the entire chair, making it easy for lefties or righties to use. There are a few left-handed desks, but none of us lefties ever fight to get them because, after years of becoming accustomed to entering the desk from the left, it has actually become uncomfortable to enter from the right. Often, when we go to get up from the desk, we will bang our knees on the bar in a left-handed desk. We do have a few of the desks with a small writing surface designed for righties, but nobody ever wants to use those desks, so I have an added excuse not to be stuck with it!"
Sarah Radford, USA

"I would like to make a suggestion for desk manufacturers. I am 12 years old and in junior high. I can't stand using the desks for they are right-handed desks with the bar on the right I would really like you to make a leftie desk with the bar on the left side. It is a real pain to have to turn myself so my arm is on the desk instead of hanging off into the open air. Please Please Please Please consider making one. Thank you and please consider it."
Octospider, USA

"Like many leftys I have had problems with the desks at school. The schools I have attended don't have desks for left-handed people at all and I find it irritating to write. In the end I end up balancing my binder in my lap and taking over the desk to my left (often occupied by another student, right-handed, trying to take notes). It should be law that every single school in the world should at least have a few desks that aren't right-handed."
Anonymous, CANADA

p u r p o s e  o f  w e b  p a g e
p u r p o s e  o f  w e b  p a g e
r a i s o n  d' ê t r e

The objective of this website is to communicate accurate information and simple coping strategies pertainent to left-handers living in a right-biased society.
The author is a biological anthropologist who does primary research into handedness. This site is collaboratively built, incorporating comments from left-handers worldwide. I ask that comments be directed to target groups (for this page, parents and educators), so that right-handers can have a better appreciation of the problems encountered by their left-handed children and students.
Parents and educators, don't let your children and students struggle alone with potentially serious problems. Left-handed kids and students, give this URL to your parents and teachers and ask them to read it:
For practical solutions to everyday problems encountered by left-handers, check out the Lefty Tips page.

speedo textsurfer, eh?

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LAST UPDATE:  9 August 2002