Changing a forced right-hander back to left-handed
We have had a lot of articles and discussion recently about naturally left-handed children being forced to change from writing with their left hand to using their right and the adverse effects that can have:
We received an email recently from Virginia that asked about dealing with the consequences of this and whether it is possible to change a child (or adult) back to being fully left-handed and whether that would solve the various problems that had been created by the initial change.
Subject: Left-handed to right-handed. Can it be reversed?
I’m a teacher and one of my students (he’s 13 now), who has been also diagnosed with dyslexia, has a very poor writing and literacy problems, was forced to change from left-handed to right-handed. All his family was left-handed and, apparently, they didn’t want him to be lefty too.
I wonder if the process can be reversed and if this would help him to sort those problems out, or if trying to regain his left-handed abilities would make things even worse.
Can you help me?
We are not aware of any studies or research results in this are but Keith looked through all the comments on the previous articles on this subject and there have been a couple that are relevant and do seem to be encouraging for Virginia and her pupil. That said, this is a very complicated area and we cannot make any recommendations or give advice on particular cases.
We had a comment added by Rick about the way his daughter was changed from left to right-handed and that prompted a reply from Jayne about her own experiences:
It isn’t too late for her to change back, in fact, she may benefit from it. Throughout my life, I’ve been clumsy. My handwriting was horrendous, legible but ugly, and arts and crafts were just embarrassing. I had trouble eating without being called rude for scraping the plate or being unable to twist my pasta correctly.
When I was 17, however, all became clear when my family and I learned that I had in fact sustained a nerve injury at birth that went undiagnosed. I was really left handed-but the weakened arm was unusable for fine motor tasks so I switched to using my right hand when I was a toddler. The good news was this-since I was 17, my nerves had had time to heal a bit, and I had a chance to regain my original handedness.
It’s slow and arduous. One must not use the right hand for any fine motor task unless 100% necessary. It takes 3 weeks for the hand to be on par with the right. After this time, the left hand will slowly improve to surpass it. I’m approaching Week Five. My left hand writing is slightly better than my right-your daughter’s hand will likely progress faster because she has no nerve damage. Either way, I’m seeing my font begin to develop style and character, and it feels way more natural.
We also had a comment from Kristin about her experiences with her own daughter:
I mistakenly taught my daughter to write with her right hand even though I knew she was left handed. I had NO idea this had an effect on her brain. She was having trouble with school work so I took her to a neurodevelopmental therapist and they suggested having her do all of her activities left handed.
She had to do several activities a day left handed: eating, writing 2x for 15 minutes, coloring, drawing, and fine motor skills activities. In about a month she was completely switched to left. I have to correct her some times b/c she’ll color right. She is more comfortable doing this but that is out of habit. Her writing is so much better now and her focus is getting better. Now they have me covering her right eye 3 hours a day with a patch to switch her eye dominance. It switched almost immediately but I’m to continue for 3 months. They also have her wearing an ear plug in her right ear all day. This is to get the brain back to using the right side and to cut off any of the damage I did when I encouraged her to be right handed.
I thought it would make life easier for her but how wrong I was! The good news is, it seems easy to switch back with a few months of determination.
So, there are definitely some cases where the effort to change back has proved worthwhile, but we know that the vast majority of changed left-handers never get to do that. As noted before, we really cannot make recommendations on specific cases or offer any individual advice, but we hope you have found this helpful and we would really appreciate it if you would share your own thoughts or experiences by adding them as comments below.