Anything Left-Handed > Blog Posts > Newsletter articles > October 2010 > The effect of changing left to right handed

The effect of changing left to right handed

For many years, left-handed children were forced by their parents or schools to change hands and at least write right-handed. We have also heard many stories about other activities that have been forcibly changed – from eating to making the sign of the cross in Catholic schools.

We received a note from Kent in the USA that made us think about this again and try to get some more feedback from members on this subject. This is what he had to say:

I was forced to change my writing hand from left to right at a young age and I would like to see feedback from your other readers that were forced to write right handed as to how it affected them. I'm a male in the US and I wet the bed up until the age of 12 and I wonder if that was related. Also the universal opinion of my penmanship is that it is atrocious. I'm 62 now and a few years back I taught myself to write left handed. Although I'm slower left handed (probably less practice) the writing is clearly more legible.

King George VI left handedAnother thing that has made us think about this is a new film to be release shortly called “The King's Speech” about UK Monarch George VI (King from 1936 to 1952 and father of our current Queen Elizabeth II), starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter. He was a natural left-hander but was forced to write with his right and grew up as a nervous child with a pronounced stammer. The film does not seem to make much of the forced change in handedness, but stuttering is one effect of changing hands that has come up in research before.

There is a good article about the film here:

  • Are you a natural left-hander who was forced to write right handed?
  • Is there anything else that you have been forced to change and do right-handed?
  • What effect did these changes have on you and how have things changed as you have grown up?

Are you aware of any research into this subject, or do you want to undertake any?

Please add a comment to this blog post or use our contact form to send us your thoughts – we will report back in a future newsletter.

You can see an update on this article with more information here

Posted in Lefty info, October 2010

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365 comments on “The effect of changing left to right handed
  1. Sharon Fugate says:

    My mother changed me as a toddler from left handed to right in 1949. As an adult I am cross dominant, being right handed but left-eyed (for aiming at targets or a camera). I also suffered with Tourette’s Syndrome all my life… though less obvious as an adult. I have scored significantly higher with my left hand at finger dexterity tests.

  2. JJ says:

    I was made to write with my right hand when I was in preschool and didn’t mention it to my parents until I was in elementary school. I do everything else left handed except write. Not too sure if it has anything to do with mental issues or not but I was a very nervous child and I would stutter every now and then but not a major issue. I could see how it might get you to second-guess yourself if you think writing with left hand is wrong maybe other things you do are wrong.

  3. Clint says:

    I posted on here last week, but don’t see it – so maybe something went wrong – am trying again.
    As an experiment, two friends (left-handed) and I (right-handed) each wrote a few lines about the issue of left-handedness, using our other hand.
    We thought it was an interesting – and difficult! – thing to do. Made us all realise how terrible it was that left-handed children were forced to write with their right hand….

  4. Leigh Collins says:

    I was a left handed child and was forced in kindergarten to write with my right hand. While growing up I played sports with my left side and not my right as it was stronger. The main challenge I have is when I try a new sport or technique in nursing(my profession), I have to stop sometimes and think about what side to do things on if that makes sense. I wish that I had never been switched and that my teachers understood that it was not a choice but a predetermined genetic trait. I have always struggled with my handwriting and it has never been very neat.

  5. Dr. Blessing Ntamu says:

    I have read about several effects of switching handedness. I am interested in carrying outa research a survey on the common characteristics of switched right handed individuals

  6. Victor says:

    My mother changed me from left to right handed at an early age. Now I write right handed and at the same time write left handed the same same sentence but backwards.. I write and throw right handed but do everything else left handed..

  7. Tracee says:

    As a young child my preferred hand was my left. I did encounter some who would suggest I use my right hand however my mother would immediately tell me no keep going with my left.
    Once I started primary school my teacher made such a scene over my writing with my left hand I believed I had to use my right hand. I felt as though I was wrong as everybody else was using their right hand.
    As I grew up I would have moments of confusion where I naturally felt my left side was the way I wanted to go in playing cricket or guitar but everything lesson wise was suited to my right handed class mates so again I thought there was something wrong with me for not choosing my right hand.
    Now I honestly don’t know how this has affected me. I do tend to second guess or doubt myself which may be due to this as I often believe I’m wrong. Maybe this is a self esteem thing too. The other thing is my hand writing was never great unless I spent a long time focusing carefully on it or if I write in cursive. I often joke my handwriting was due to the fact I had to change from left to right hand. But who knows?

  8. Devesh says:

    I am natural left hander but i wrote upto 29 year from right .i always realize i am missing the rhythm and its difficult for me write compare to other person.but when i concerned with doctor he advised me use left hand writing now i m creative and confident during doing things

  9. Christian Utley says:

    Im a force right hander i wet the bed till i was about 10. I studder alot, and had nervous issues growing up. Im 17 now and 2 years back i started to write left handed its slower, but neater than my right hand writing. So with that being said I started to do others things lefty, sports,drawing,etc… And at times it came quick and felt natural. And still to this day sort of clusmy with my right than left. So i discovered myself that i was a force right hander. (Secretly left handed)

  10. Niranjan says:

    i I I have palmar hyperhydrosis and I often get withdrawn and lost within when.people think I am absent minded. Wet hands. I was born left handed but my parents force changed it. I hope that getting back to left handedness will solve these problems. If it does then I will definitely like to know more about it, and give it a try surely..

  11. Carol A. Webb says:

    I am always searching for information about what could happen to a child who is forced from left handed to right. My first grade teacher told me writing with my left hand was wrong. She had had my two older sister as students and they were right-handed so she said I should be as well. She also said she knew my mother was raising us as Christians and left-handed people were devil worshippers. She asked me what my favorite color was and the next day she brought in a red ribbon which she used to tie my left hand down. I did stutter as a child and still do when I am very tired. I grew up very self-conscious and hated to have to ever be the center of attention. In recent years I have begun to open up some and to not be so shy (I’m a 58 y/o female. I have been told I have beautiful handwriting and I’m an avid reader and never had any problems reading. Math was a different story. Thanks for the opportunity to participate! P>S. I have two nieces who are left-handed and a grand-nephew who is leaning toward a left-hand preference.

  12. Crystal Bartlett says:

    I was taught to write right handed and throw a softball right handed. This was a regular routine. We ended up playing college softball. I did everything else left handed. When I did not have a softball glove on I threw left handed naturally. I did tear my labrum and rotator cuff and had multiple surgeries on my right shoulder. I do believe it was because the strength in my right arm was not as strong as it should have been. I did have some of the same issues that were listed. I was shy, I do have issues with not being able to process speech from Brian signal to mouth. Sometimes causing a speech impediment. I do believe it helped me be a better hitter in softball being able to use both hands. The bottom hand controls the bat and most hitters control it with non dominant hand. I was stronger with mine which helped me. It also helped on defense because I caught with my dominant hand while others did not

  13. Ron Patton says:

    I am 43 years old now, and was forced to switch to writing right handed when I was around 5 or 6. Just recently I discovered this was the reason I stuttered when I was that age. I’ve been trying to switch back. My writing is messy both ways. Raised in PA, USA
    I was suppressed by the government, I could of been great!

  14. Felix Lopez says:

    Our son had both horrible hand writing and began to have problems with speaking. Some times starting a sentence with the first few words repeatedly, before getting the sentence out. Sometimes giving up on it all together. He suffered with anxiety and seamed very uncoordinated when trying to play sports. We had him looked at by a neurologist, who confirmed that he was a 100% lefty. This was early on in the 2nd grade. Now he’s in the 3rd grade and his handwriting is improving. He already writes better than what he did right handed. However, he still has his speech issues. I look at baby videos when he was first learning to talk, and the problems didn’t start until he started school. My question is, did we catch it in time for these issues to go away, or is there permenant damage?

  15. Karin Pawlowski says:

    I grew up going to a Catholic school where they did force children who were left handed to use their right hands instead. I do not have any memory of me personally being made to do this but as the years went by, especially in my 40s and 50s, I started noticing clues that might have a bearing on the fact that I was originally left handed. I will tell people directions and point left and say right. People will tell me to take a right hand turn and I will turn left. I took aerobics classes where I had a hard time turning in the correct direction as the rest of the class when we were doing our workout. I struggled to get it right and finally I did but I actually felt my brain working hard to understand which way I was supposed to go. There are some other stuff too but this has always been on my mind as to whether I really was left handed….which I have always wanted to be.

  16. Barbara says:

    First off i wasn’t forced to change my left hand to write right handed. But i was forced to change how i write with my left hand! But I wonder if any other left handers went through this or was forced to write as if you wrote right handed? I live in the USA. And as a child in school i when i was very young, I can still remember my teacher always correcting my hand when i was writing. See i held my paper side ways to write and I would turn my left hand to write. The teacher would come over everytime she caught me writing and say no ! Hold your paper straight when you write! And she would take my hand and make me hold it straight. So i would write straight across the paper. At times i would get smacked on my left hand if she caught me doing it wrong ! So she made me write her way as if i was right handed well that’s what i believe. Because my dad was a lefty and i noticed that he wrote with a turned hand and his paper turned too and I’ve seen other left handers who turn their hand different when writing. I use to wonder why is it that I’m left but don’t write like they do? Then i remembered my teacher teaching me to write her way so that’s why i wasn’t like my dad when i wrote left handed! I felt sad and felt like she took a way a part of my inheritance ! I’ve seen left handers who wrote upside down with their paper turned down more then the way i started out doing. Mine was turned some and my hand turned but that teacher changed me! I feel like I write like a right handed person going straight across the paper when i should be doing it like a lefty. Just wonder if anyone else was forced to write diffetently? Or do you write with a turned hand and your paper straight or do you turn the paper too? Thanks for reading!

  17. Pamela says:

    My story is the same, except entirely different. My father had one teacher for k-4, and she fought him over his being left-handed to the extent of just refusing to put a passing grade on work completed by a child’s left hand, but due to daddy’s stubbornness and his daddy’s admiration for rugged individualism over academic achievements, my daddy came out left-handed albeit traumatized…

    So one thing nobody in the world was ever going to do to this man’s children was to tell them to change the hand they used to write with. In my case, I ended up with a flair for writing, a badly maladapted right-handed pencil grip (and no one was allowed to force a change on me about that, either! Daddy said so!), and a late life (age 13) change of heart (by which I mean I spontaneously and deliberately elected to start writing with my left hand just to be a rebel).

    Bizarrely, or not, I also stuttered in grade school, wet the bed until aged 11, and still have ADHD requiring medication. I just picked the wrong hand all by myself. WTF

  18. Deborah Elliott says:

    I went to school at a very early age (just after my 3rd birthday, in the late 1950s), and had no problems with learning except for maths. I was constantly in trouble (even when so little!) for transposing numbers eg 01 for 10. Of course, once my parents insisted I be allowed to write with my left hand, the problems disappeared. Nearly 40 years later, I was astounded when the prep school teachers of my 5 year old son suggested that I encourage him to be right handed, as he hadn’t displayed a preference at that stage. I didn’t, and he turned out to be as left-handed as me, and has just graduated from the UK’s leading conservatoire as a talented musician. I’m very glad we both escaped being forced to deny our true handedness!!

  19. Charlene says:

    I went to elementary school in the 1950’s, when it was common to try to change left-handers. My teacher would take my pencil out of my left hand and put in my right hand, and turn my paper around. When she walked away from my desk, I’d put pencil back into left hand and turn my paper back. This was a daily occurrence with that particular teacher.

  20. Brian Smith says:

    As a child I was naturally left handed and forced to write with my right hand. There were many battles with my primary care giver and as a result the “joy of learning” became a constant struggle. What also went unnoticed was that as a child my left eye became the weaker of the two. I can be seen in most pictures with my left eye shut. This was classified as a weak eye and nothing more.

    As learning had become a battle of “wills” I am saddened that my mind developed a resistance to it and disengaged. Instead, I acted out and pushed away academic excellence because in my being I felt it impossible to attain. Why no one put the pieces together I have no idea.

    As an adult I seemed strangely focused on those who would write with their left-hand. It felt surprisingly familiar to me and so I began to practice teaching myself. The net result was that not only did it seem more natural for me but created a deeper sense of calm in my mind. Truly strange.

    I am now an adult of 54 and only wish more had been known at an earlier age. Perhaps life would have created more roads of opportunity.

  21. Lauren says:

    I’ve been wondering for years if changing hands somehow rewires the brain or causes some problems later down in the road. I, myself, was originally left lenient and often used my left hand to right, although I found using my right hand to draw to come just as easily to me. I was about 8 years old when I had my first grade teacher berate me and threaten me with failure in class if I did not conform to her ideal image of being right handed. It took me a while to figure out how to use my right hand to write, but once I got the hand of it, I was also used to “help” another student in my class conform, and to this day, I remember how hard he cried, telling me it was too hard. I was exactly the same way when I started. 2 years later, I moved away to another school, where they did a crossing of your arms test and how you also intertwine your hands together and how it determines whether you are right or left handed. My fellow students who sat beside me saw that each time I was mirroring the majority of everyone in class. “But I thought you were right handed?!” the students said to me and I replied back, “But I was always right handed”… and I was convinced I was.

    I didn’t remember it at all. It only came back to me around the time I was 18 and in college… right around the same time I was having other bad memories resurface at that time.

    I’ve been surrounded by people my whole life who were always trying to change me and install horrible self doubt on my own instincts growing up. My parents didn’t help this. In fact, they made it worse and I made a lot of bad decisions because of that horrible demon of self doubt that I was always carrying around with me and not to say that any of that is on them, because I don’t know if that is what started it all or what, but I think it might have had something to do with the long ride I had later in life, that felt a lot like a long slippery slope.

    I wonder if this installation can cause, not just self doubt, but also find that you start to believe that everyone else is right and you are wrong and you need to be fixed. Metaphor taken in literally.

    I would love to participate in this study, as I have a complex background growing up, especially in dealing with later mental problems and other black flags (as I like to call them), that seem to be magnets to everyone who suffers from a mental disorder. Particularly Bipolar Disorder. Is there anyway I can be included in this?

  22. lucy smith says:

    Hello eveyone, I wish I googled this before I use to feel so alone talking about this and i thought people thought i was just making excuses for my very poor handwriting, poor memory, muddled written work, knowing how to do something then forgetting how to do it. When I was 11years old the teacher would teach the class something and test us straight afterwards and i would be the only one to only get one or two correct that went on until i left school and continues into my adulthhood but now i why. I always thought it was because my parents forced me to use my right hand instead of my left. I think like a lefty in many ways and write like a child and change my style of writing in the middle of a sentence or a word.It was the done thing in those days I think it affect me when learning to drive i seem to forget what im supposed to be doing It affects you when you’re doing things when you are older you notice more I thought it was my age as im 57yrs ive always been this way but was unable to explain to myself so im not slow or daft as this is how it makes you feel and the teachers were not aware of what my parents were doing.

  23. Cindy says:

    My mom said I started out using my left hand. She was concerned she wouldn’t be able to teach me well, since she was right handed, so she “converted” me to use my right hand as well.

    I’ve had minimal of the, “so-called”, side effects others are talking about from being converted. I’ve always wondered if it affected my learning capabilities and maybe the career path I chose?

    If you look on television, many actors seem to be left handed.

  24. Suman says:

    I was in primary school when my mother forced me to write with right hand which eventually led to spelling mistakes while writing and inappropriate or incorrect sentence formation. This also led in bed wetting and childhood depression

  25. sidali says:

    i was born left handed … and i was forced to use my right hand and i confirm about stuttering …i just started using my left hand to use the mouse and the feeling is very diffrent … it’s more natural and spntanious … thanx

  26. Glen McCulloch says:

    I am now 85 and a lefty and have seen first-handed the effects of forced changes in born lefties; both stuttered and had low self-esteem. One was from my era and finally overcame most of the negative effects, but what a life that must have been! The other one is almost 18 now, and talks low and in spurts so as not to stutter and has low self-esteem. Another problem he has is he was not raised properly, he lives in my house now and we are needing to constantly re-educate him in many areas. I am concidering asking him to start learning to write left handed, hoping this will help him out in his future life.

  27. Kate says:

    I was 7 when I was forced to become right handed in everything, at a private school. My left hand was tied behind my back if I tried to use it. I had great difficulty holding a pen and even now hold it between my index and middle fingers. My writing is pretty awful especially if I’m in a hurry. I often struggle to find the right words even though I know what I want to say. My education suffered and I left school with few qualifications as I struggled so much to retain information. You could say I would have been like that anyway right or left handed, but I feel the damage done forcing me to become right handed has stayed with me all my life. Funnily, though I wear my watch on my right wrist.

  28. JD McDonnell says:

    Well, I was left-handed up until kindergarten when the nuns pushed me into being right-handed. Not knowing any better I went along with it. My handwriting turned out terrible to the point where it was recommended that I retake 2nd grade because of bad penmanship. I loved art but was terrible at drawing. I loved sports but sucked at anything involving catching or throwing, so I excelled at skiing and track but that’s about it. I did daydream a lot and had terrible grades despite being known as one of the smartest kids in school. Math and English were my worst courses of study. Ironically enough, nearly everything I do as an adult involves Math and English.

    Otherwise I turned out fairly normal, no bed wetting problems, no extenuating nervousness, no bullying problems. I was by no means an extrovert, but I wasn’t exactly an introvert either. In college I reverted to a simple block print instead of script – something my friends liked to call “Jerry’s Japanese” because of how odd it looks. I also took to typing like a fish to water.

    I’m 45 now and can’t imagine going back to being left-handed, but the left-hand dominance is still there like a ghost. My left arm is stronger than my right. I often turn the car left when someone asks me to make a right hand turn.

    It just feels like everything right should be on the left in my world 🙂

    I do often wonder how I would have turned out if I had remained left-handed. I think life would have been easier but I might not have turned out any better. In many ways having this small handicap probably trained me to try harder at everything I do. The world will never know.

  29. Shelly says:

    I must admit I am angry. I was a normal child that was forced to write with my right hand in kindergarten. I had always drawn pictures and things with my left hand but when we were learning how to write the teacher’s assistant kept telling me that I was writing with the wrong hand and telling me to write with my right hand. Every time I started writing with my left hand. The teacher’s assistant kept taking the pencil out of my hand and putting it back in my right hand. I was too young to know that she was wrong. I suffered many of the symptoms. I never stuttered but by 1st grade I was forced to give up my recess to do speech therapy because I slurred or something which was never a problem before. By 1st grade I started being aggressive towards other kids and was kept after school as a punishment. By 3rd grade I needed to do homework to work on my penmanship. I would write slower than most students and writing for too long was painful because I actually wrote like a right-handed lefty. I wrote with my wrist curled around so that my right hand and pushed the pencil like a left and because my wrist would be fatigued I drug my hand on the paper and smeared my writing. In the 4th grade a teacher’s assistant told me that I wrote like a lefty. I didn’t start using my left hand until high school and in a right handed world it is kind of too late. At 18 I was diagnosed with depression and later adult ADHD. I have heard of the mental effects that this can cause and I believe I would have had a lot better life if I hadn’t been forced to switch hands. I was a bright student but I know something is wrong with me. I can feel it and it all seemed to start around the time that this happened. If anybody has went through something like this we could talk my email is [email protected]

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