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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335 comments on “The effect of changing left to right handed
  1. G K Jourdane says:

    I was forced as a child to write with my right hand. I am now 60, I developed adult ADHD and Dyslexia as a result of this. I have never had full self worth and I struggle with life in general. The truth of the matter was, that I – like so many in my day were a victim to the era we grew up in.

  2. Chandana says:

    I too was born left handed and was made to switch to writing with my right hand.
    But I continue to be left handed with everything else.
    I wonder if the fact that I was always a nervous child has anything to do with this.

  3. Abdul says:

    I was born left-handed, but I was forced to write with my left hand when I started going to an Islamic school which emphasized right-handedness being akin to godliness. I didn’t think much of it, but after reading some of the other comments, I see a connection. My life has been made miserable by this wretched reorientation of my natural tendencies. I wet the bed until I was 11 or 12. I find myself having to search for words when I speak. It’s like they get stuck in my brain. I hold a pen or pencil in a very awkward way, and I apply tremendous pressure as if I think the pen is going to escape from my hand at any moment. And of course, my handwriting is is atrocious. I find myself becoming mentally and physically tired for no reason, even if I’ve gotten adequate sleep. I was diagnosed with a mild sleep apnea, though I seldom snore. When doing math in my head, I can’t hold the numbers. I have to resort to paper. I’m musically uncoordinated. I can’t sing and even tap my hand to the simplest beat at the same time. I don’t see how a person can play piano or guitar while singing. It seems, to me, to be an impossible feat. I wonder if I reteach myself to write with my left hand can I reverse some of the damage.

  4. becky kalchik says:

    I am 53, my mother noticed that I tended twords my left hand so she switched me to the right. To this day I can not hold a pencil correctly or a knife, yet I have good hand writing. Where I notice my lack of fine motor skills the most is when I crochet. My left hand has to do the majority of the work instead of the right. This slows my project down and causes the work to be tighter than I would like. My oldest son is a lefty and I let him be but his hand writing is terrible, go figure.

  5. Tak says:

    My late mom was naturally left handed. Like many in her generation she was forced to write and do things right handed.

    She had a very hard time driving at night. She had an addictive personality. She smoked around her children so much we became nose blind to nicotine and had breathing problems that made activity tiring. She was neurotic, a drunk, emotionally unstable, excessively picky, and had a hard time controlling her temper. She couldn’t be bothered to cook and shop so we grew up on mostly packaged food. She was abusive of and neglectful to both my sister and I.

    However, she also loved us. My sister is left handed. When a teacher forced her to write with her right hand my mom stepped in and put a stop to it. She told me it was awful being forced to be a righty.

    I am convinced the root of her destructive behaviors was how she was treated as a young person. She told it like it was normal but tales of being stuck on the hand for using her left and her reaction to my sister’s teacher indicates it left quite the impression.

  6. Fifi says:

    I was also switched at around age 5, about 22 years ago, as we lived in a very rural and Christian area. I continue to be a lefty in sports. My son is also a lefty (still is). I also peed in the bed until about age 10. I suffered from all kinds of skin conditions and kind of mutilated myself. I was a very nervous child, who was gifted and greatly excelled in school. I could have easily skipped 2 grades, but everyone was worried that I would freak out, because I was always freaked out, shocked and appalled. Inevitably I became so bored and angry that I dropped out of school. In the working world, people disliked me for being smart and for making them “look bad”. My life was horrible, and the more I used my brain, the more alienated I felt. I continuously contemplated suicide until I began pursuing higher education. Now, I’m working on my Master’s degree, because I know that if I don’t I will become depressed and suicidal. I’m not sure if this may have occurred in relation to switching handedness, but it’s interesting to think about.

  7. Sugarnam says:

    Hi, I’m 23 and I was kind o wondering about this subject for a while. My scenario may be a little different though. My mom told me that when I was little I was showing to be completely ambidextrous, so I would kind of do thing with what ever hand I wanted but would seem to prefer to draw left handed. She is a special education teacher and she had seen research that said kids who were ambidextrous tend to grow up with certain mental issues or develope slower, and because I was (and still am very dyslexic) she decided to teach me to be right handed to try and prevent the issues. I don’t have any problems with balence but I feel like visual information isn’t processed as fast as others (so boxing was kind of difficult) and I can’t actually see mental pictures. I can feel the shapes if that makes sense but actually being able to close my eyes and see shapes is a no go.

  8. Mary G Sheehan says:

    What are the effects of being made write with your right hand when young.I can’t tell the difference between my left and right.stuttered badly when young,hand writing very bad, clumsy when tired.Dose it effect the way you learn.

  9. Pam says:

    Although I was born lefthanded I was forced to learn to write with my righthand when I began my school days. My father was the same & when I was young I always laughed at him when he did weird things: such as stopping at a red light (in the middle of an intersection instead of at the beginning; sometimes driving on the wrong side of the road etc.) As I have grown heaps older I find that I am the same, I can’t judge properly, especially at night. Also, I have trouble with my balance – if asked to walk a straight line I would have no hope! This lack of balance is also far worse at night. My cousin’s wife is lefthanded also & she has problems with her balance at night and also my son’s father-in-law has a lot of trouble with his balance day & night. Poor man also has seizures & blackouts. The medical profession have given him every test available & cannot find out what is wrong with him. I wonder if anyone else suffers from these disorders & are they caused by being changed – I would love to know. The problems for me seem to get a lot worse as I get older (I am now nearing 70). One instance, when I was young I couldn’t catch a ball that was thrown to me as I couldn’t see it until it was almost in front of me. Now I can see the ball and it hits my hand but my fingers are not quick enough to curl around it so it just falls to the ground. Mostly I am left-handed with all that I do, but use my right hand for writing. My writing is not really very readable so I print most things. My writing is pretty good with my left hand if I write backwards! I use a knife & fork right-handed but use a spoon with my left hand. I know I am so mixed up it is quite laughable in many instances. I apologise for such a lenghty comment but I am so thankful, after all these years, to find your website & find out that being weird is really not my own falt. Thank you.

    • blackbombchu says:

      You were probably naturally weakly left-handed for everything. You probably found it easier to write with your right hand than your left hand when you first started writing only because we don’t live in a society where people are supposed to mirror write when writing with their left hand. The reason you cut with your right hand is probably because that way, you didn’t have to make the fork and knife trade hands when you were eating with your left hand.

  10. beatrice says:

    Thank you for this articles am a mother , my kid use left to do everything but teacher forced him to use write hand and i can see he is struggling than using right hand.

    Kindly advice me should i keep quiet for this or do they any effects of using left hand??
    Please assist.

  11. SHASHANK says:

    sir i am also left hanede since 22 year and now 3 years noww i write with my ritht handed but the result i was thought that wad goood and the rsult not good and on my right mineded migrstion generated so i cant connect with people happpily …please

  12. Robert Lapp says:

    I am left handed and was given right handed guitar. Although I excelled further than many of my peers, after 20 years I still note how certain things I screw up constantly, although recover quick enough that usually only I know it. I have begun learning lefty guitar and it is a relief in many ways and the same kind of mistakes do not occure. I’m convinced that finding your flow and comfortable way of doing things is key to being your best, but even if you are going against the grain, you can accomplish great things. Learning lefty guitar makes me literally look at things differently. I start to see how even our English language is against my natural flow.

  13. esbee says:

    My husband is almost 65. He was born left handed. When he started school his teachers forced him to write right handed -he said they used a ruler to swat his hand. He grew up wanting to sit and read all the time. I thought it was because he liked to read but I think switching made him very accident prone. I have been married to him for 40 years and he has hurt himself in so many ways and so many times when he is up out of a chair there just had to be a cause. I think that is why he sits all the time watching tv, he does not get hurt but send him to do something physical he somehow hurts himself. (tripping, falling, running into something, etc)

  14. Sonia Gonzales says:

    I am thrilled to have to found this information. About 2 years ago, I had a childhood memory of my left arm being in a sling although I didn’t ever remember breaking my arm. I asked my mother why my left arm had been put in a sling, with a stunned look she told me that doctors told her i wouldn’t remember. Remember what i asked. At that moment i realized I was suppose to be left handed. I was forced to be a righty because the thought was that it would be “better” for me. I have two sons that are both left handed. I am 41 years old and I am discovering a whole new world. Thanks for this information.

  15. roy wilkes says:

    i was left handed and adult now think it had a huge effect on me ,i am 56 now and am going back to being left handed,but i8 can remember the weeks/months tortcherbeing forced to sit on my left hand as a 5 year old

  16. Holly says:

    I was forced to use my right hand instead of my natural left when a young child. My mother was well-meaning, but I too, developed a stammer that lasted into my early teens. I was a shy, nervous child as well, although I did also have health problems (life threatening asthma in a time when that was not common) so I don’t know if it can all be blamed on that. I never learned how to hold the pencil correctly in my right hand, and have had since I was young, a callous on my middle finger from the way I hold it. I remember the teachers trying over and over to correct it, to no avail…

    Into my late teens, I was ambidextrous, and could write just as well with my left hand as with my right, but I have lost this over the years.

    I am very left brained, I have a Visual Communications degree from the Art Institute of Dallas and was a graphic designer for 15 years before becoming an interactive learning designer.

  17. Sharon Booth says:

    My son born in 1982 was made to change hands in primary school even though I objected and spoke to the headteacher and teacher responsib sadlydif if he used his left hand he was stood out in class eventually I changed schools but the damage was done what really annoyed me was I found out later the woman responsible was only a teaching assistant has it changed him yes itprobably has

  18. Karin says:

    I can remember the point when my teacher told me that I could not write with both hands. I was about 7 years old. He tried to direct me towards right handedness but being stubborn I choose the left hand. To much dismay of the teacher. About the same time I started playing Handball and was coached by the same person. He forced me to throw righthanded and I was not able to join my teammates until I mastered it well. I never liked him and now I am older and still stubborn I refuse to talk or see him again. What it has brought me is, that sometimes I am confused which hand I use with a knife. It does depend whether I want to cut meat with fork and knife (right), or just spread jam with my knife (left) but I never know which one to use, until I have switched a couple of times and it feels good. Writing is still left but most of my other activities is done righthanded. (scissors and mouse)

    My father was also forced to write righthanded when he was young. His teacher would punish him with a stick and he developed a beautiful stutter. After much sessions he stutters rarely anymore but the King’s speech did remind me of the fact what that horrible man had done to my dad!

  19. Jodie says:

    I was born left handed and when I went to play school they would smack my left hand and force me to use my right hand, I’ve had anxiety issues over the years and suffered bouts of depression, I don’t know if this is linked in any way? Over the past year I have the occasional issue of not being able to get my words out, I know what I want to say but it’s like something is stopping me saying them! Could this be related? I have 2 boys and they are both left handed and I would never dream of telling them or forcing them to use their right hand, I feel cheated somehow that I was forced to become right handed and at times I resent my mum for not sticking up to me at the playgroup when I was a child. I would like to know more about the psychological effects on this subject. I’m glad I’m not alone in this and found this website; thank you!

  20. TREX says:

    My parents recently revealed to me that I was born left handed. They forced me to use my right hand at an early age in Nursery School by tying my left hand behind my back when doing my assignments. In my Culture, doing anything with the left hand is looked down upon simply because “Left” is considered “Bad” and “Right” “Good”. Now I get jealous when I see any left handed person and wish that my parents had let me use my natural left hand.

  21. J says:

    I’m a 21 year old female, I grew up in Sweden. When I was around the age of 5 my daycare teacher forced me to change from my left hand to right- she believed that using the left hand was a sign of demons lurking within me? I did have a bit of a stutter and it still comes out now in times of stress. I don’t know if this has anything at all to do with switching. I was ambidextrous for a while but now my left hand is useless and it makes me sad. I’ve never heard any stories of anyone born in the 90s like me being forced to switch and I’m curious if it’s common.

    • blackbombchu says:

      Your left hand was your naturally dominant hand so its skill is not as low as the skill your right hand would have had if your handedness hadn’t been changed. Your left hand has low skill because you haven’t practiced using it very much. I think one good way to regain your ambidexterity is by each time you do a task, using which ever hand has lower skill for that task which at first will be your left hand for quite a while. To be ambidextrous, you have to be able to do any task as easily as its mirror image which means you have to practice mirror writing when writing with your left hand.

    • vishnu says:

      same thing happened to me.I am born left handed.I was forced to right hand.Now I am struggling with log of side effects

  22. Anne Gyles says:

    I was made by Nuns at age 4 to change from left handed to right. I learnt to write badly and to read quite well and was reading by age of 7. In fact reading really saved my education because everything the teacher said went in one ear and out the other. Learning to type at 16 yrs of age really helped me; I suppose that using both hands makes both sides of my brain work! Two of my children are left handed and I did not force them to change.

  23. blackbombchu says:

    The problem with allowing people to sue for their stuttering problem is that more people would purposely stutter so that they could sue.

  24. blackbombchu says:

    No I think you cut with your left hand because you eat with your right hand and that way, you don’t have to switch which utensil is in which hand to cut.

  25. Stephanie Pyle says:

    I was forced to change from being left handed to right in first grade at my Catholic elementary school. It was horrible. I have three different handwritings throughout the month-lefty-slant or upright, unreadable and florid right handed slant. There’s nothing I can do to make myself write in a particular way, it just shows up. I once had a time card sent back because the switch happened between the weeks and my signature wasn’t the same. I am very clumsy and accident prone-have fallen constantly-at 63 those falls have caught up with me. I can’t tell left from right, which as a drama teacher can be problematic for the actors/ LOL–they put up signs so I can see them for directing telling me which is stage left and right. They’ve also done it in the wings. I have incredible long term memory-all the way back to having a diaper changed! I was adult diagnosed-2005- as being off the spectrum for ADD. I can only manage short term/deadline oriented projects..hence, I had 4 majors finally landing on theatre and broadcasting. I can’t focus, slow reader, cannot seem to analyze..everything is intuitive and spontaneous. Details? Forget it. I can only manage the big picture. There are some things I can only do left-handed, drink, eat hand-foods like a sandwich, apples, play pool, shoot a gun. Left eye dominant. I too can’t stop talking sometimes as another person said. Sorry this is long winded. I’ve never shared. In 6th grade we had to take this horrendous IQ test. The kind where you had to choose which picture would match the first one if flipped or moved. When the results came back I heard the nun tell my mother I was stupid. Oh well…surprise…I’m not, you horrible woman.

  26. Tim Ago says:

    I was born left handed but got changed to my right hand at a young age. I always wondered why my handwriting was never good and why I was having handwriting lessons in my teens .until an Aunty said to me that it was because I am naturally left handed.Until today I still use my left hand for day to day things like eating, playing pool or other hand held sports.can be very confusing at times and frustrating.If I had to make the choice for my children it will be to let them be or use whatever they are comfortable with.

  27. tanjila says:

    i was born left-handed and in my early age, i had tendency to write with left hand. But my parents thought it was bad for me and forced me to use my right hand. i used to do almost everything with my left hand (including eating by mistake when i was a kid) but my parents punished me and made me learn to use my right hand for eating and writing. For the rest, they didn’t mind. I had trouble writing letters sometimes and used to confuse shapes of alphabets and numbers for a long time. But a few years back, i was asked to write an answer in blackboard by a teacher in university and surprisingly i used my left hand to answer. it wasn’t me who noticed that i did this at the moment though( i was nervous. new at university ). then i figured out that i do not have much problem writing with my left hand. moreover, i can use both of my hands with almost equal efficiency though i have trouble drawing shapes with my left hand now. Many told me when they saw me doing something that i am ambidextrous but i am not too sure. i think the side effect i got from childhood is bad mood, impatience and not being able to concentrate on one thing for long. my left side is physically stronger for some reason and i also tend to use my left foot more than right.

  28. Sharon Campbell says:

    Whenever I drive on unfamiliar roads and i stop to shop or pump gas i always go the wrong way getting back on the road. Not some of the times. Everytime. You think this is caused by lefthanded forced right. Wow

  29. Sharon Campbell says:

    I was very confused growing up. I didnt know until a few years ago that I was lefthanded. I was telling my older sister how i use different hands for different things i do and didnt understand. She asked me, dont you remember dad taking the crayon out of left hand and putting it in your right hand. I didnt recall. Then things began to make sence. I would try to play sports and even my friends would say to me when i used ny left hand to throw a ball “arent you right handed”? I stopped playing sports because of hand eye coordination did not exist with using wrong hand. The only sport I could play was volley ball because i could use both hands to hit the ball or nobody noticed. My writing is terrible. I also wonder how it has affected me emotionally. So sad. Im 57 years old

  30. Ellen says:

    I’m not sure if this is strictly relevant, but I have always been right-handed, but as a child I had a reputation of being rather a clumsy eater, or, more frequently, abandoning my knife and holding my fork in my right hand. Somebody asked me if I was left-handed, and I knew I wasn’t because I always used my right hand for everything else and the teachers had not tried to change anything at school, but when I started holding my fork in my right hand and my knife in my left the clumsiness was gone. Do you think I’m slightly ambidextrous?

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