Anything Left-Handed > Blog Posts > Newsletter articles > November 2010 > Update on changing left-handers to right

Update on changing left-handers to right

Left handed child writing left handedWow – this was a topic that generated a lot of interest. We have had over 150 comments left on the original article and more than 25,000 words written by members about their experiences. Here are a few extracts to give you a good flavour of the typical feedback:

  • As a child I was forced to sit by myself when taking tests, because the teacher thought that I would cheat because I was left handed; that was after she tried on several occasions to put the pen in my right hand. Plus, I was told to turn my paper a certain way that did not work for me. Am sure the experience has left my scarred in some way or another. I felt ashamed that my teacher would think that I would cheat after spending hours learning my vocabulary words. And I became a shy little girl that did not often raise her hand, because to write on the chalkboard because everyone would see that I was different.
  • My grandfather was left-handed and was forced to write right-handed as a child. He had a bad stutter. Then he got polio and his right hand was crippled. He was allowed to write left-handed and lost his stutter.

This is a long one but is a great example of exactly what we were talking about in our original article and I guess a lot of people have had similar experiences, though maybe not quite as pronounced. Our thanks to Alan MG for sharing

  • From the age of 5 to the age of 26 I considered my self right handed and right footed and right eye dominant, but I suffered very bad symptoms which were detrimental to my learning through all those years. (including poor concentration, poor memory recall, reading difficulties and a very neurotic personality and physical tiredness) After visiting a family doctor when I was 19 and getting no diagnosis or cure I began what was to become 7 years of searching for the cause , I finally found out by chance discovery it was because of misuse of my co-ordination and that I should be doing everything left handed and left footed, and even the muscles on my face had been affected causing me to find it difficult to smile properly etc. With a theoretical understanding of the cause of the symptoms now gained, I proceeded to use my left hand for everything and walk to my left foot with a realization that this must never stop if I wanted to recover. Gradually the symptoms went away. Handwriting with the subordinate hand, all my life up to then had been the main inducer of the symptoms, possibly because of the levels of concentration and dexterity required for handwriting. Muscular imbalance and force of habit had disguised my natural tendency to the left. It was just as important to reduce use of my right hand and right foot, as it was to transfer duties to my left hand and left foot to enable recovery.
  • Recovery took me many years partly because of my age(26 at the time, I am now 48), the duration and intensity of the symptoms suffered and the disruption in social interaction during what should have been my formative years. Basically having to learn many things that the neurosis induced had stopped me learning.   Now I can get on with people a lot better, and be a much more efficient worker and am a lot happier.

    The cause of the symptoms was much more difficult for me to find as I had retained no memory of being coerced into writing with my right hand at school in 1967 when I was 5 years old. It must have happened from bigotry in the school system in my country (Scotland) at the time because my parents never showed any attitude towards handedness ever.

There are many more stories like his and we would like to thank all members who have shared their experiences and hope they help others realise that “it is not just them”.

Dr Barbara Sattler with Keith and Lauren in LuxembourgAlan referred to some research by Dr Barbara Sattler, who we have mentioned before and who Keith and Lauren went to meet in Luxembourg not long ago to give a presentation (seen on the left in the picture, with us on the right). She has written a book and lots of research papers on this and there are some good links here (if a bit technical). Unfortunately the book is only available in German but this is a summary of what she has to say about the effects of forcibly changing a child's handedness…

Converting handedness does not result in a change in cerebral dominance but rather a multifaceted cerebral disturbance or damage. This can result in the following primary disorders:

disturbances in memory for all three areas of information processing (encoding, storage, and recall);

  • difficulty in concentration (early fatigue);
  • difficulty in reading and spelling
  • spatial disorientation (e.g. confusion of left and right);
  • speech problems ranging from stammering to stuttering;
  • fine motor disturbances evident in writing and other activities requiring precision.

The primary consequences can then go on and transform into secondary consequences:

  • feelings of inferiority;
  • shyness; introversion; overcompensation;
  • defiance to belligerence; braggadocio; provocative behavior;
  • bed-wetting;
  • nail-biting;
  • emotional problems that can last into adulthood with neurotic and/or psychosomatic symptomology; and personality disturbances

So basically – if you are thinking of making a left-handed child write right-handed, DON'T DO IT!

You can use this link to see all the original comments for yourself or add your own feedback

Posted in Children, November 2010

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

CAPTCHA

*

58 comments on “Update on changing left-handers to right
  1. Steen Schmidt Nielsen says:

    Dear everybody:

    I must say, that forced to use right hand has only been a problem for my writing. I have had many advantages of if it. I am a dentist, I must say one the worst things was years ago , that I couldn’t be a dentist left-handed . I trained my right, writing using right hand to do everything, and to day it has been a great advantage for me using both hands. Many “right-handed” envy me.
    Steen.

  2. Mark Chafin says:

    I was born left handed. I broke my wrist at about age three and my mother took the opportunity to convert me to right handedness. I am 53 and have never heard of these issues related to conversion…wow! I have always felt somehow conflicted my entire life…I felt different than all around me. I was severely shy and introverted, with a massive inferiority complex. I had some issues with bed wetting but not bad. Although I have been moderately successful and relatively intelligent, I have always struggled with focus…never really being able to commit to anything with 100% of my dedication. I have always felt that I just lacked motivation. I suffer from fairly severe anxiety. One of the most powerful issues I have struggled with my entire life is fatigue. People notice that I am always tired even though I sleep a lot and take naps. Wow…I am still a bit overwhelmed with all of this information. The last ten years of my life I have noticed great improvement in my ability to interact with people and don’t feel as shy, but there is always a powerful sense of awkwardness.

  3. Donna Jean says:

    A high-school boyfriend asked me why I did everything with my left except write. I hadn’t noticed. I mentioned it to my mother and she told me she used to tie my left hand behind me as an infant and roll balls and toys to me. I DO remember a teacher being very upset with me, switching my paper direction and snatching my pencil out of my left hand and putting it into my right hand. I suffered from some of the listed possibilities growing up, but they apparently faded. I think like that of a right-hander. Logical, list maker, zero artistic and left-brain abilities. Once in a blue moon I find myself writing things with my left hand. Apparently my brain has adapted to use of either hand.

  4. Maria says:

    Hi. My oldest memory of writing was when before I entered kidergarden and I clearly remember I was writing with my left. When my teacher noticed I was a lefty she suggested that it’s better to write using my right hand and I agreed since everyone in the class was doing so. I was afraid to be viewed as abnormal. I wetted my bed until 11 or 12 not sure. I had low self steem and easily got nervous when I was young. I am terribly moody and my attention span is short. I can’t seem to concentrate on something for a long period of time. It improved a bit now that I am 25. I stuttered all thru out high school. I still do when I’m stressed and nervous. I’m a mess when I try to explain things verbally. When I get called to read in the class I get nervous as I often read words twice before finishing the sentences. I felt stupid back then. My family calls me clumsy cause my supposedly dominant hand’s grip was so weak. I often accidentally let go of the things I’m holding. I also run into many things like the side of the wall or the tip of the door and somehow my balance is really off. Like really off. I am bad at estemating the distance of things making it difficult for me to cross on hiways. When I was young I was told I was a bad dancer as I often trip. However, in the recent years at work, I started to try dancing again and I discovered I was actually good at it though I still find it hard to differentiate my left foot from my right. While I’m good at creative writing I am most definitely to fail in technical writing. I used to be good at drawing but didn’t practice on it so I kinda lost that. I am mathematically inclined but that didn’t appear until I was 10.
    I guess for me the biggest impact was emotional and psychological. My quirks resulting from switching handedness landed heavy blows on my self steem. I often got laughed at. In hopes to improve myself, I started to practice writing with my left hand again.

  5. John McAnally says:

    I am a left handed when it comes writing. Throw right handed kick right footed. One of my sons is naturally right handed but has a stuttering problem. I’m wondering if he learned to use his left hand or left foot would help with his speech. Anyone have any thoughts or experience with this?

  6. Priya S Menon says:

    The News Letter was very informative and consoling as my son is also suffering form the same reason. He was comfortable using his left hand from birth and when he started school he used to write using his left hand. My in-laws were staying with me and they forcibly changed to right hand. now he is facing lot of difficulties with writing, spellings and pronunciations. he is undertaking medication at Pee Jay Clinic Cochin from Dr. Phillip John from past four years. Along with this he is also facing the problem of hyper active. He lost three years in schooling as his brain is of third standard child and force to repeat classes. Now this year we have admitted him in National Institute of Open Schooling and will be appearing for his 10th std exam in the year 2017. He is undergoing tuition’s from some of the private tutors for the same.

  7. daisy tse says:

    Hello, I recently found your website on the web. I’m a Chinese citizen living in China. My daughter is left handed. The school wants her to write right-handed. My husband and I thought that shouldn’t be a problem. The local pediatrician assured me that writing right-handed would come naturally in time. Obviously, that hasn’t worked out. She is losing confidence and falling further behind her classmates. She has little to no recall for Chinese characters but otherwise, her memory is good.
    I’m showing this article to my husband tonight and we’ll discuss what we need to do for our daughter’s future. But…how to proceed? I think we need to see a specialist in this field but the local options are not good. Does anyone have an idea of who to see….maybe in Hong Kong? Any suggestions are welcome.

  8. Natasha says:

    Hello,
    I was brought up in the Soviet union. I am 42 years old now. Children go to school at 7 years of age and until 1985 it was unheard of that someone would get away with being leafhanded. I was forced to write and eat with my right hand, but continued using my left hand for painting, for cutting, my handbag is always on my left shoulder.
    I still write with my right hand, but my handwriting is constantly changing, and it is looking like child’s writing. My facial muscles have been affected as well, so I cannot smile properly, which is bothering me a lot. This is probably the reason I am shy and not very sociable.
    I wonder if after so many years I can change it…..

  9. Shelly says:

    Beware of the teacher’s assistant. Birth – Pre K. Left-handed. Teacher’s assistant in kindergarten sat next to me while we were learning to write. Over and over she took my pencil from me and told me that I was using the wrong hand. Try it with my other hand. I was put into speech therapy the following year and started behaving strangely. In second grade I was started on homework to improve my handwriting. Around 5th grade another teacher’s assistant made a comment that I was right-handed and wrote like a lefty. I had learned to painfully twist my right hand around so that I was pushing the pen. This is how I wrote for years. I prefer typing now. This is such a petty reason to cause so much suffering,

  10. Nikki says:

    I was a natural left hander but forced to become right handed at the age of four, in school, by having my left arm held behind my chair. This has had a massive impact on my life ever since. It was so traumatic for me that I used to pretend I had a ‘headache in my tummy’ or earache so I didn’t have to go to school. I remember watching where the teacher was at lunchtime so I knew when to eat right handed therefore they wouldn’t tell me off. I was so happy when my mum decided that my older sister and I could go home for lunch. The teacher I had at the age of four is the only teacher I have blocked from my memory.

    I also used to bed wet a lot around that time and so I guess this is when my depression started. I used to nail bite as a child too and was a very withdrawn shy child right up until my teens. I became quite stubborn and defiant the older I got and have been told I can be neurotic too.

    I was unable to read or write until the age of eight when I had one-to-one support. My writing is still messy to this day but within six months of having extra help I was top at spelling and haven’t put books down since. However I still struggled in education afterwards as it seemed I didn’t process information like everyone else did. It would take me a while to understand things and get passed the ‘brick wall’ I faced, crying tears of frustration all the time whilst doing my school work believing I was thick.

    I still feel it has had an impact on my life in adulthood but I have learnt to deal with it. I get physically tired very easily and have poor concentration plus I have learnt to live with depression on a daily basis. I do have a really good memory for details though as my first memory is of having my nappy changed.

    I have also been lead to believe that I have enforced dyspraxia as I am very clumsy and my spatial awareness is poor but the dyspraxia effects my process of thinking mainly. I was told that being forced to change your handedness is like a brain injury where your brain has to re-wire itself. Which makes sense with the fact that I couldn’t read or write until I was eight and people who have a brain injury or have suffered a stroke sometimes have enforced dyspraxia too.

    I have also wondered if my difficulties in maintaining some friendships and relationships over the years has been due to being forced to change my handedness. Still I don’t think I should have suffered the way I have unnecessarily but I guess I wouldn’t be the person I am today who knows. However I am considering going back to being left handed.

  11. Jaime says:

    Hello, At the age of 9 months old my son was seen by a neurologist due to my concerns about some odd behavior (staring into space and not being easily roused, having startle reflex after the age of 6 months most noted while sleeping and no matter position) Thankfully they ruled out seizures and the only concern that the doctor had was that at 9 months he was dominantly left sided. He would only use the left hand to manipulate toys and when he crawled he did so on hands and feet but the right ones where steadying tools only more dragged then used to move. The neurologist did not feel the need to see him back however so life went on as usual and all the way up to the age of 5 though his right side caught up and was useable he was a lefty. When he entered Kindergarten however he suddenly started writing with his left hand. Now I noticed this with in a month or so of the first day and asked his teachers why, I also asked my son if some one told hi he had to. Both teach and child said he did it on his own. My son said that was how every one else was doing it (still wonder who pointed it out to him though) So life continued, he wet the bed till the age of 12, he has issues with shyness and social interaction, he is very introverted, does not make eye contact easily, and depressed. He is now 14 years old and we are back at the neurologist again, we have moved to a new town and the new doctor found it odd that still at the age of 14 his teacher find it so very hard to read his writing ( unreadable even after many years of OT ) so she suggested the neurologist again. After speaking with us for over an hour he has diagnosed my son with writers cramp (unusual for his age) and says that his left hand is larger than the right (which supports the earlier findings that he was dominantly left sided when he was young) so he has ordered a MRI to see if there is a reason neurologically for the switch where it is not thought to have been forced. There is only a 20% chance of finding anything however but my son and I both thought it worth the look. He did have him try to write with his left hand and though a bit sloppy he can do it so I have been encouraging him to practice to see if maybe it will help. I will update when the results are back on the MRI and let you know the findings. Thank you for your time.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Jamie,

      I am very anxious to hear your update. My son will be 14 this month. There are so many similarities in your post, with what I am now researching. We never forced his hand dominance, but just recently found out that he was naturally a lefty but changed on his own to be like everyone else. Now reading the side effects, everything makes sense. Just wondering where do we go from here?

      Thanks

  12. Joe says:

    When I was 3 , my dad made me eat right handed, write right handed, etc. I was a natural left handed person. I was shy growing up, felt inferior, nail biting, and had poor hand writing. Some of my problems could be contributed to the abuse I got from my dad and his brother. However, about 4 years ago, I started to play the keyboard. I have noticed my left hand lags behind the right hand. I have decided to do everything left handed that I started out doing so many years ago. It seems like everything is becoming integrated in movement and my left side feels stronger. I used to olympic weightlift and noticed that my left side was always stronger. I feel better about doing things left handed and am determined to teach myself how to write left handed. Not bad for being 51.

  13. Manoj K Pillai says:

    I can relate a lot to the author, feel in control a lot when using left limbs though it is the weaker side. An idea or an inspirations spurts my left limbs. But I am still struggling to induce strength to my left side and practice goes on, now for about 15 years, i am 38 now.

  14. Brahm says:

    Seems to me that given writing is a learned skill it shouldn’t matter which hand you start with as long as you are consistent. Any thoughts on this?Good point you have made.The difference lies in the nervous-brain anatomy of each individual. For vision, each eye is given a priority of dominance. Usually depth trumps contrast (one eye performs one of these functions better then the other). This is based on the axons that terminate in the visual cortex (V3 and V4 areas, I believe). If the axons from one eye terminate more in areas defined in contrast (color) interpretation, then that eye is given the task of perceiving contrast. You can practice this by covering one eye and examining a tree-line from a distance. One eye will capture depth only by color difference.I would suspect, that for our motor cortices, the same could hold for a similar “mapping” function. For instance, I have learned that my sensory reception in my right hand is far weaker at the fingertips then my left hand. This translates into fine touch orientation. Since I have switched from my right to left, I am far better and using a knife with cutting and slicing,using scissors, manipulating my objects I am working with. My right hand is best suited for holding objects still as I manipulate with my right – by comparison, my left hand is the “depth” that is suited to my dominant eye.anyway, I’ll leave it here for now. Hope this is interesting.

  15. janet rodriguez says:

    My school teacher told my mom and step-dad to change me from left to right. I was 5 or 6. So every time I used my left hand my step dad slapped my hand. I had problems with school. I have always felt disoriented and awkward. When I write a letter or anything i can’t express what I want to say. It won’t come out. I have trouble with concentration, I can’t think straight. I’ve always been shy and have no self esteem. I don’t like to be around a crowds. I stay at home.

  16. jack b. says:

    Allan Mg.How long did it take for you to get better??? You said many years .

  17. jack b. says:

    I was in 1st of 2nd grade ( 7 or 8 yrs old) when the nun’s forced me to write right handed . they used a ruler or yd stick to hit me on numerous occasions. My drawing hand somehow followed suit and became right handed.
    About 4-5 yrs ago, i am 63 now, i started to learn about left brain vs. right brain and the connection to handedness. I am an architect and was designing a rather complex addition to a project in Montana for a sister of mine. It kept seeming like we were looking at things completely different, even though we had grown up in the same house and had same family background. I thought maybe it was just normal architect vs client, but it seemed like more. I started to Google right brain vs left brain which i didn’t know much about.
    The list of right brained tendencies vs. left brain made it pretty clear. I was looking at the project whole and she was looking only at the individual pieces. After learning more about cross dominance i happened upon research by Dr Barbara Sattler, who you have mentioned. I have many of the inherent emotional / psychological problems associated with the change in handedness for writing / drawing that she and you list. Personally i think the change in drawing hand was the biggest drawback as an adult for me.
    I never seemed to be able to do schematic sketches in 3-d very well. I felt like i would get out of scale or proportion and need to get to the drawing board w/ tools like a parallel rule and triangles. I had learned mechanical drawing in 9th grade and it became my favorite subject and probably the biggest reason i became an architect.
    The lack of sketching ability was the thing i felt i missed most in life as part of the design process in the beginning of any projects. It hinders the design process. Funny thing was after my mother died and we found a kindergarten report card of mine where the teacher said i enjoyed using my drawing ability to express my creativity. That was before the switch in hands.
    After seeing the work of Dr. Sattler, i worked at changing my handedness for both drawing and writing (cursive and printing) It has been 4-5 years since i have been practicing lefty.
    I can sketch much better lefty. I feel like i see proportion and scale better. I start doodling and the drawings become much more than they ever would have righty. My writing seems more artistic but i can’t seem to make the jump to using it every day, so far just for practice. It seems like a brain thing. I recently changed my preferred hand for a computer mouse to lefty and started playing computer games for hand/eye coordination. Games like pool, ping pong, pong and 3-d pong.
    i have been trying recently to draft lefty and paint and see where it goes. I am semi retired and not working in architecture for most of 6-7 years.
    In some strange way i always wanted to be a painter (fine arts) but dismissed it because i didn’t feel like i could draw well enough. I have both an uncle and aunt that were artists, on my mothers side.
    Yesterday in reading Alan’s story from above, i noted his talk of the importance of feet, and footwork. I realized if i kicked something i did it right footed. I learned most things when i was young left handed but not all. Originally i threw a baseball right handed because they gave me a right handers glove. My father noticed that if i was in the outfield i dropped my glove and threw left handed. After that i became a little league pitcher w/ numerous shutouts, no hitters, and all star games for 4-5 years in different leagues. I played basketball, football, tennis, pool, bowling, and racket ball, all left handed and did well in most when i was in high school.
    I have been waiting for a change in myself from the changes i have made but as of yet no big aha. Alan said it took him many years, how many is many Alan, how long does this take, 5 years seems like a lot.
    My family, who give the opposite of support think that the change in handedness thing for writing is not a big deal or they think i am just ambidextrous like my mother, and a left handed sister thinks she is. Mostly they are all in denial of being left handed.
    I think this may have been a childhood trauma for me between the forced change against my will, my father supporting it saying i have to do what the nun’s want, and siblings saying it doesn’t matter.
    Where’s the rest of the research that shows the light at the end of the tunnel???
    Dr Sattler’s work suggests trying to change back is not good for some. Anybody have any input.

    Sorry for the long winded story,
    thanks in advance
    Jack

  18. Neil says:

    Hello,

    Interesting discussion topic.

    Here is what I don’t understand about all of this. I am a musician and have learned to play piano, trombone, violin and guitar. The violin and guitar in particular use the left hand for the fingering (I’m right handed). Why then was it no problem for me to learn those with my left hand (when clearly more more coordinated hand would be the better hand for fingering)? And why are there many right-handed musicians with world class technique on the violin, guitar? Seems to me that given writing is a learned skill it shouldn’t matter which hand you start with as long as you are consistent. Any thoughts on this?

  19. Brahm Miller says:

    I am 34 yrs old. I have hyperactivity and attention disorder. Diagnosed aged 3. I was also born premature in ’79 by about 3 months. This all contributed to an immature brain at birth, however, did restore itself; albeit delayed.

    I went to a private school and did an Arts 4 yr bachelors degree at a reputable Cdn university. It may have been the wrong degree. I discovered once a few times long ago. The precision I had being left handed when tossing an innocuous object (ie. a piece of gum), I could often get remarkable target when throwing at a trash can (once thirty feet away).

    I was informed that dexterity is associated with the dominant hand and power associated with the non-dominant (clinical neuro-psychiatrist – close family friend). I was told I could in fact be left handed. All the sports I played would of described this.

    I am currently enrolled in a 4 yr biochemistry degree. My problems sitting at a desk and reading were leading to excruciating pain along my muscles of medial thoracic spinal areas (rear deltoid and trapezius). About 2 hrs ago, I began searching with tips to change (Google search for 9-tips on wiki-answers). The results are so far INCREDIBLE!!!!!

    The pain has immediately begin to recede and now I must learn how to stand with my left foot forward. Handwriting is a real chore, but it feels amazing and already, I’ve begun to analyze how the techniques of left handed writing goes. And so far the remainder of my searches or proving my analyses correct. At least, it confirms my subjective feelings, which came before reading any such conformation).

    I really not now much more I can say. The rest is as they say, leaves me speechless.

    Why did this take so long? I had to reach back into my memory and I recall that before the private schooling, I was in a French immersion public school. I remember when being taught cursive for the first time, I was equally as bad with the right as I was with the left. But my teacher had a job to do, so he exhaustingly chose right. However, I always played hockey left handedly 😉 …. ironically enough my disturbances forced the school to choose my being taught elsewhere. From there my right hand merely continued. I even practiced had to look at things left or right from a visual side dominance of my eyes – y’know, to get the ‘feel’ of it (as crazy as that may sound).

    I feel so much better and any tips anyone can give me is so, so so so, appreciated.

    Thanks to not being alone.

  20. Jayden says:

    I am 33 year old and right handed. I started to do works in left hand to initiate my right side brain. will it create any problem???

  21. Betty says:

    I was switched from left to right and have often wondered whether that could explain my clumsiness and lack of coordination. When bowling, dancing, or exercising, I somehow always end up on the wrong foot; I cannot play any instrument that requires the two hands to work in parallel (i.e., piano, guitar), though I can play instruments that allow the hands to work in series (e.g., flute); I cannot text with two thumbs, only with one finger, but I can type on a full keyboard like a whiz — all sorts of little physical oddities like this. I also have some small difficulties with speech — the words in my head do not always translate to my tongue, and I mispronounce words frequently (though not consistently). When confronted with a large amount of information to process, I can sort my way through it, but if interrupted, I lose my thread and have a hard time gathering everything together again. While these anomalies do not make much difference in the grand scheme of things, they are noticeable and have an effect on how I navigate the world and by extension, how the world perceives me.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Update on changing left-handers to right"
  1. […] We had a massive response to that article and did an update including the best of the comments Update on changing left-handers to right […]

  2. […] hand so stupid? Stupid seems the right word. Do you identify with any of this? I found this:Update on changing left-handers to right | Anything Left-Handed I have read somewhere that changing what hand to write with can cause you to begin to stutter, and […]

Joing the Left Handed Club
  • Monthly Newsletters
  • Exclusive special offers
  • Campaigns and awareness

FIND OUT MORE

Left-Handed Information