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The effects of making a left-hander write right-handed

Natural left-handers should always be left to develop in their own way and be allowed to write left-handed if that is their choice.   Forcing them to change hands and write right-handed can have very bad effects in later life as well as being traumatic at the time and ruining their handwriting!

Brain organisation - left and right hemispheres and hand controlThe dominant writing hand is not just a physical thing to do with controlling a pen but a mental thing to do with the way the brain is organised and where certain functions occur.   The brain is “cross-wired” to the body so the left handed side of the brain controls the right hand side of the body and the right side of the brain controls the left. Changing the hand used for writing causes great confusion in the   brain and can have a lot of knock-on effects.

Here are some articles we have written on this subject:

These are some of the effects people have reported to us from being forced to change their writing hand as a child:
  • Bad handwriting
  • Bed-wetting
  • Stuttering
  • Nail biting
  • Shyness and being withdrawn
  • Defiance and provocative behaviour
  • Poor concentration
  • Bad memory
  • Reading difficulties
  • Problems with spelling
  • Neurotic personality
  • Physical tiredness

These problems will not definitely occur in all people who have their writing hand changed and of course they can arise due to many other causes, but there does seem to be an association between all of these issues and a forced change of writing hand.   Our correspondents have also mentioned being bullied at school as a result of these effects.

Forcing a left-hander to change and use their right hand for writing is a very bad thing to do – please don't do it!

We received an email recently with a personal story that really shows the serious impact this can have on people and made us think about this again.   It is included in its entirety below:

From: Tonya
Subject: My mom forced me to write right-handed

I was looking up this subject because I've been trying to teach my right-handed son to tie his shoes, and since I tie my shoes left-handed I'm not much help to him. I also eat with my left, and when I was in gymnastics my left side was my dominant side.  Yet I write right-handed, and can recall my mother snatching pencils out of my left hand and saying, “No! We write with our RIGHT–see? That rhymes. Use your right hand!”  I remember it feeling weird, but I did as I was told.  I had a bed-wetting phase but always thought it was due to other things, such as being angry with my parents for other matters but in our household children were not permitted to express anger.  I've suffered anxiety and bouts of clinical depression my whole life–and PPD after the birth of my 1st baby–and until reading articles about it today never thought it could all go back to being left-converted. Wow. As an adult, I do get mentally tired easily, and fatigued sometimes for seemingly no reason.  As a child I did not stutter, but as an adult I find speaking very difficult–I can write well and easily express what I want to say in writing….but I search for words when speaking and get all tongue-tied. I'm very   introverted and soooo socially awkward.  Oh and I flunked out of typing class in high school! Hahaha.  Never could play the piano, either.  So, after reading some articles, I can see a connection, for myself, between the studied effects and my own conversion to writing right-handed. Definitely.

Your Left handed Child eBook For more information on this and all aspects of being left handed as a child and how to help left-handed children get past some of the basic challenges they will face with writing, cutting and other activities at school, download Lauren's book “Your Left-Handed Child”.Also covers:* Development of left-handedness
* Pre-school development
* Strategies for everyday life
* Left-handedness in school
* Sport
* Music
* Practical and educational resources

Download Lauren's book “Your Left-Handed Child”

Please add any of your own experiences or links to related material as comments below.

We would also be very interested in your comments on changes in the other direction – natural right-handers being forced to write left-handed as a result of physical problems such as an accident or stroke that means the cannot use their right hand (assuming nobody would have the audacity to change a right-hander to write left-handed just because of prejudice, religious views or some sense of what they should do to be “normal”!).



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248 comments on “Changing Left to Right
  1. Maxwel says:

    Hi, is there anything to do now after 15-19 years from being forced to use the right hand? Is it possible to “reactivate” the body-left-side again?

  2. Jacque Phipps says:

    My siblings were all lefties, but in care I was forced to be right handed, “why was I trying to be different!” this was in the 1960,s. I have an above average Mensa IQ and also have a degree, but back then I had the stutter, anxiety, low self esteem and got behind in class, especially with math which I was good at to begin with, then got called a cheat, I also sew upside down (to be called cak-handed by some) I still work the other way around, if you get what I mean, I still struggle though…

  3. Vonda Lorraine Peterson says:

    Has there ever been a lawsuit against a school board for forcing a left hander to write with their right hand? I know my husband struggled in so many ways as a result of this. I’m not absolutely certain, but it may have caused dyslexia. His writing is disjointed, his behavior in school was unacceptable and he struggles with finding words when he speaks. He was always good at sports.

  4. Helen says:

    My left handed 5 year old daughter broke her left arm 5 weeks ago and so obviously had to start using her right hand at school. Now she has had her cast removed but is continuing to eat and write with her right hand. Is it possible that because she is so young, she has adapted so easily and is now right handed? I’ll be quite sad if that’s the case as I’m left handed and it’s our little thing that we had on common!

  5. Brenda Payton says:

    My first grade teacher hit me with a ruler for using my left hand to print the alphabet and sent a note home to my parents saying it is not normal. My parents made me print & write with my right. I’d have to sit for an hour practicing & getting yelled at. By the time I hit 2nd grade I stuttered and had to do speech therapy. 3rd grade I couldn’t do story problems. It was horrible. I’d try & try for fear of punishment. 4th grade I started bedwetting. I couldn’t have anything to drink 2 hrs. before bed. I did bite my nails and was shy & withdrawn. I thought something was wrong with me. 2nd & 3rd grade I struggled with reading. When I learned to tie my shoes my Dad was hard. I couldn’t figure out how to do it right handed so when I used my left I was punished. My teenage years I was so very rebellious(we were never allowed to show anger). At 17 I had tried to take my life. I was so angry and hurt because I couldn’t figure out how I got to be such a bad child and I didn’t know who I Am! Only now at a much older age I am beginning to find out about me & who I am. I still struggle. I practice printing & writing with my left, I eat a lot of times with my left, I open & shut doors & cupboards with my left. I am surprised that I love drawing with my left hand. You know what my left hand doesn’t hurt when I write whereas my right hand hurts from holding pen/pencil so hard. I can’t use mechanical pencils with my right because I break the lead all the time. I can’t teach anyone to crochet because I use my right hand but like a left handed person. I find it is a slow process for me to use my left hand. I am not sure if its the comments & memories that make me hesitate. I prefer my watch on my right wrist and I was asked are you left handed you know its suppose to be on your left. I said no I prefer it on my right.

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