After we wrote an article recently on the general effects that can result from forcing a natural left-hander to write right-handed, we were contacted by lots of Members about stuttering in particular and it is clearly something that causes people huge problems throughout their lives and we would like to highlight it further.
You can see from the messages we have included below that, at least for those that contacted us:
- Their stuttering was directly connected to being forced to change writing hands at a young age
- It had a dramatic negative effect on them, often lasting their whole lives
- In some case at least, once they changed back to writing left-handed their stuttering stopped
Now this is only anecdotal evidence but it is pretty clear!
There has been research over the years that has found the percentage of stutterers who are left handed is much higher than the general population but that was not specifically linked to forced hand change (and would depend whether the people who had been changed were still classed as “left-handers” in the research!).
There was also one piece of research as far back as 1940 that actually indicated that lefthanders were LESS likely to be stutterers (but again definitions can cause a problem as the lefthanders who were forced to change and then stuttered may well have been counted as right-handers!).
We have not been able to find any solid research about this and on the British Stammering Association website it is not mentioned apart from very briefly in a couple of contributed articles, again with no actual research background. We found an interesting article on the subject here where the author noted:
- About 1% of the human population stutters, more males than females.
- Many studies have both empirically and observationally demonstrated a link between left-handedness and stuttering (the one referenced is “Bryngelson, B., & Clark, T. (1933). Left-handedness and stuttering Journal of Heredity, 24, 387-390”)
- And that as the incidence of left-handers being forced to change in recent years has been reducing, we would expect to see a reduction in the total percentage of stutters, but that does not seem to have happened.
We have since come across a short research review showing how the theory connecting forced hand change and stuttering has become more and less accepted over the years:
Retraining left-handers and the aetiology of stuttering: the rise and fall of an intriguing theory
It is clear that there are many causes of stuttering and it does seem to be at least partly genetic and has been shown to run in families. Given the high number of people it affects, the proportion of them who have changed handedness as a definite cause is going to be very small, but from what people tell us, it can be a very traumatic and lifelong problem that, in these cases, could have been avoided by just leaving the left-hander to develop naturally!
We would be very interested to hear more of your personal experiences and also find out if there has been any more research conducted into this that we have not been able to find. Please add any thoughts as comments at the bottom of this article.
- Our original article “The effect of changing left to right handed“
- Update on changing left-handers to right
- Punished for using left hand
Messages we have received specifically about stuttering
In the first grade, our teacher wanted us (two leftys) to switch to the right hand, I refused and would not do it, My friend agreed and in a very short time started to stutter, 2 years later, a visiting education PHD from the US, sat in our class, my former lefty friend was asked a question by the guest and his stuttering got worse because of his nervousness, The visitor inquired if he always stuttered and was told that it happened in the first grade, he further asked if the kid used to be left handed and the teacher proudly said that she had curedâ€ his left handed problem.
Our guest then told her to make sure to make the boy write with his LEFT HAND
His stuttering was gone in a few weeks.
- My teacher wanted me to write right handed. She taped my paper to the desk and made me write with my right hand. I began to stutter and my father was on me all the time to stop. I was grounded and humiliated by my father. I finally told him what the teacher was doing with my paper to get me to write right-handed.
My father went to the school and told the teacher to leave me alone and let me write with the hand I wanted to write with. My stuttering stopped.
- I was born left handed along with my 2 brothers and my sister. They are all still left handed and I was switched in school unlike the others. I also had to take speech class in school for stuttering. What are other affects of switching hands? Molly S
- I think there is a link between switching from left to right hand, and stuttering, but I think that it takes a “trigger” to set off the stuttering. I was naturally left handed, but had it beaten out of me in school (age 4-5 on). All was fairly normal until, age 12, I had 4 teeth extracted under a general anesthetic. The very minute they woke me from the operation I could not talk, and suffered from stuttering for the subsequent 20 years (like many stutterers I now have it under control). I think forcibly switching from left to right hand sets the scene for stuttering – a traumatic event can then set it off.
Just my opinion, but I have had 30+ years to try to analyze the sequence of events.
- At the earliest signs of being left-handed my mother trained me to be right-handed. I think this may have hindered my verbal and social abilities, as I've always been extremely shy and unable to express anger properly – I used to stutter as a child when I was angry. I'm still not good at expressing myself verbally, thoughts are easier to communicate on paper for me, and my social skills are still lagging behind others. I excelled in school, math and science, and sports; ventures that require a lot of competition but not communication. I began college with a football scholarship and majored in physics but quit school after two years, probably due to a lack of social skills that caused me to abuse alcohol and other drugs. I finally cleaned my life up and at age 30 earned my college degree in philosophy with a heavy emphasis on psychology, and then attempted law school, but I still don't have the social skills necessary for the profession, so I'm working in the telecommunications construction industry, climbing towers, installing lines and antennas for cell phone carriers. I believe having been switched from my natural left-handedness to being right-handed has had negative side effects, and I highly discourage the practice.
- As the class clown, I was devilish, but those nuns had it in for me and were determined to make me â€˜right’â€¦ no matter the cost. In this case, of course, it was the horrendous stuttering problem that emerged. No one could figure that one out. Not the expensive therapist, not even me. I just remember beginning to stutter. Nowâ€¦ nothing is worse than a stuttering child, especially if they are Math-oriented and can quickly produce the right answers.So I was greeted with a chorus of laughter every time I stammered or blocked. So finally, I decided to â€˜make â€˜em laugh’ â€¦.at least I’d be in on the joke, and I developed my weird interpretations and free-flowing, goofy impressions of cartoon characters, which, by the way, most nuns and later teachers were greatly entertained. I didn’t stutter when I mimicked Goofyâ€ or Mickeyâ€ or, my favorite, Bullwinkle.â€ Nevertheless, when I began to give into this burbling to the top of this latent lefthandedness the stuttering began to quieten down. Here I am at sixty and I finally have conquered stuttering and am able to do EVERYTHING left-handedâ€¦ if I want.
- I write right-handed now but 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've suffered anxiety and bouts of clinical depression my whole life and until reading your articles about it never thought it could all go back to being left-converted. Wow. 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. I can see a connection, for myself, between the studied effects and my own conversion to writing right-handed. Definitely.
- I am now in my 70's but well remember being treated with contempt at school because I was left handed. I was forced to write with my right hand and finished up with a stutter.
- When I was in infant school and learning to write I was made to write right handedly. I developed a stutter and became distressed by this. When my mother discovered what was happening, she went to the school to complain and insist that I should be allowed to write with my left hand. The school complied with this and my stutter vanished.
- I had never thought about my â€˜affliction’ because I was one of the lucky ones who had been changed via a harness, when in the first grades to the acceptable right-handed scholarâ€¦ this in a religious-oriented school, btw.â€
Soâ€¦â€¦..I then developed a massive stutter that, for all intents and purposes, changed my life foreverâ€¦ specifically my interactions with other students and friends who now viewed me as somewhat defective.
Of course that was the simple version: The real tragedy related to my entire communicative life â€” It was very disturbing for me to speak with those necessary in my profession in order to pitch ideas BECAUSE of the stuttering caused by the mechanical change to righthandedness. For almost twenty-five years, I stuttered heavily, so heavily people would turn their heads and look in other directions when I spoke or attempted to speak. More than one job was lost because I just could not effectively communicate the ideas so streaming through my head in a coherent fashion, one understandable to others.
I was so embarassed by this as a young boy when I attempted to speak to a girl. The first girl I fell in love with who remains the ove of my life (her name was Gailâ€), was listening to a joke her mother had made when she answered my call and when I was trying to say â€˜Hello’ to her, stammering and hung-up on the H,â€ a difficult letter to enunciate, I thought she was laughing at my stuttering, and although she apologized profusely as I continued to attempt speaking, I relived that moment for eons.
All of this caused by someone determining that I should be a right hander in order to be Rightâ€ for society.
After I began noticing that my left hand could do some pretty amazing things when I was thirty-nine, I tried to use it and found that my stuttering diminished.
I now speak well, no stuttering.
But my life was changed forever by this force-change to an acceptable right handed personage.
I cant begin to tell you the problems I’ve had being a leftie. Teachers at school persisted in trying to make me write right and caused me to stammer which I still do now.