Article by: Vanessa Fiorelli, COTA/L
Approximately 10% of the population are left-handed. Our world is designed for right-handed dominance. Being left-handed does come with some difficulties, especially for children developing skills.
As a left-handed child growing up in a righty dominant household, I encountered difficulties performing some daily tasks.
A few daily tasks that affected me as a lefty:
- Using a can opener was difficult, lefties must reach across the can and turn the crank in an awkward angle. ( the can top was often beat up by the time I was successful)
- Writing in a 3 spiral notebook or binder.( it was annoying , let me tell you)
- In college, using lecture hall desks are positioned on the right side. This required me to angle my body and paper. ( I was not copying or cheating!)
- I learned to use scissors and a computer mouse with my right hand in elementary school.
Handwriting is considered the most challenging daily activity for left-handed children to perform, I can confirm. My baseline orientation (writing on the line) and spatial awareness was a struggle in grade school. I smudged my work until I learned to tilt my paper almost all the way horizontally. Left-handed children push the pencil across the page while right-handed children pull the pencil. A pulling movement is a smoother action. I often would feel fatigued when writing during a school day, which created “ sloppy” handwriting, which often is accurate with left handed children.This statement is often made by parents of left – handed children.
As a clinician(occupational therapist), working in both a school and clinical setting, I have noticed my lefty clients struggling with handwriting, which is a common concern for parents bringing their child to receive services.
Here are some parent tips to help your left-handed child be more successful with handwriting.
- Tilt the top of the child’s paper to the right, parallel to the forearm. This will decrease smudging.
- Keep pencils and crayons sharp to help the utensil glide easier across the page. Mechanical pencils are less likely to smudge than regular pencils.
- Observe your child’s pencil grip and style of writing. Holding the writing utensil 1.5 inches above the tip, it will allow them to see what they are writing in efforts to avoid the hook grasp.Try to encourage keeping the wrist straight, left handed children can easily develop a “ hook grasp” which is not an efficient grasp. It can cause pain and fatigue as the demand of handwriting increases with transitioning to higher grade levels.
- Give more space on the left side of the table to give the dominant arm a place to rest. Right-handed children write with their arm moving away from the body. While left-handed children write with their arm moving towards their body, making it more challenging.
- It is difficult for lefties to utilize their spacer as a finger. Imagine writing an O in between words to get more accurate sized spacing, or have the child move a small piece of paper the size of a post it note over slightly ( about ¼ of an inch) and begin the next word, or adaptive paper.
There’s many resources on the internet specializing in left handed supplies.Here are a few that caught my eye: