Handing Out Facts on Left-Handedness
Parents have been asking me a handful of questions regarding when they should know if their child is left or right-handed. Well let me hand-off some information on this topic that may provide some help.
About one in ten people is left-handed. If both parents are right-handed, the chances for a lefty are 2%. If one parent is left-handed, this increases to 17%. When both parents are left-handed, the chances are 50% for a left-handed child, with twice as many males being left handed as females.
Although most infants will begin to reach for things with their right hand beginning at 5-6 months of age, often they will begin to use their left hand as well, and it is not really until a child turns two that one can really tell what their hand preference really is. In fact, if you notice that your child is only using one hand exclusively before age two, this should be brought to your child’s doctor’s attention, since it may represent a weakness in the muscles of the unused hand.
While some studies suggest lefties are more accident prone, this is only because they have to survive in a world designed for right-handed people so this is really not a true statement. If you are a righty and need to teach a lefty, don’t try to make them a righty since this has been found to lead to problems with reading, writing, speaking, and other forms of motor difficulties, not to mention frustration with school and schoolwork. Instead, sit opposite your left-handed child and be their mirror and they’ll learn a task like tying shoes a lot quicker. As for learning to write in cursive left-handed, often learning to use a keyboard can remedy any difficulties encountered trying to master longhand.
Are there advantages to being left-handed? Left-handed children and adults seem to be just as creative as right-handed people, but they do seem to have an “upper hand” in some sports like baseball, basketball and soccer. There have been some pretty special left-handed people, such as Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and even Bart Simpson – so left-handers can certainly achieve their mark in life.
Hopefully tips like this will allow you to do the right thing so you are left knowing how to appreciate your child no matter whether they are left or right handed.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids