Wow – 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”.
Alan 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;
- 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!