April 26, 2006

Switched at an early age.

A Reader wrote:


Hello, I know this question is rather frequent, but I have some specifics I would like to ask in this community.

I was born left-handed and sometime in my early childhood I was forced to switch by my relatives, which was an unconscious decision on my part.

Sometime after the third grade I began having learning disabilities which still follow me: I get tired really fast when I start to study (read or write), things just don't add up-basically the standard lot that "plagues" lefties.

When I was starting to write as a child, my mother noticed that even while writing with my right hand, I was adopting the standard "hooked" left hand position. My handwriting was also much to the likes of a lefty.

I am 22 now and I find doing things with my left hand to be much easier in terms of "brain effort". All my life I was afraid of using my left hand and now that I have tried it-it feels so much more natural, as opposed to using my right hand.

Now, my question is as follows: I have searched the web quite extensively and failed to find anything that even remotely resembles my situation. I want to know if there can be any health (maybe even psychological) complications if I am to continue on my way of learning to wield my left hand? And speaking of relearning, what should learn first? Writing? Any other skills I should develop or maybe some activities I should concentrate on participating in at first, so the transition can be a smooth as possible?

To tell you the truth, I am quite scared and I was looking for some support and good advice.

Thank you for listening.

Max

PS: I also have had debilitating headaches which no one could explain or cure-usually it was a reaction to weather changes, but after I started (about two weeks ago) practicing doing things with my left hand here and there, they declined and are not so severe. The place of the ache itself was the left part of the brain, where the neck meets the scull.

20 comments:

  1. I've never come across anything that would suggest it is harmful for an adult to switch back to left-handed use. I have seen a lot of articles that suggest is is actually good for people, whether left- or right- handed, to practice switching hands as a way of stimulating the brain. If you find being right-handed fatiguing or stressful, and if doing things left-handed makes things easiers for your mentally or physically or both, then I think you are on the right track.

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  2. I think it is interesting about the headaches. I am partially ambidextrous and I always play around with trying everything out with either hand. I peel carrots left handed and potatoes right handed, I draw and write better with my left and throw and catch better with my right.

    What I recommend when learning how to write is to either have a pen/pencil in either hand, or switch it back and forth. Look at how you use your right hand and translate that to your left, but modify it. You will probably cross your Ts differently. Do the exercises they give little kids or writing each letter a lot, and write sentences with the right hand then the left hand. Just keep your brain open and observing your mannerisms.

    All the other tasks are pretty interchangeable for me, you may find that because the world is designed right handed you will be forced to do it one way. But I think once you get writing down you should find it easier to switch the other things as well.

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  3. Hi Max!
    This is so weird! I have been thinking myself about this for so long and I went online and managed to find your comment. I was also switched from left to right as a child. Unlike you though I don't think this has affected me as much. But then I have never really given it that much thought and who knows, maybe it has? I can sometimes be slow at picking up things and I've never figured out why. I, like you would also like to make the switch but am not sure if there is any negative impact that could result from doing that? Someone please help us! Have you managed to speak to anyone or do you know of anyone we could speak to regarding this?

    Thanks,
    Resh

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  4. Max,
    I ran across this webpage looking for what you wrote. I have bad headaches too when the weather changes in the same place as you. I too switched when I was five, (My mother and father were ambidextrous, weakness on my left side due to misaligned vertebraes in my neck made me switched. I only found out about the vertebraes when I was 29.) I have had these headaches for years. I am very dylexic if I use my right hand, didn't find this out until I was doing some lite bookkeeping. I have notice that the headaches will go away or deminish if I use my left hand. My drawings,concentration,sighting an object for measurement and distance, and play video games are all improved by using my left hand. I am going to see my current Neurologist about this posting and ask him the possibilities of this cause of headaches. I will surely post what he says.
    Thanks for posting your comment,
    Bernadine

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  5. Hi everyone,

    I've read your stories and I think I could really use some help from most of you. Here is the story.

    My step-son is 7 years old. He has been living with his mother for all his life, coming to see us once every other weekend. The tables have turned this summer and he's been living with us for the past 5 months.

    It has been a very frustrating 7 years for us as we have a very different vision of how this kid should be raised and now we feel that this is the time to change things but we also don't want to overwhelm him. Since he has been with us, we have slowly gotten him involved in sports and music, etc trying to create a new routine with him.

    One of the things we have always disagreed with is the fact that his mother encourages him to write with his left hand. It seems very uncomfortable for him but he's just always done it this way. He started by writing and drwaing with both hands back and forth and kinda got encouraged to stick with left along the way. We wonder if it is because he gets more attention given the fact that he is "different" from the other kids. (He is a kid that needs A LOT of attention). In soccer, he switches from right kick to left kick and his right is significantly stronger. His right arm is much stronger as well in many ways (throwing the ball, arm wrestling, golfing, pool, etc.).

    Right now, he is in grade 2 and his writing is horrible. We asked him to try go write his name with his right for fun. He did it reluctantly. Considering that he has been practicing writing with his left for 3 years, his right hand writing was very similar to his left. We are considering asking him to switch to right hand but we know it would be challenging route.

    Can you help? What are your thoughts?

    Thanks.

    Julie

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  6. One more thing.

    The other reason we think he might be right handed is that he has no problem whatsoever with tying laces, buttoning shirts, using scisors or any other difficulty I see other left handed kids having.

    I just want to do the right thing and not mess him up.

    Let me know.

    Thanks

    Julie

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  7. Julie,

    What an interesting set of questions! In the little bit of reading I've done, there seems to be no clear understanding of when laterality should be determined (if indeed it is) for a given child. My daughter was a big-time lefty by 9 mos. My cousin's son is ambidextrous still at 6. I had a teacher who was fully ambidextrous as an adult and used to trade off the hand he wrote on the board with just to shake us up.

    My advice would be to tell the kid that he should try writing, cutting, throwing, kicking, and everything else with BOTH hands. He may find he cuts better with his right. but pitches a ball better with his left (like my "lefty" sister). He may golf left-handed but write right-handed (like my "righty" friend). Ambidexterity is pretty cool.

    As for me, I type a lot faster than I can use a mouse and prefer to use keyboard commands. I've found that if I use the computer mouse with my left hand, the qwerty keyboard is easier to position in front of the computer screen. Does that make me quasi-lefty, or just smart and efficient?

    And don't sweat the messy handwriting. Here the question is if he can read it back or not. My daughter's handwriting didn't clear up until she hit 6th grade and learned about "bubble letters" . Somehow by thinking about letters as art she finally caught on.

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  8. I was a left/right switch. I am ambidextrous. I have two sons and I left them to made the decision for themselves. One was 7 years old before he decided to eat with his right hand. They are both ambidextrous. One problem that I see that being switched created for me was walking. I have to stop and think which foot to lead with. I know that sounds silly, but I have to literally pause and put my brain in gear. I feel confused. I lead with my left foot. This might be a clue for some of you.

    I also get lost inside of buildings. I have absolutely no sense of direction without an outside reference and have to watch the numbering on the doors in motels because I get completely turned around.

    I also have problems spelling simple 3 and 4 letter words.

    Each of my sons also have some of these problems. My oldest boy eats and writes and draws right handed. He is a artist. Everything else he does left handed. My youngest son shoots a gun, and shoots pool left handed. He writes and plays guitar right handed. Eats left handed. He is also an artist, stone mason and carves beautiful fireplace mantels.

    They both have genius IQ's, both are artists, and my oldest was held out of kindergarden because he had the vocabulary of a sophmore in college.

    I write right handed but I found a book that I had signed when I was in the third grade. Today at 63, if I sign my name with my left hand it looks exactly like my third grade signature.
    ..
    I was very lucky to be given piano lessons starting at 4 years old. I think this really strengthened my switching skills. I am a writer and write with my left brain, typing 90 words a minute. When I get a chapter done, I then go right brained and correct all the grammer, punctuation, and made sure it is in sequence. I taught myself this because I would get so bogged down making sure everything was correct that I would lose sense of what I was trying to write.

    I want to thank Cotopaxi for the tip about moving the mouse. I am also a fast typist and that mouse on the right side has bugged me for years. I don't know why I didn't think of it.

    My youngest son's biggest accomplishment was the day he tied his own shoes for the first time without help. He was 7 years old and we celebrated with Pizza.

    I hope this helps some of you. If anyone else has the lead off foot problem let me know.

    Joan from Cotopaxi, Colorado

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  9. By the way, people! I have an interesting piece of information for lefties, who are into spiritual practices of any kind(from martial arts to holotropic breathing):

    People with right-hand brain alignment RECEIVE energy with their LEFT and GIVE energy with their RIGHT. We(no wonder), have this configuration working vice-versa. So if you get stuck or something doesn`t work as it should during these practices, try doing them according to this scheme: receive with right(right is passive, female), give with your left(for us, left is male and is active).

    Don`t forget that the brain controls the sides of the body in a crossover position: the left controls the right side, the right, respectively-the left side. So, our right brain is male, and left-female.

    Hope this helps!

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  10. Test out all activities and subjects with your newly discovered hand and I believe you will find the what you like best to learn. I don't think there needs to be any particular order.

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  11. I was born left handed and switched to be right handed. I have a no sense of direction problem and I have always wondered if that is the cause. I even turn in the wrong direction with I go upstairs to my house to go into my room. I have lived with this since childhood. I am afraid to drive because I am afraid I will never get home.

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  12. Barbara. It's hard to know whether being switched has contributed to (or caused) your problem with sense of direction. I can tell you, though, that I hear from a lot of people who were switched in childhood who find relief from some of their problems when they start switching back. It might be worthwhile to start working with your left hand in various ways. The safest way to start is to try writing with your left hand. It may be hard at first, but a little practice every day can have great results.

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  13. Hi, I am also a lefty forced to switch to right. I have some of the same problems you guys have, sense of direction, I feel I have a learning disability that may not have been diagnosed, I get the headache at the base of my skull where it meets the neck. I have heard from a person that said, "If you are changed from the natural writing hand, it can pose psychological problems." because your brain halves do different things and makes it harder for our switched brains to work, she really didn't get into more at the time I had just happened to meet her over the phone at work. She had some kind of Phd. but at them time I was 18 so I really didn't look into to it as much as I think I should have, now. So, don't change the lefties!! I wish Bjoyful would have kept in contact with this site to see what that Dr. had to say about it. So, now I will continue to search it out. Good luck everyone, if I find anything of interest I will post.

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  14. I'm mixed dominance, but too aware of what I do to be diagnosed further than that - which is telling on its own. As long as I remember, I've always struggled with what was "proper" and what I felt as far as right and left and expectations at home.
    For a few years, when I was a substitute, I tried something in the small special education classes which had some very smart students. I sent them to the white board and told them to write their names, then write their names again with the other hand (I was very observant at this time). They'd often protest, so I'd demonstrate. Then I had them rewrite their name with the first hand they used. The name always looked better, then I'd challenge sloppy ones to match either way I wrote.
    From my major which was a lot of anatomy and physiology, I gave them the information that when you touch something hot, both hands respond...a nerve sends messages to the brain and also directly to the opposite site of the body so the body can coordinate. That means that after they got input from the opposite hand, the other responded.
    I also pointed out that historically, few sat at a desk all day with right handed instructions and tools. I challenged them to use both hands and not be exclusive to one, except maybe in writing. I've also challenged students in junior high to track reading with their "non dominant" hand and their reading improved (sometimes immensely, as did their comfort zone)- just the experimental creative science major in me that doesn't want to stop learning.
    I know that saying sounds while writing letters or words, helps tie hearing, speech and manual movement together to improve writing - I used this with many students to improve reading skills.
    I googled to this site because I am now limited in the use of my dominant? eye and ear and I get confused in directions and speech. I also have a diagnosed balance problem. Using two hands is more important than it used to be, as is moving through space but I am looking for a coordination point in the brain or brain stem, which has been identified as relative somehow, so I'll google on.

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  15. Like almost everyone who commented, I am a lefty forced to switch at an early age. But unlike everyone who commented, I have none of the problems you guys mentioned. I have amazing sense of direction, straight A grades, no learning disabilities, ect. My sister switched young and she is also like this.
    I DO however get horrible headaches. I was told by my doctor its chronic migranes.

    I came across this website when I was looking for how to switch hands. I just want to learn how to write left handed. It just seems like something useful to me, for some reason.

    But now I would like to know, how do you explain Rafael Nadal? He is the world number 1 tennis player. He is right handed, but plays tennis with his left. When he was younger, he used both hands on his forehand. He was going to play right handed, but his uncle forced him to switch to left to give him an advantage over rightys. Tennis is the only thing Nadal does with his left hand, he's a righty in everything else. His tennis is flawless though! So, is it just lots of practice? Or might he be ambidextrous?

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  16. Stephanie: I don't think handedness is always the either-or thing that some people imagine it to be. Consider this. In a country where people drive on the right, the driver's seat is on the left side of the car, and the gear shift is to his right, used with the right hand. But in a country where people drive on the left, the driver's seat is on the right, and the gear shift is to his left, used with the left hand. This doesn't seem to cause a lot of trouble. Most healthy people are using both hands all the time; the non-dominant hand usually takes a supporting role, but sometimes the roles are equal. I suspect that most people could learn to do more with the non-dominant hand if they were motivated. Athletes are often highly motivated.

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  17. Hi everyone,

    I wanted to know if switching writing hands could be harmful so I googled and luckily found this site. I am 21 years old. As far as I know, I have always been left handed. When I was at school me and my mates would sometimes scrawl with our opposite hands for fun. From that I realised that I could write much better with my right hand than my mates could with their left and also at a steady speed.
    Last week I decided to start practising. Unusually, I started getting headaches on the left side around the middle of the skull. Now I have them in the middle and they're quite unplesant. This is happening worse everytime I try to relearn writing fairly legibly with my right hand as I usually kind of forget how to do it the next day.

    I really want to learn to write with my right hand to be permanently ambidextrous but I don't want permanent headaches either! Any help would be greatly appreciated...

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  18. Sorry. I made an error in my last post. I have been getting headaches on my RIGHT side not my left. Apologies for that.

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  19. Natasha - Of course, we can't give medical advice here. I would suggest that you examine all the factors surrounding these headaches. It's known that either physical or mental stress can cause headaches. Consider your posture and the position of your arm when you are writing. Is your arm properly supported, and do you have the paper in the correct position for right-handed writing? Be sure that your shoulder and neck are not tensed, twisted or slumped while you write.

    You might also look at other factors. Even though it may seem that the headaches are related to the writing, there may be other factors. Changes in habits such as caffeine use, smoking, sleep habits, exercise, etc., could be causing a problem.

    Finally, if these headaches persist, it may be a good idea to get a medical opinion.

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  20. Hello! I read what you wrote and some of the situations that you are having is the same as mine. I was born left handed but, same as you, I was forced to write and do stuff with my right hand.
    Now, I'm right handed but I still do start something with my left hand like using guitar, violin and others....
    I'm sorry if this comment didn't help you at all... but I think we are a little bit the same ^^

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