September 4, 2007

Reading: is it just me?

A Reader wrote:


Hi all you southpaws. What a fun and informative site. Thanks.

Okay, I have to admit this right away. I am one mixed up dude. I'm not ambidextrous, but I do things with either hand. To be more specific, I am left-handed and right-armed.

When I throw a ball, bowl, play tennis or any other activity that involves using my shoulder and hand, I am a righty. When I write or eat or do anything that doesn't involve the shoulder to a great degree, I am a lefty.

As with a number of people who've written here, I don't find that I'm very imaginative or artistic. I've had my moments in both areas, but it is not my natural inclination.

Probably the most disconcerting thing I've always attributed to being a lefty is my inability to read and comprehend easily. I always got good grades in school, but I attribute this to having an excellent memory, rather than any great reading ability.

I remember taking a speed reading course in high school and getting absolutely nowhere. I could never develop the ability to view a large number of words at a time and getting its meaning. When I was a child, we heard about then President Kennedy's ability to read at some fantastic rate like 17,000 words per minute and when I couldn't grasp more than a couple hundred a minute, I felt like a failure.

Long story short, I was never much of a reader because it wasn't very easy for me to read quickly. It can take me a very long time to read an entire book. Now as I get older, I want to read more and what I want to read usually involves scientific or philosophical concepts. The upshot of this is that I find myself re-reading a paragraph a number of times to get its meaning. This might not be unusual, but I also find myself re-reading magazine articles, more because I can't stay focused than because I don't understand what I'm reading.

Sometimes, I attribute this to mild dyslexia, or perhaps a touch of ADHD, or even simply a lazy mind.

What I'm wondering, then, is do other lefties find reading difficult? If so, have you discovered any methods of improving this?

Thanks,
Mixed-Up Man

46 comments:

  1. Personally, I don't find reading difficult at all-Quite the oppisite, I love to read, and over the years I've gotten pretty good at it. Though, I suppose I'm pretty much a sterotype Leftie- Personally I think I'm creative, I like coming up with storys and constructing things with LEGOs. Don't feel bad, though-Reading isn't for everybody. Though, if you really want to, practice makes perfect-Just keep reading, it'll get easier, trust me.=)

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  2. This is really interesting to me because my son is left-handed and is having the same problem with reading and writing. When I help him with his homework each evening I am noticing this more and more. For example, when we were going over his spelling words he would say "is" but write down "si". He does this with about 20% of his work. I am guessing that this is more common than I thought.

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  3. Yes, Lindsey, being a lefty can be a bit daunting in a right-handed world.

    While I don't read Hebrew, I am curious to know if that would be an easier language for me seeing as how it is read right to left. I'm sure there are some left-handed readers of Hebrew who might have a comment on their own left vs right reading ability.

    (Something related to this is that I can write (in cursive) rather quickly backwards. It is little more than an interesting parlor (or bar) trick, but there it is.)

    As for your son, you didn't mention his age, but this could be just a student's normal learning curve rather than dislexia. Still, it's good that you are keeping on top of it. In the meantime celebrate and encourage his right-brained (left-handed) intelligence and creativity.

    After all, while the left-brained people built and control the world's operating system, it is the right-brained folks who create what we love about the world like art, poetry, music and all the other things that instill joy in the human heart.

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  4. I am the only left handed person in my family. My son, who has Asperger's Syndrome, is right handed, which I'm told is unusual, since so many autistic-spectrum folks are left-handed. He, too, has reading and comprehension problems. He has a condition called "hyperlexia", he can read fast, but is not retaining a lot of information. Ah, genetics!

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  5. Your left hand, right armed description describes me perfectly but I have never had trouble reading. I am an avid reader in fact. Writing is a different matter... my son's 2nd grade teacher send back a paper I had signed because she thought he had signed it.

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  6. I enjoy reading a lot and haven't had any difficulties with it. Writing has improved over time but is more complicated indeed.

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  7. I am a lefty and I was in special classes from 1st to third grade because I could not write well. I could always comprehend what I read well, but I've never been a fast reader. I can't throw anything with my right hand, but I bat right handed.

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  8. I had no idea that being left handed was connected to ADHD or dyslexia. I have 2 sons. One is left handed and the other is right handed. They are both excellent readers. This gives me a whole new perspective to think about!

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  9. Honestly I did not start really reading until late into my 20s. Reading to me is something that some will take off early in life and do or later on and that is what happened to me. There is no rule book that states how fast you must read or how many books you must read. It's all up to you and what you find comfortable. I don't think being left-handed has anything to do with it. You just have not found something that will hold your interest that's all. Give it time, it will come to you and when it does it will open up new worlds, ideas and thoughts.

    Great writing and subject!

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  10. I have the same problem as you. I'm lefty and I write left handed. But I hit the baseball with my right, but I throw with my left. I play soccer kicking with my right leg. And I can only use right handed scissors. When it comes to reading, I have to reread a paragraph several times to get the true meaning. If the reading is for school, that is when I am a slow reader. But if it's something I am interested in, then I can grasp the meaning of it fairly fast. I reread things because I enjoy it and I always learn something new...it's like watching the same movie several times. Good luck and keep practicing =)

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  11. I don't believe there is any connection between being left handed and difficulty in reading. Handwriting, however, is another issue altogether...

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  12. Hi!
    I have no problem reading. I have two bachelors degrees and never had problems reading. I am totally left-handed. Good luck to you!

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  13. I am strongly left handed and have been an avid reader as long as I can remember. I never have gotten the knack for speed reading, but I can't say I've put in a lot of effort. My "normal" reading speed has always worked for me, and I have an advance degree (doctorate)

    For a long time, I didn't consider myself particularly artistic or creative because I am horrible at the classic artistic pursuits (drawing, painting, sculpture, etc.), however, I've recently come to accept the artistic label more comfortably as I do excel in alternative artistic areas such as jewelery design and fiber arts.

    My father writes left handed, does everything else right handed. As far as I know, he was never switched, this is just his natural inclination.

    My mother is right handed, as are both my siblings (1 sister, 1 brother) and all my nieces and nephews (I have no children of my own.) I had a paternal uncle who was left handed, but no other lefties to be found in the immediate/extended family.

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  14. I am the opposite--I write and bat right handed, and throw, bowl, etc., lefty. And then everything else--eat, put on makeup, brush my hair/teeth, I switch hands--I was never aware that this was strange until my mom saw me putting on mascara a few years ago--left eye w/left hand, right eye w/right. :)

    But my almost 5 year old daughter is looking to be the opposite of me. She writes purely lefty and throws righty, and for everything else she will use one hand one day and one the other.

    The reason I found this site was I was searching for info on backwards/mirror writing and found it to be a lefty thing. Did any of you do that as a child? My daughter is writing her name completely backwards--not only is she writing ECARG instead of GRACE, but she is making all of the letters backwards also.

    I'm guessing this is one of the problems you guys refer to when you say that writing is more difficult for lefties. Or I should say I'm hoping. :)

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  15. Laura,

    When I refer to the difficulties in writing for lefties, I am thinking mostly of the problems that relate to the angle of the paper that may cause some lefties to hook the wrist, etc.

    Backwards writing is actually not unusual for children, and happens with both lefties and righties, although I believe it is more common with lefties. I think it is actually a little easier for a left-handed person to write right-to-left rather than left-to-right. My niece did this for quite a while when she was in the process of learning to write. She would right entire phrases in "mirror image" form. Nobody tried to correct her, and eventually she started doing it the "right" way on her own. Making sue the paper is angled the right way can help with this process.

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  16. I stumbled upon this site after learning Troy Smith was "cross-dominate". After reading through several websites, I am learning about left handed-right handed, etc. I had no idea there is a website designed specifically for left handers :) I am not sure if I am a lefty or righty. I write left handed. I remember in 3rd grade my teacher was trying to make me write cursive with my right hand, but I did better with my left hand. I really do not think about any of this, but since many individuals on this forum do, I am open to any thoughts. When I played sports, I was all right handed, although I could switch hit when I tried. I did well. I could throw lefty, but not naturally. I do not even think about how I use my left hand. Holding a hand gun is one, although I have only shot it few times. A rifle I will use with the right hand. More or less, I do everything right handed, but write. I might eat sometimes using my left hand. For other trivial tasks I might use my left hand. As far as sports, I have pinpoint control when throwing a football or baseball. And I do not curl my hand when writing. I am not a slow reader. I am creative, but not an artist. This is very interesting. Does anyone recommend a particular article or subject matter? Please email.

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  17. I'm the only left hander in my family. I use my left hand for most tasks, the computer mouse being about the only exception, though sometimes I use my left hand in a mouse only application (like a game) when my right gets tired. That being said, I can't remember ever having difficulty reading. My older siblings used "Phonics", but I think I learned a lot just reading comics and some books early on. Now as an adult, I can read very fast. So I really don't think left handers are inherently poor readers at all.

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  18. Myself I am very left sided and handed as well as visual in nature. For me reading can be either very slow if its something I have to do in a linear, word by word manor as opposed to what I call page reading where I take a kind of snapshot of the page then break it down in my mind. I tend to have trouble with speech and languages more. If I don't slow my thoughts down then I tend to talk and discuss in a kind of multi task manor. In this I mean I can be talking about 4 different unrelated subjects at the same time with my words and phrases coming out in a non sequenced manor. I know what I am saying but its kind of hard for others to understand I guess.

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  19. I am similar, in that for writing and other fine motor skills, I am far better with my left, but for strength I am stronger on the right. I think it partially has to do with how we grow up. I know I was taught to use scissors, hit a ball, catch, etc, by right handed people. I developed more muscles in my right arm until it surpassed my left in terms of general power.

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  20. I also tend to have trouble reading/writing. If i'm reading something that's of interest to me, i usually have no trouble. When it comes to reading anything written in an unusual or unfamiliar style, or any type of long argumentative essay, I have a hard time paying attention or grasping meaning. This also happens to me with any sort of science textbooks. For example, even though I understand and enjoy math, I had a really hard time reading my physics or chem textbook and trying to apply it to concepts. In either course I would spend hours just reading though one chapter and trying to understand everything. Analytical writing also takes me a long time-I would spend twice as long on a two-five page paper as my peers would. I find myself thinking a lot about what i have to write before I actually do write and a spending a long time thinking about how to put my thinking into words. Many times my writing come out awkwardly or nonsensical because I haven't quite formulated the sentences right.

    My senior high school english teacher was left handed and an avid reader/writer, and offered a few tips to everyone in my class who had trouble comprehending or paying attention to readings. When reading, she told us to read aloud in our heads and before continuing make sure you know what you just read makes sense in relation to the rest of the reading. When writing, she always recommended making an outline so essays would make sense beforehand. This really helped me later on in writing research papers.

    I too have wondered if it is indeed dyslexia or ADHD that attributes to these problems, but I think it has to do more with being way the way we think. Since we use our right brains more, which tends to think visually and intuitively, there's a disconnect between the linear input/output of speech (right side of brain) and the dominant way in which we lefties understand concepts (left side of brain).
    I think it's this translation between thought processes that causes some of us to read/write slower, not necessarily that we're any worse at reading or have ADHD or dyslexia.

    On a side note, I

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  21. I am left-handed and have never had problems with either reading or writing. In fact, I began reading at age 3, long before I started writing, but now I kind of want to know if I had a dominant coloring hand as a child.

    As far as the creative thing...Almost all of my family is into the athletic scene, or the scientific/analytical scene, and I am a music education major. (I had to choose between that and art...go figure!)

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  22. Great article: I thought I was the only one who had these reading experiences and now I know it's not just me. I look forward to more articles !

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  23. I was about three when I started reading, and it has never been a problem for me. In college I took a speed-reading course, but it was of no help to me, since I was already a fast reader. I never learned how to read groups of words all at once, though; I read one word at a time. Recently someone who had taken a speed reading course told me that he believed it really just taught how to scan rather than truly read, so that you would pick up the key words and ideas but not really get the details.

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  24. Oh my gosh.

    I work in an elementary school library and have always struggled with my own child who is 17 and always has been a reluctant reader. My son is right handed (avid reader) and when my daughter was born I watched with excitement hoping she would develop the special left-handed trait. My grandmother, dad, and husband are all left-handed. Sure enough she's left-handed! She has very good grades and scores well in reading comprehension. She is artistic and is currently studying abroad as she has an amazing ability with speaking and understanding languages. Writing and reading have never been her passion. She hates to read for pleasure.

    Then I was reading an old library skills manual that told librarians to teach left-handed students to turn the page with their right hand. The lights went on. I tested my husband and asked him to read two pages. Sure enough, after the first page he struggled to use his right hand to start the page and then closed the book so that he could grab the page and turn it with his left hand. It was tedious and I'm sure it interrupted the flow. How many students with "reading problems" are at least partially struggling with something that is only a mechanical problem? Wow. My brain is clicking away!

    PS - my grandmother is 96 and writes right handed because she was whacked by a ruler when she tried to use her left hand. When we built our house the contractor said we were putting the dishwasher on the left-hander side. I said bring it on, that's where the dishwasher was when I grew up!

    Signed, a left-handed sympathizer and advocate

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  25. Sonja - Your description of page-turning is a new one to me! I'm left handed and have always turned the pages of a book with my right hand. I don't think anyone deliberately taught me to do that, I think it just came naturally because that's the way books are built. But I can see that a really hard-core lefty would have to do what your husband does, or else reach across the page to turn it. Either way, it's disruptive.

    I think you are right that many people who struggle with reading (or math, or any other subject) may actually be running into mechanical (or environmental) problems that could be solved fairly easily.

    Thanks for the eye opener.

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  26. Yes I have the same problem, but I'm totally a lefty; I do everything with my left. I'm not sure but I think it has do with our thought processes, I know that most left handed people use their right side of the brain then their left, that's what makes mostly a lefty. Basically the right side of the brain is good at focusing visual things and pragmatic things. Tell me is it easier for you to remember a person's face or a person's name. Most left handed people are more likely to remember faces than names because our brain is designed to program to see visually, and I think that's why some left handed have a hard time reading because it is not visual enough. Anyway, I do not have a solution to solve this problem but I would suggest keep practicing, practice makes perfect. :)

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  27. I am in engineering college and was recently diagnosed with ADHD and a mild form of dyslexia. I am left-handed as well. Funny thing is that I have failed Pre-Calculus, yet I can do Calculus 3. I am a swimmer in college and I think it really helps to keep my attention focused when I get bored and start to daydream. I have 3 U.S. Patents, own a business doing computer animation and industrial design and I am 19 years-old. I am literally failing some classes and I don't want to change from engineering to something else. Is there anyone else struggling like me? Thanks.

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  28. I am right handed but have a lot of the reading problems as you do which is interesting now that I have read a lot of the comments, seeing how most of them are left handed. I too find my self writing words backwards sometimes and also re-reading a paragraph many times in an attempt to understand it. Very interesting, just thought I would throw in that paradox.

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  29. The thought about turning pages was new to me as well. I usually reach from the top or the bottom of the book to turn the pages (when I'm not reading manga) and flip my right thumb under the next page so I can read without stopping. Hold the book in my right hand, so that I can use my dominant hand to do something else. When I first read a Japanese-style manga, I realized the direction was right for a lefty (no pun intended). You read from right to left, and the spine (looking at the cover) is on the right.

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  30. My daughter, 10, is a lefty and ice skates righty, has beautiful printing and cursive (better than most adults) and has always been ahead of her grade in reading. I was searching the topic of lefties turning pages as I saw my daughter fumbling with a 4 page math test where she completely missed one entire page. Her teacher marked them wrong on the test - that's another story. But, it made me wonder if lefties struggle with page turning whether it's a book or papers stapled together on the left. It's not the first time she has missed something on a test and it's not because she did not know the answer(s). I just figured she was careless or absent-minded but now I wonder if her left-handedness has anything to do with the fumbling of the pages, flipping it over one way then the other struggling to find the front page (of the test) and that is how she's messed up on her tests. I empathize with all you lefties in a righty world.

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  31. In response to Laura (last Sept-oops!) I still mirror write to this very day and it feels as natural as anything. There's not very much info on it, though. But yes, on the other hand (no pun intended HA!) I hear DaVinci did it, so that's something inspiring that doesn't make you feel like a freak. :) Yes, I flip through the phone book from the back, look like a bumbling idiot using a can opener, and still can't drive with some one else giving me directions-they say right, I go left. Got kicked out of marching band for that one. There are a lot of things academically that a lefty may struggle more with, but it just makes them all that much stronger if encouraged. I hold a 3.4 gpa now. Luckily my dad is a lefty so I had someone who I could sit next to and not bump elbows, teach me to tie shoes, and tell my t-ball coach to get me off the bench and give me the right glove. Remember righty parents, EVERYTHING you're showing your child looks to them like you're doing it in a mirror. Try it looking in a mirror and see if it confuses you-if it does, seek an alternate route of teaching or another lefty to help :)

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  32. I was amazed with Maulioa's comment because I am just the opposite in an opposite way. I still cant figure out what handed I really am, but assume Im a leftie. When I throw or kick a ball, play guitar, bowl or turn pages in a book I am a leftie. When I write or eat or brush my teeth I am a rightie. My entire childhood and most of my life I believed I was a rightie because I wrote with my right hand and everyone labelled me as so, but when my dad took us to play tennis or baseball (I had two brothers) and it was my turn, my dad shouted to Eric to throw me his left hand mit. I froze and said, 'but dad if I cover up my left hand I cannot throw' but still not one person recogized this. At 37 a few years ago I finally started to question all this. I wear my watch on my right wrist and could never wind it with my right all twisted up. now I feel that I was violated and forced as a child to do what I didnt naturally and have this strong desire to change it, by practicing writing with my left, but they say the damage has been done.
    I still have blocks when I reach for things, a confusion that comes over me on which hand to use.
    And I too read so slow. I never could figure that out, but that is the way it is. I also have that comprehending problem and as a writer I'm also an artist, but a scatterbrained organizers with stories it takes me forever to put things together, but my imagination is vivid and incredible.
    So I am just the opposite of Maulioa so which are we?
    Help ...
    It's hindering and a real nightmare

    PS my belt buckle is put on the right side.

    JQ.

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  33. I am left-handed, and struggled early on in school, but once I identified that there are differences in lefties and righties, I was able to make a plan around school that worked for me. But before I did, I had teachers that tried to diagnose me with ADHD when I don't have it. Now my youngest brother who is ambidextrous (Might be left-handed) is experiencing the same issues. I am wondering if there is a coorilation between lefties and wrongly diagnosed ADHD?
    Thanks for any help,
    Alex

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  34. Alex, I think lots of children are wrongly diagnosed ADHD. Children who just naturally have a high energy level, who are not as compliant as their teachers would like, who are made bored and restless by school, or who "don't fit in" for any reason are sometimes targeted by those who would like to drug them into submission.

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  35. Jacqklin, after years of hearing from people about their handedness issues, I have come to believe that it is not the all-or-nothing issue we may think it is. Some people seem to be 100% (or nearly 100%) one way or the other. But many, many people fall somewhere in between the two extremes.

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  36. I'm VERY lefty and I read like Michael D. described; sort of taking the page all at once and taking meaning from it. I can read very quickly this way. I attribute that to teaching myself to read by learning whole words before being hit with phonics, which I think is more difficult for lefties to grasp as it is so linear.

    I remember a special education professor (I am a special education teacher) who was a lefty who mentioned that left handed people are disproportionately diagnosed with learning disabilities. I am sure that has to do with different learning styles in lefties

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  37. I was a natural left hander, but when i started writing, my mom forced me to write with my right hand. Now, surprisingly, everything i do except for writing on paper, i do with my left. I'm also a very left-legged player in soccer. Do all these still makes me "a right-handed person"? Thanks.

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  38. i'm actually right handed but my son's in grade 1 is left handed and is in french immersion. He is struggling in the language arts which in turn is affecting his confidence. do you think that being left handed contributes to this problem?
    thanks

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  39. Nancy, it is extremely unlikely that your son's struggles in class are related to his handedness. Handedness is one of the least likely reasons for a child to have difficulty with school subjects. (Although if a teacher is trying to force a child to change his handedness, that could cause serious problems.) One of the things we know about brain development is that females tend to develop language skills much earlier than males do. While early childhood is a good time to learn languages for both sexes, I would still expect it to be a little harder at first for a boy than for a girl. There are many other reasons why kids struggle with school subjects. When a child loses confidence in school, it often has more to do with a mismatch between the teaching style and the child's natural learning style. We don't all learn the same way, but unfortunately schools tend to teach everyone the same way.

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  40. Hi, I'm 19 years old I'm left handed and I've had my fair share of issues in school. I was diagnosed with ADD,ADHD Dipolar and then finally Mood Disorder NOS. I'm very artistic and creative however I never liked to read I hated it. Up until recently I dreaded reading until I found fantasy and was then able to let my mind wonder and create a lush universe around these characters. I love reading however I can not read technical manuals. I find myself learning from pictures and demonstrations. I find myself reading and re-reading every paragraph or every other paragraph in manuals,school books etc...

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  41. Joey - Left-handed children are disproportionately diagnosed with learning disorders. This doesn't necessarily mean they really have learning disorders, as there are many situations in which such diagnoses are inappropriate. Handedness may not be the real issue. People have different learning styles, but most schools have only one teaching style. See http://learningsuccessinstitute.com for some ideas about this.

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  42. Today I took my son to be assessed for dylexia. He is right-handed, but it turns out, he is left-eyed. The doctor, who has been watching this for years, has observed in her work that left-eyed people tend to have more trouble with their attention than right-eyed people.

    I am the same way. I had trouble in school and still find reading difficult if I am not totally engaged. I found talent as a performer and later as a director. I have always understood text more through performance and through image.

    Apparently there are many left-eyed artists out there!

    To find out which eye is more dominant, simply roll up a piece of paper and look through it. The eye you naturally use will tell you your answer.

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  43. Annie: Thanks for an interesting post. I just tried this and I seem to be right-eyed.

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  44. Actually, people who are born left-handed are inclined to be better in the Languages or Math.

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  45. My son is a left-handed 9-years-old. He has difficulty reading and telling me later what he has read. His best reading occurs when he reads out loud and hears himself, but that is not permitted in the class room. Reading things two or three times seems to help, but I might have him try that suggested out loud reading inside his head.

    He also writes with some reversals, like b's and d's, but that has gotten much better now.

    He loves baseball, but is having some trouble batting. When he was 4 and 5 years old he hit the ball all the time, but now he misses allot or fouls. His confidence is suffering with his poor reading, or poor decoding skills, and his batting is not getting any better either.

    His dad is right-handed with a master's degree, but his grandfather was a lefty and never finished third grade. On the surface, lefties seem to be late bloomers as they learn to cope at later age perhaps? What to do?

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  46. In my country, (almost) every left-handed child must write by their right hand, or being hit by the teacher( or also their parents). So there are many left-handed people in Vietnam have become right-handedness. And i'm one of them. So, when i was kid, i found it difficulf to write, read, learn,... and use the right hand's strength. Then i had tried to write by my left and it was successful. Now i can write by my both hand.
    LISTEN TO ME, EVERYONE SHOULD WRITE BY THEIR STRONG-HAND AND DON'T EVER CHANGE IT.

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