May 27, 2009


Mommylove wrote:

My son was left handed and has suddenly switched (on his own) to right handed. He is almost 5. I want to stress that there has been NO intrusion by his pre-school educators or myself (I am an elementary educator by happenstance and would never allow this!). Now he is struggling horribly with handwriting and drawing, etc. It is as if he is a two or three year old in development. Fortunately, we can hold him another year before kindergarten. I have made painstaking effort to give him only support and positive reinforcement as he transitions and develops, and made sure that his teachers do the same. His peers are young enough that I don't think they are aware of such things... yet. I am hoping that, perhaps, there might be some people who have some advice for me to help him through this. Writing & drawing seems so hard for him right now (and I know I probably shouldn't worry too much - as he is so young - but I just want to help my son - to make this transition as easy as possible for him!). Does anyone know where I might find research suggesting why switching dominate hands might occur?


  1. This is an interesting question. All the articles I have found on the subject of switching address the problems of forced switching, or people who decide to switch (or need to switch) later in life.

    One thought I had was that perhaps your son is ambidextrous or mixed-handed. That might make him feel undecided about which hand is better for which task. I wonder if there is a way you can casually ask him about his hand choices without making it seem like a big deal.

    And, I think you are probably right that it's too soon to worry. Five-year-olds often have difficulty with writing and drawing, no matter what their handedness.

  2. Hard to guess what's going on from your description, but it could be that observation of peers is a motivating factor that's making him think that right-handedness is more "cool" that left-handedness. I have heard this same story from adults who made that switch as youngsters and are now right-handed in spite of the fact that they started life out as left-handed people. One of the better (and heartbreaking stories) is the book REVERSALS by Eileen Simpson which deals with a forced handedness conversion in the elementary grades. I deal with the same subject in HIDDEN HANDEDNESS but in my case I was not aware that the training had taken place because it was done at a very young age.

    It would be ideal if a simple and inexpensive diagnostic test were available to help resolve this kind of a quandry, but alas, as yet I am not aware that such a test exits.

    There are gifted individuals who work with young children and have training in assessment techniques who can assess motor dominance using reflex testing such as the startle reaction to learn which hemisphere dominates for motor movement.

    Just a guess, but based on your comments I would think that your son is left-handed but not strongly so. As a consequence he can operate in either domain efficiently. It may be that the difficulties you report stem from a relay process that takes place when motor dominance is forced to work in a relay between hemispheres when he writes or draws with his right hand - not an optimal situation.

    I'd suggest you seek advice from a developmental psychologist or an educational psychologist who has had training in this topic area and ask them to provide you with an assessment that will give you a clear sense of what's really happening.

    Best wishes,

    Samuel M. Randolph

  3. Hi, I can imagine what you're going through as you want the best for your son. I was forced as a child to switch to my right hand for writing. Your son could have been influenzed ( a friend) or tried to adjust to his environment (seeing others using their right hand).
    If it's clear to you that your son was lefthanded first, and you've seen set backs in his development since he started to use his right hand, it may be possible that your son is lefthanded. And for that reason you need to take action to avoid longterm consequenzes of converted handedness. You understand how important this issue is and to solve it before your son starts school. I'll have some links and information for you, if you still need it. Qualified Professionals in this field can help, e.g. by testing your son's handedness.
    All the best,
    Anneliese Patihis

  4. I'm not an expert in this but my brother was once left handed as well. I'm naturally left handed but always thought I was copying my brohter until one day he came home from school (he was in grade one at the time) and began using his right hand to draw instead of his left. My mother noticed this and asked why he switched (though obviously, my mother loved that at least one of her children were now using the "proper hand"). To which my brother responded:

    "I asked a friend which hand is the right hand to use for writing and drawing and he told me the right hand is."
    Strangely enough, after the switch, my brother's writing and drawings got better and more legible.

    To this day, my brother is still right handed, but it makes me wonder if he was ever left handed to begin with. At least I'm still left handed and proud of it.

  5. I think your son noticed which hand most people use and decided within himself that that must be the hand HE should use. Have a talk with him and tell him it's okay to use which ever hand is easiest for him and not to just use the hand he sees others using.

  6. As a follow-up, my son is doing great writing with his right hand. He is as strong with his right hand as he once was with his left. He is still quite capable with his left in many activities. However, writing is not one of them. While many have suggested that watching his peers may have spurred him to begin writing with his right hand, I personally do not believe this, as he will often, for example, follow a batter who was a righty, but then naturally choose to bat left, and so-on. And while it could have been an unconscious factor (peer driven), it was painful for him, and would have been much easier for him to just continue on with his left hand. It seemed much more "brain" driven, if you will. He seemed to have suddenly lost his ability to write with his left hand almost simultaneously when he was at the same time required by his body to start to write with his right hand, if that makes sense. Regardless, I am proud, and happy to report that my son is doing great... he is a happy, right handed (sometimes) little boy!!!


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