SUPPORTING YOUR LEFT HANDED CHILD
The Left Handers Club was set up in 1990 to provide a means for left handers to reach product designers and to offer help and advice. The Club has gone from strength to strength and now has members from all over the world and a comprehensive website covering issues such as left-handedness and education.
In 1992 the Left Handers Club launched International Left Handers Day, which now takes place annually on 13th August. Events taking place in the UK over the years have included left-v-right sports matches, a left-handed tea party, pubs using left-handed corkscrews where patrons drank and played pub games with the left hand only, and nationwide “Lefty Zones” where left-handers creativity, adaptability and sporting prowess were celebrated, whilst right-handers were encouraged to try out everyday left-handed objects to see just how awkward it can feel using the wrong equipment.
Growing up with a left-handed mum, I should really be aware of the challenges facing left handers but my mum manages to wield tin openers and scissors without making her frustrations known! However, reading through the list of everyday items that present difficulties to left-handers – and then attempting to use them with my left hand – made me realise that there are lots of things that require extra dexterity. Take, for instance, opening a bottle of wine, or filling and pouring the kettle.
If you have a left handed child, you may already be well aware of how the world is geared up for right handed people. Left handers can often slip into ‘mirror writing’ – writing as it would appear reflected in a mirror. Leonardo Da Vinci and Lewis Carroll both employed this style of writing, both extraordinarily creative and intelligent people. Perhaps one of the lessons in raising a confident left-handed child is to celebrate these wonderful unique ways of doing things, and provide learning environments that stimulate a left-handed way of thinking. But there are also everyday items your child is likely to struggle with, and the Left Handers Club has been actively campaigning to get left handed learning to the forefront of teacher training. They mention several things teachers need to be aware of with left handed pupils:
1. Sitting a left-handed child on the left side of writing areas so they do not bump elbows with the child next to them
2. Demonstrating a correct writing grip and encouraging an effective writing position
3. Having left-handed scissors available and know how to use them.
4. Understanding that left-handers will form some letters in a different direction to right-handers.
Everyday classroom items that can cause a problem are desks, pens, notebooks, scissors, computer mouses and ring-bound writing books. The Left Handers Club posted an article on Teacher Training and Left Handed Children in March 2012 and received a huge response, with over 200 comments and hundreds of emails. It seems that the majority of teachers just aren’t aware of how to support left handers in the classroom, and some are so ill-informed that they suggest children change hands, or just get on with right-handed equipment as best they can. The Club continues to campaign for change, and recommends that teachers and parents of left-handed children get hold of a copy of Lauren Milsom’s book Your Left Handed Child (you can download it as an e-book from the Club website here), which contains advice and strategies for everything from learning an instrument to accessing relevant support. They also recommend parents are vigilant in making sure that awareness of left handed issues are kept part of their child’s school teacher training programme.
Enjoy celebrating Left Handers Day this 13th August and why not check out the Left Handers Club shop where you can find a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of goodies – guitars, Swiss army knives, secateurs, stationery etc. – designed especially for those unique and special beings: left handers!