How to Write With Left Hand

Causes of left-handedness

Just why one in 10 people favour their left hand is a mystery. A straightforward genetic link hasn’t been proven, and it is possible for two right-handed parents to have a left-handed child. Theories include:

  • Genes – perhaps genetic factors predispose a child to favour the right hand. A single gene might be passed from parents to children to influence which hand a child favours. If a particular version of this gene is inherited, the child may be more likely to be left-handed, depending on reinforcement and other environmental influences. However, more recent research suggests it is more likely that lots of different genes ‘add up’ to produce a left-handed person.
  • Sex – slightly more boys than girls are left-handed. This suggests to some researchers that the male hormone testosterone has an influence on right and left-handedness.
  • Fetal development – some researchers believe that handedness has more of an environmental influence than genetic. They propose that environmental factors in the womb (including exposure to hormones) may influence whether we favour the right or left hand later in life.
  • Modelling – children learn to choose their right or left hand by copying parents and other significant caregivers. However, this doesn’t explain why right-handed parents sometimes have left-handed children, and vice versa.
  • Brain damage – a small percentage of researchers theorise that all human beings are meant to be right-handed, but some type of brain damage early in life causes left-handedness. For left-handers and parents of lefthanders, it is important to note there is no hard evidence to support this rather controversial theory.
  • Adjustment – some people who are naturally right-handed become left-handed because of the need to adjust to injury.

Left Handed Writing Teaching Tips

1. Left Handed Paper Placement

Children who can print sentences across the page are ready to tilt their paper at a slight angle (30-35 degrees) to follow the natural arc of the writing hand. For left-handed children, put the left corner of the page higher, so the writing hand is below the line of writing. This practice encourages a correct, neutral wrist position.

You may observe some left-handed children slanting their papers too much. They do this to prevent their wrists from hooking. Allow them to exaggerate the slant on their papers if it doesn’t cause speed or neatness trouble.

Make free left-friendly worksheets with the A+ Worksheet Maker Lite.

2. Cross Strokes

When writing, we typically travel from top to bottom and left to right. At times, left-handed children may choose to cross letters by pulling their writing hand from right to left. This is natural. Model the cross stroke for them in their student editions. Letters with cross strokes are A, E, F, G, H, I, J, T and lowercase f and t.

3. Lefty-Friendly Student Editions

Make sure the student editions you use in your classroom are lefty-friendly—especially when it comes to early writing skills like handwriting. Pages should provide letter models on the left and right, so left-handed children can always see the model they are copying. That way they never have to lift their hand or place it in an awkward position to see a model.

If using a worksheet, give the student another copy of the worksheet to place on their right side if they have directions or words to copy in the left margin. This will give them a way to see those directions or words without having to “hook” their wrist.

4. Left-Handed Pencil Grip

Left handed grip looks different from right handed grip. Since many left-handed students will hook their wrists to accommodate for having to copy material on the left, which their hand would cover. Check out our previously published blog post on how to properly hold a pencil or pen for more information. 

5. Play with Writing Position

Tape a worksheet or coloring page on the wall. Having a child write or color on a vertical surface encourages them to bend the wrist back while writing instead of hooking it forward. Better yet, do not tape the paper on the wall but have them use their right hand to stabilize it. This will help coordinate the two hands together for writing. If you have an art easel, this is a great option as well. Having them write, color, and draw on the art easel will also encourage children to use those muscles in a more typical pattern and over time will improve muscle memory of this position.

Have the child lay on the floor on his or her stomach and prop up on the forearms/elbows while coloring and drawing. This allows them to put weight through the forearms and helps stabilize them while coloring. With this posture, they are less likely to make a “hook” wrist.

If you have a small coffee table, piano bench, or other small table that the child can easily lay under, tape a coloring or drawing page on the underneath side of the table. This position allows gravity to assist with the proper wrist position. They may only do this activity in small time bursts due to fatigue of holding their arms in the air, but it can be very helpful. Plus, this idea is unusual, and they may really like it!  

These are many ideas that you can try at home while working with your child during the stay at home orders, but they are great to continue in the future as well to help promote proper wrist placement and life-long writing skills!

Video

4 Popular Left-Handed Writing Tips

There are several tips and tricks that can help children practice left-hand writing and avoid some of the problems inherent in left-handed writing. These include everything from how they angle the paper, grip the pencil, and lay out the worksheets. These tips will help lefties compensate for known problems and better prepare them to perform at a functional level just like their right-handed peers.

Paper Placement

Paper Placement

Children who are right-handed should rotate the paper counter-clockwise 30 degrees.  By contrast, children who are left-handed should rotate their page 30 degrees clockwise.  Unfortunately, some educators, in an effort to be consistent, encourage the same rotation for all kids.  However, the  angle recommended for right-handed children will just make their difficulty even more pronounced. Instead, a more comfortable writing angle would be to rotate the paper clockwise to the right at 30 to 40 degrees. This allows them to see their work clearly and reduces the amount of smudging that takes place as they move their hand across the page.

Pencil or Pen Grip/Hold

Knowing how to hold a pen left-handed is very important. Left-handed writers often find that it’s easier to see their work when they hold their pencil or pen a little further up the shaft. Adding a pencil grip or an elastic band around the pencil can guide the writer in where to place their fingers.

Writing Position

Slanted surfaces can make a big difference for left-handers. It can prevent them from developing a hooked wrist. There are several ways to achieve a slanted writing surface.  One is to elevate the front legs of the desk.  Placing 4” of carpet samples underneath those two desk legs could do the trick. Or, if using an adjustable height school desk, elevate the two front legs one or two notches. Slant boards are also available for this purpose. There is a recipe for creating a slant board on the realOTsolutions.com website. Look it up under the Free Downloads. You’ll need a hard foam core sheet, an Exacto knife, and a glue gun. Other people find it helpful to write on the cover of a 3-ringed binder, with the wider edge on the far side. Writing on a vertical surface or an easel can also make things easier.

Student Editions

Upon request… and perhaps a little research, workbooks, and resources designed for left-handed writers can be obtained. If the intent of the worksheet is to provide a prompt, model, or instruction, this information should be on the left AND right so lefties can always see it. A beginner writer shouldn’t have to lift their hand or put it in an awkward position to view the model or directions.

If the child is practicing on a worksheet and there are directions or words to copy in the left margin, either rewrite the directions so they are also visible on the top or right side of the page, or provide an extra copy altogether. This way they’ll be able to see the page without hooking their wrist. If you are looking for materials to promote printing that works equally well for left-handed writers, Real OT Solutions’ Letterbox Worksheets and Alphatrangle can also be used to make left-hand handwriting better.

Step 3: Day Three

Today, do everything you did yesterday, with the addition of eating with your left hand. Reach for the milk, handle a fork/spoon, butter your toast, cook, etc, using your left hand dominantly. Tip: Don’t eat in public with your left hand until you’ve practiced a bit. Things could get messy.

Problems for left-handed people

Since 90 per cent of the population is right-handed, left-handed people do experience some practical problems, including:

  • Western writing runs from left to right. A left-handed person has to ‘crab’ their hand in order to write without smudging the ink.
  • Left-handed children learning to write often write back to front (‘mirror’ writing). This is a natural inclination, not a sign of dyslexia, and will resolve given time, practice and encouragement.
  • Implements such as scissors are designed for use with the right hand.
  • Tools such as circular saws can be dangerous if operated with the left rather than the right hand.
  • Some research has suggested that learning difficulties, epilepsy and autism are more common in left-handed people. However, other researchers have been unable to confirm these findings and current knowledge suggests that handedness is not associated with learning disabilities.

DISCUSSION

Consistent right-handers showed a strong asymmetrical functional activation pattern, with prominent activity in left premotor and parietal areas contralateral to the dominant (writing) hand. Consistent left-handers demonstrated a mirrored activation pattern with preponderant right-hemispheric activation when writing with their dominant left hand. In contrast, converted left-handers demonstrated more symmetrical functional activation during right-hand writing, with a relative increase in right-hemispheric activity of frontoparietal motor association areas ipsilateral to the writing hand.

Because this PET study used only writing as the task of interest, the present study cannot be generalized to other manual skills. Although a control task in which the subjects would have performed manual tasks other than handwriting (e.g., drawing, sequence of key-presses) would have been desirable, there are several problems in defining an appropriate control task that allows a meaningful comparison. First, it would have been difficult to match any control task for executive aspects of the task (i.e., number of submovements and complexity of the movement patterns). Second, the degree of automaticity is likely to differ among tasks because of differences in the amount of daily practice throughout life. Third, handwriting was the only manual skill that was consistently switched in converted left-handers. Thus, other tasks would probably be less sensitive at picking up functional changes associated with switching hand preference.

Temporal cortex

Although auditory input was matched between the writing and baseline conditions, the behavioral relevance of listening to the tone differed between conditions, because the tone served as the go signal in the handwriting condition only. Converted left-handers showed a relatively stronger writing-related activation of the posteromedial part of the right superior temporal gyrus, which forms part of the auditory association cortex (Zatorre and Belin, 2001). This differential activation pattern suggests a functional asymmetry of auditory processing related to the direction of handedness. This concept corroborates morphometric MRI studies that demonstrated a weaker leftward asymmetry of the planum temporale in left-handers as opposed to right-handers (Steinmetz, 1996). Alternatively, the activation pattern in the superior temporal gyrus may be related to the language aspect of writing and thus indicate a less pronounced left-hemispheric dominance for language in converted left-handers compared with right-handers (Knecht et al., 2000).

Conclusion

Adult converted left-handers show persistent features of left-handedness during right-hand writing. Extending previous studies, which emphasized functional asymmetries at the executive level of the motor system (e.g., the SM1), our results provide evidence for a neural substrate of human handedness in premotor and parietal motor association areas.

IMPROVED SPECIAL AWARENESS

This next point may also quicken your work flow.

I primarily built ambidextrous coordination through mirror image journaling,

yes, just like Leonardo da Vinci,

and I would write exclusively on blank sheets of paper.

To my surprise, my left hand became incredibly good at writing perfectly straight across these blank sheets of paper.  

To help explain why this is,

I’m going to introduce your two brains.

You have a left brain that controls the right side of the body, processes and thinks in language, and categorizes information. 

Its friend, the right brain, controls the left side of the body, translates sensory input, and deals with spacial awareness.

So, for example,

if you’re standing on the beach watching the sunset, the right brain is taking in all the colors and building the image for you to perceive, and the left brain is telling you “this is the sun, and that is a wave, this is sand, and what a beautiful sunset.” 

Figure 3: TOS-SIT 2017 Tears of Strength* –

Figure 3: TOS-SIT 2017 Tears of Strength* – Artwork completed right handed and left handed using an oblique pen and iron gal ink

Now you might be thinking,

“Why should I write with both hands?”

Back in 2012, my mentor Michael J. Lavery, author and founder of Whole Brain Power, told me that the reason I was doing bad in school was because my brain was unfit for the task.

So, ambidexterity was an exercise that would help my brain become stronger so that I could do well in school and to my surprise,

it worked.

Within 3 months

  • I had the greatest attention I’d ever had in my life,
  • my memory was sharper than ever,
  • and I had so much more energy through the day. 

More importantly as a conceptual and fine artist, I began noticing some real radical changes. I was learning new technical tasks more quickly, I was experiencing greater fine more control, and I was thinking more creatively than ever.

But you’re interested in learning and improving your hand lettering and calligraphy skills,

am I right? So, how can ambidexterity help you? Well, over the last six years I have noticed some radical results from training myself and teaching others to become ambidextrous through the pen.

Figure 1: Practicing left handed in mirr

Figure 1: Practicing left handed in mirror image and right handed forward to expedite the skill proficiency of my right hand

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