Frequently Asked Questions
This is our list of the questions we are asked most often
together with our answers. This is an ongoing exercise, and more
information will be added regularly.
We are always grateful for your input and if you have an answer,
suggestion, or link that other visitors would find useful, please
email us and we will try to include it. The list below show the
questions and you can click on them to go straight to the answers,
or you can just browse down the list.
Do you have a gift wrapping service?
No, we did give it a try but it was a complicated manual exercise and everyone seemed to want a slightly different service (paper, invoice, labels etc) so we keep it simple and send things out in standard packaging.
What percentage of the population are left-handed?
For years, it has been widely accepted that 1 in 10 people are
left-handed. However, research studies of a reasonable size to back
up this figure are very hard to find. Recently, small studies
(usually among children) have come up with figures of between 12%
and 15% of the population and it has been argued that perhaps this
increase is due to social acceptability of left-handedness which
has never before been the case.
The most recent study, by Prof. Chris McManus who has conducted
widespread research into the genetic causes of handedness, has
concluded that 13% of the population are currently left-handed.
It is widely believed that there are slightly more left-handed
boys with normally about 5 left-handed boys for every 4 left-handed girls. A study by Nigel Sadler of 3,000 schoolchildren in Waltham Forest, London recorded an even higher percentage of boys (11.6%) than girls (8.6%). Some research has linked left-handedness
to the level of testosterone present in the womb before birth,
which may explain the imbalance. Another suggestion (that girls
tend to be more receptive to social mores and eager to conform, so
may change to the hand of their peers) seems very unlikely, as we
now know that handedness is not a matter of choice, but part of our
How do you define "Left-Handedness"?
Generally speaking, left-handers are defined as people who write
with their left hand, although some of these may use either hand
for some tasks (ambidextrous) or prefer different hands for
different tasks (mixed).
Researchers usually classify left-handers as meeting the
a) Do you use the left hand to write?
b) Is the left-hand preferred for the majority of key tasks?
c) Is the left the most skilful, proficient or most able hand?
(This can be measured by manual single handed tasks comparing the
use of one hand then the other e.g. timed peg moving on a peg
We don't just have a dominant hand however, but also eye, ear,
and foot. This dominant left eye and foot, in certain sporting
activities, is thought to be responsible for the high number of
successful left-handers in popular sports such as tennis and other
hand-eye co-ordination games (Bjorn Borg, Martina Navratilova,
Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Greg Rusedski, Goran Ivanisavich in
tennis, ace cricketers David Gower and Brian Lara, and champion
golfers Bob Charles and Phil Mickelson.
Left-handers are also considered particularly advantaged in
combat sports such as fencing.
Interestingly, both David Gower and Bob Charles are
right-handers for single handed actions such as writing and
throwing, so are probably "cross
What is "Cross Laterality"?
This is a mixture of sidedness, such as left-handed but
right-footed and right-eye, and can cause some co-ordination
problems. Crossed hand/eye dominance can affect performance in some
sports, particularly racquet sports where the field of vision might
sometimes be restricted.
It can be advantageous in gymnastics, running and netball,
because positioning of the body would be more evenly distributed
for better balance. Young children may appear cross-lateral before
they settle on a particular hand preference. It is important to
note that cross-laterality, left-handedness and undetermined
handedness are not causes of learning difficulties or disabilities,
as we are sometimes led to believe. However they may appear in
addition to them. (e.g. dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADD/ADHD) and
Anything Left-Handed stock a range of
teaching aids, toys and games to assist children with certain
learning difficulties. It is important to understand that if a child
is having learning difficulties, it is unlikely to be because they
are left-handed or cross-lateral, so always look further for an
What Causes Left-Handedness?
There has been a great deal of speculation and research on the
causes of handedness throughout the last few decades with many
theories being offered, many of which have been sensationalised by
the media. Yet there is still no conclusive answer to the question
of why someone is left-handed.
It is now thought that there may be 2 types of
1. Pathological (Forced) Left-handers who would have been
right-handers but for some injury to the left hemisphere which
induced them to change to the non-affected side. Often, they
experience additional problems, which is why we hear about higher
than average percentages of left or mixed-handers among dyslexics,
ADHD sufferers and other learning disabilities.
2. Genetic (Natural) Left-handers. Research into the genetic
cause of left-handedness is currently very popular, with many
research teams trying to identify a specific gene for handedness in
humans. A genetic link does seem to be borne out by statistics.
Where both parents or the mother are left-handed there is a higher
chance that there will be left-handers in the family. Two
right-handed parents will produce around 9 per cent left-handed
children, two left-handed parents around 26 per cent and one left
and one right-handed parent around 19 per cent. The most recent and
comprehensive study on the genetic basis of left-handedness, by Dr
Chris McManus at Oxford University, England has been detailed in
his fascinating book on handedness, "Right
Hand, Left Hand". Dr McManus believes there is a gene for
right-handedness, and a "maverick" gene which, if inherited, has an
equal chance of making us right or left handed.
How is Handedness Determined?
We do know that handedness is determined by a greater dominance
of one side of the brain over the other. The brain is divided into
two halves, the right and left hemispheres. The body is "cross-wired" so the left side of the brain controls the right side
of the body, whilst the right hemisphere controls the left side of
Although they look the same, each hemisphere carries out
different functions. Researchers have concluded that language and
analytical thought processes are carried out by the left, whilst
spatial awareness, musical and emotional thought are contained
within the right. Messages are passed between them by millions of
nerve fibres, (the Corpus Callosum.)
Because they are inter-connected, it is an over-simplification
to presume that all right-handers are better at analytical
thinking, or that all left-handers are more creative and musical.
Their thought processes and problem solving techniques may however
differ depending on which skills are more dominant in their head.
For example, it is thought that left-handers comprehend an idea by
creating a picture in their mind. To add 2 and 2 they will picture 2
objects beside 2 more in their head, then literally add them
together to get the answer. Knowing this is very helpful for the
teacher of a left-hander, as you will find they respond to a new
concept far better put in such a way that they can visualise it in
Helping Left-Handed Children
At what age will I know if my child is left-handed?
It is not uncommon for children of nursery age to still be
undecided as to their dominant hand, as we all develop at different
rates. Most babies use both hands to begin with, and rarely show
any preference before about 7-9 months old. By about 18 months many
children use one hand consistently. However, it is not unusual for
children to show no distinct preference even at 3 or 4 years
Generally speaking, the earlier a child shows a specific
dominance for a hand, the more strongly dominant they will be, and
it may be that if a child has no strong preference until later,
even when increasing the number of manually dextrous tasks they
perform as their brain and co-ordination develop, it is because
they are comfortable using both hands.
Most children have a preferred writing hand by 5 years old, but
their brains and co-ordination are still developing and hand
preference too, can continue to develop until 9 years old. Whatever
preference a child shows, it is important to let them develop
naturally, as they will only choose the hand that is better able to
complete whatever task is set, at their brain's stage of
development. Even if your child has not decided on their hand
preference by the time they start nursery, you can watch their
development by noting:
- Which hand they use to reach for toys and crayons placed
directly in front of them.
- Which hand they prefer to feed themselves with (either finger
food or spoon)
- Which hand do they prefer to stir with, if helping you bake a
cake. Left-handers usually stir anti-clockwise.
- When drawing, or attempting to form letters, left-handers
usually prefer to work from the right, away from the body to the
left, which is a more natural movement.
- Left-handed children experimenting with toys and tools will try
to turn things anti-clockwise, against the thread of a screw, or to
wind up a toy by unwinding it!
- When standing on one leg, feel more secure standing on the
left. If you are helping them to dress, get the right leg ready
first for them to step in.
- Which hand do they brush their teeth with/comb their hair
- (Catching and throwing a ball is a mixture of dominant hand and
dominant eye, so is not always an accurate measure of hand
Should You Change a Child's Handedness?
The short and emphatic answer is "No"! Handedness is determined
by the brain, not the hand, and the most versatile hand is that
which helps brain and hand work together for language and
If a left-handed child is made to perform a task right handed,
this means that they are using the weaker and less co-ordinated
hand to fulfill the task, which makes them unnecessarily clumsy,
ineffective and tire more easily. Far more practice and
concentration will be needed than if using their natural hand, so
it will be less enjoyable or rewarding, and the difficulty of
learning the task will make them feel less capable than they
Also, even if you "train" a left-hander to perform one task
right-handed, they will still always be naturally left-handed for
everything else - left-handedness is part of a persons makeup, not
a trend or habit that can be quashed or discouraged.
With consideration and encouragement, left-handers can learn to
overcome many of the obstacles encountered through living in a
right-handed world. They will have the confidence to explore the
sporting, musical and artistic activities at which they so often
excel, and in doing so become far more adaptable, confident and
Thankfully, very few teachers today reprimand their students for
using the "wrong" hand as did their Victorian counterparts,
although it is still entirely possible that you may encounter
adults who had been forced to write with their right hand, as this
practice still continued into the last generation. However, most
people now realise how unnecessarily cruel and damaging this
ridiculous practice could be to a young developing child, based as
it was, totally on superstition and prejudice.
As a right-handed parent, how can I help my left-handed toddler learn everyday skills, like tying shoelaces?
For a right-handed parent, it is soon evident that helping a
left-handed child with everyday tasks needs a little consideration.
When helping them to dress, they will usually put the right foot
first into trousers (balancing on the left) and buttons on girls
coats and blouses are easier for left-handers to do up, as they are
the reverse of boys.
Zips can be awkward, and pockets in trousers are often only on
the right side. If you are right-handed, teaching left-handed
children to tie their shoe laces, ties, or to sew and knit can be
tackled best by sitting opposite them, as your right-handed actions
are then automatically reversed and gives them a mirror image to
copy, rather than sitting beside them to demonstrate. The "Tie
Me Shoelace" comes with step-by-step pictures of how to tie
This applies to many learning situations and is a good rule of
thumb which can be used by any right-handed teacher or parent.
Will being left-handed cause my child any problems at school?
It is important to be aware that there are varying degrees of
left-handedness and that, while most left-handers will experience
no difficulties or, at worst, only minor ones, there are others who
will need special help.
Fortunately, most of the common pitfalls that befall
left-handers in school can be prevented if the teacher and parent
know what to look for. Here are some useful tips to make the
classroom a good environment for left-handers:-
- Do ensure that if your child does show a strong preference to
use their left hand once they start cutting out, that they have a
proper left-handed pair of
scissors, as right-handed ones do not work properly for them.
Also, be warned there is NO SUCH THING AS AN AMBIDEXTROUS SCISSOR
so do not waste your money on scissors claiming to be so!
- Positioning within the classroom is very important, to ensure
the left-hander is not clashing elbows with a right-hander seated
beside him. Put the right-hander on the right so they do not
interfere with each others working space. Or put left-handers
together, although they must on no account be made to feel
segregated and care should be taken to ensure they do not feel
awkward or that they are causing difficulties.
- Arrange the room to allow both left and right-handers a clear
view of the teacher and the main writing board and check that none
of the children are twisting their head or body to do this.
Left-handers will be more comfortable seated on the right side of
the room, as they face the front.
For more detailed advice on helping left-handers with writing at
school, download our
free Handwriting Factsheet
This document is in .pdf format and requires Adobe Acrobat
Reader to download it. Click here to download this free software
Will the school know exactly how to help their left-handed pupils?
Many teachers are very sensitive to the needs of the
left-handers in their classroom, but you should always make them
aware your child is left-handed and chat to them to find out how
considerate they are to it.
The Left-Handers Club were appalled to discover that
left-handedness is hardly ever mentioned during Teacher Training in
the U.K. Because left-handedness has never been highlighted for
consideration as a Special Educational Needs issue nor was it
covered during teacher training, it is often overlooked in the
classroom, and many children struggle needlessly with the wrong
equipment, layout and positioning simply because the teacher had
either not noticed they child was left-handed or did not know what
difficulties these children might encounter from a right-hand
It appears that most teachers pick up tips on helping their
left-handed pupils through their years of experience, or from being
left-handed themselves (although sometimes this can work against
them, as they may miss a problem simply because they themselves
never found it difficult!).
In 1998 The Left-Handers Club voiced our concerns to the Teacher
Training Agency (TTA) who admitted that the subject was not covered
due to severe lack of time and resources within the training
programme. The TTA suggested that the most effective way to supply
teachers with the necessary information would be through a training
video for use in Colleges and during school inset training.
The TTA invited Mark Stewart, of the Left-Handers Club, to
produce aTraining Video on helping left-handed children,
considering this the most specific and efficient form of training,
and paid for its distribution to teacher training colleges within
England. The DfEE were pleased to endorse the video and now include
some of its guidelines in the new National Literacy Strategy (Ref:
DfEE 0055/2001). Sadly, funding did not stretch to providing a copy
to all schools, so there is still a need is for the training to
reach experienced teachers already in the field.
Should I reverse the cutlery for a left-hander at the dinner table?
Usually, no. When eating, it is a fallacy that all left-handers
reverse their cutlery, as most feed themselves with the left hand
consistently, i.e. use the fork in the left and use their dessert
spoon in the left hand as well.
Some left-handers do prefer to change the knife & fork round
if they have trouble controlling the knife in the right hand and correctly serrated table knives are available
to accommodate them. Left-handers will, however, frequently pick
up the drink of the person to their left at the table, or eat the
bread roll on their neighbour's side plate!
Strongly dominant right-handers would often prefer to use their
right hand to feed as children, until social pressure takes hold as
they start to use knives and forks. This is very evident when
eating with chopsticks. Here, elbow clashes are quite common if you
are seated next to a left-hander, who will usually use his left
hand, whereas right-handers usually use chopsticks in their
My child keeps writing back to front - is this unusual?
This is a very common trait among left-handers learning to
write, and must be handled with the utmost sensitivity, so they do
not feel undue pressure, or that they are not good at writing. One
habit it is valuable to acquire early on is which side of the page
to start writing. Left-handers tend to start at the right of the
page and pull the crayon along to the left, which is far easier and
Once they form letters, their good visualisation often enables
them to form letters backwards and write in "mirror writing" which
they can read easily. Never chastise a child for this, as it is
quite natural. It may, however, impede learning to read, if the
child wants to read the letters in the book backwards, and of
course hinder correct letter formation.
Try putting coloured stickers or a bright star in the top left
corner of each page to remind the child where to start writing, and
reinforce letter formation from an early age to ensure they write
in the correct direction.
Playing games that reinforce this "directionality" are a real
help too, and will increase your child's confidence in attempting
to read words, even before they are ready to write.
Left-handers often look awkward when they write. How can this be avoided?
The key to a good writing style for left-handers is correct hand
positioning and posture. This is an important topic in its own
right, and we cannot cover it properly here, but the video and
books mentioned below are an excellent resource for nursery and
early years teachers, as well as adults wanting to improve their
Large, triangular pencils or pencil grips are useful to
encourage a good "tripod" three finger grip. Because left-handers
have to push the pencil, they often grip too tightly and need to
learn to bring the hand under the writing line, with the paper
slightly to the left of their body so they draw the pencil towards
them. Any corrections to positioning or posture must always be
undertaken very gently and without chastisement, as the child will
pick up on any negative comments, and may be put off writing from a
very early age. It is vital that they are encouraged to enjoy
penmanship and see it as an outlet for their creativity.
The Left-Handers Club Handwriting Factsheet has full details and
is available free to all teachers & parents of left-handed
Free Handwriting Factsheet
This document is in .pdf format and requires Adobe Acrobat
Reader to download it. Click here to download this free software
As soon as children begin to write, they will need to learn how to
form letters correctly, so they join up easily and are comfortable
to write. Our letter formation chart shows the correct way
to form letters, with the alternatives that left-handers often find
All left-handed children can benefit from using the WriteWell Mat underneath their paper when
learning to write. This unique mat has been specifically designed
to help with all the common areas of difficulty left-handed
children encounter as detailed above, such as pen grip, paper
positioning and letter formation. It can also easily be transported
to and from school and will encourage the perfect position and
posture that will last a lifetime.
The Writewell Mat and a wide range of other useful teaching
aids, handwriting advice, and practice books can be found in the Children's section section of our website.
You may also find that laying out numbers in a vertical rather
than a horizontal format (i.e. one number under another rather than
in a line from right to left may be more easily understood and
solved by a left-hander. This is because it overcomes the
directional problems described above.
Often, a left-hander will see a picture of what they may want to
create or draw in their mind before transferring this to paper.
This may account for such a high proportion of left-handers being
involved in "artistic" pursuits, and professions such as
Many left-handers find one way of approaching study and revision
is to commit a page of information to memory as a picture. They
will see an overall vision of the subject rather than single facts
What special equipment do left-handed children need?
This depends on the age of the child. The early years are a time
of exploration and new experiences for all children, and much of
the value a left-handed child derives from your care is the chance
to learn how to adapt to the right-handed environment he will
encounter through his life. This adaptability is one of the great
advantages left-handers have over right-handers, who never have to
solve the problems left-handers encounter quite regularly.
What parents and teachers can do is provide them with the
encouragement, suggestions and confidence to approach potential
obstacles as challenges, and explore together the possible
solutions. If, however the item cannot be adapted e.g. scissors, or
the child is falling behind the class struggling to find a
solution, or developing an awkward style e.g. writing, then you
must ensure specific help is available.
Left-handed scissors are a must in every
classroom, including the nursery, and can be purchased from
Anything Left-Handed by mail order. However, they are of no use if
they are lost or mixed up or high on a shelf and the left-hander
cannot get at them! Make sure they are clearly marked, and the
child knows to ask for his/her special scissors.
Berol Handhugger Pencils have a thicker barrel
to encourage good grip and are an excellent start for left-handers.
The range also includes colouring pens and handwriting pens.
Otherwise, moulded pencil grips can be used over normal pencils.
An excellent option for older children is the ergonomic left-handed
Stabilo 'smove easy Rollerball which looks
funky, and is moulded to create the perfect left-hand writing
position. For older children and adults who still find smudging a
problem, we have the non-smudge Stabilo rollerball
range or the new design Yoropens.
The unique Writewell Mat is an
invaluable training guide for left-handed children. Designed to
prevent or correct smudged work, poor pen grip and bad posture, the
mat is placed on the desk in front of your child and shows the
perfect paper position, pen hold and angle of the arm to achieve
the most comfortable and effective style of writing as a
left-hander. Place paper or workbook over the guidelines and follow
the friendly reminders on the mat. Also shows useful reminders of
pen grip, position and letter formation chart for left-handers in
capitals and lower case alphabet. Suitable for all ages. Shows
right-handers positioning on reverse. Size 420mm x 295 mm.
Rulers measuring from right to left prevent
the hand obscuring the measurements when drawing the line, as
left-handers need to pull the pencil from right to left to draw a
line. The measurements on the ruler are more useful for older
Left-Handed pencil sharpeners have the blade position
reversed. The sharpener is held in the right hand, the pencil still
in the left and turned anti-clockwise away from the body, so the
shavings do not fall in the lap! Click here for more details
Ring binders and spiral binding on notebooks are just in the way
of a left-hander trying to write, so
left-handed versions are available, or a standard notebook can
be used in reverse. Remember to highlight the correct starting
point in the top left margin in all cases.
There is an extensive range of equipment that left-handers may
find invaluable at a later stage, when they are old enough to
choose for themselves. If you know of any left-handed item that
Anything Left-Handed do not stock, please let us know and we will
try to include it in our range.
Do left-handers need a left-handed computer mouse?
Not all left-handers need to use a mouse in their left hand, but
they do need the opportunity to compare which hand is better at
controlling it. Otherwise, they will simply be slow and laboured in
using it right-handed, or develop the lifelong bad habit of
crossing their left hand over the body to reach the mouse, leading
to bad posture and much backache in years to come!
If you do prefer to use your left-hand, your standard mouse
buttons can be configured to this in MS Windows - Start, Settings,
Control Panel, Mouse, "Buttons". Also choose the "Orientation" tab
to set your mouse for the most comfort. An ergonomic mouse may be
too right-handed in design to be comfortable in the left, although
Anything Left-Handed do stock a left-handed ergonomic cordless mouse.
If you share a computer with a right-hander and want to keep
changing over the mouse buttons, there is a simple shareware
utility called SwapMouseButtons which allows you to set the F12 key
as a hotkey to change from right to left and back with a single
keystroke. It also automatically changes the mouse pointer and hand curser to left-handed versions when you swap buttons. This programme is now completely free.
Click here for information and free download
Another common discomfort associated with computers is the
numberpad, which is traditionally placed to the right of the main
keyboard, making it uncomfortable for left-handers to use and often
causing RSI (repetitive strain injury). Left-handed keyboards are now available with
the number pad on the left side of the qwerty keyboard.
Why are left-handers said to be good at sport?
Left-handers do seem to have an advantage in sports demanding
rapid reactions and good spatial judgement. Judging distances is a "left-handed brain" function, and a vital skill in sports such as fencing (where reaction times are extremely short, and the
proportion of left-handed champions extremely high) and tennis
(where left-handers Navratilova, Connors, McEnroe, Ivanisevich
,Seles, Lendl and Rusedski, and many more have triumphed).
Another contributory factor in left-handers success is their
regular training against right-handed opponents, whilst
right-handers are often not used to playing against a left-hander.
Many left-handers become adept at changing hands for different
tasks, and some left-handed tennis players can switch the racquet
from one hand to the other with ease. In cricket, many left-handers
bat with the right and bowl with the left.
Visit our Famous Lefties section and see for yourself
how many famous left-handers there are in the world of sport.
See more about left-handers and