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Left-handedness

How can you tell if your child is left-handed?

Most babies use both hands to begin with, and rarely show any preference before about 7 to 9 months old. By about 18 months many children use one hand consistently, but 4 to 6 year old children may still be undecided as to their dominant hand.

Catching and throwing a ball is not always a good way to tell hand preference. Some ways to tell if your child is left-handed include:

  • Which hand do they use to reach for toys and crayons placed directly in front of them?
  • Which hand do they use to feed themselves (either finger food or spoon)?
  • Do they stir or turn things counter-clockwise?
  • Which hand do they use to brush their teeth with or comb their hair?

About 10% of people are left-handed. Males are about twice as likely to be left-handed than are females.

Does being left-handed cause problems?

Left-handedness is related to the brain, not the hand. It is not just a habit. There is no great disadvantage to being left handed. Many famous and successful people throughout history were left handed.

Left-handedness is more common in children with epilepsy, mental retardation, and autism. This may be due to early damage in the left side of the brain leading to the right side of the brain taking control of skilled hand movements. If you have concerns, have your child checked by your health care provider.

How can I help my child?

If you are right-handed, sit across from your child when teaching them to tie their shoe laces or get dressed. This gives them a mirror image to copy, and is easier than sitting beside them to demonstrate.

Lefties have to get special left-handed golf clubs, hockey sticks, and baseball mitts. They usually can't just borrow friends' equipment.

Left-handers should only use scissors designed for them. Scissors and saws for right-handed people can be dangerous for lefties. When your child reaches school age, make sure that he or she doesn't have to sit at desks for right-handers. When students begin to write, they should learn paper and pencil positions for the left-hander. For example, it helps for the left-hander to hold her or his pencil a little higher than the right-hander.

Developed by McKesson Corporation.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-27
Last reviewed: 2006-08-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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