Some parents may worry when they see their child using their left hand more than their right. This then leads to questions about whether or not they should be trying to change their child’s preference due to most new inventions and devices being designed with right-handed people in mind, which could lead to children experiencing difficulties later in life.
Statistics show that about 90% of people worldwide are right-handed with the remaining about 10% being left-handed. There are several explanatory models about the developmental of handedness. In most cases, handedness appears to be the result of natural variation and genetics. The two hemispheres of the human cerebrum brain are not symmetrical and work in different functions. The right and left hemisphere can be dominant for contralateral motor function, resulting in left or right handedness.
During the first year of their lives, infants tend to use both hands equally. However, if parents notice their child relying on one side more than the other, they should pay close attention to whether or not their child is suffering from muscle weakness. Children generally begin to show a preference for one side between the ages of 1-3 years old, with parents being able to ascertain the preference by observing which hand they use to pick up toys or hold a spoon when eating. If parents wish to adjust the child’s preference from left to right at this time, they may do so by encouraging the child to use their right hand when picking up objects, using a pencil and holding a spoon, praising them when they are able to do so. The methods used when encouraging the child to change their preference should be gentle and caring, being careful not to apply any sort of pressure. When the child passes the age of 3 years old, they will begin to show their preference with greater clarity. This means that they are already set in their ways and any adjustment after this time is therefore inadvisable. The child should be left to develop naturally thereafter because any forced adjustment at this stage could affect their development in terms of muscle memory, emotional stability and other behavioral aspects.
Nevertheless, a child being left or right-handed are both natural. Every child is unique, and are able to lead a happy and fulfilling life whatever hand they show a preference for using. This is evidenced by famous people all over the world including athletes and sports stars who are left-handed.
The understanding and encouragement of parents is much more important. They need to be aware of what is necessary to support their child’s development, finding ways to get the most out of whatever skills their child possesses in order to help them in achieving their full potential.
Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University , 1997