Right Or Left? The Development Of Handedness

Left-Handed Or Right-Handed?

“Give me that beautiful little hand” is still heard when greeting someone. Children learn early on that you do most things with your right hand. Or maybe not?

Playing, stacking, screwing, plugging… in the first years of life, babies discover new and interesting activities every day. At first, the little hands are still quite clumsy and have to practice many times until something works properly. But during the second year of life, the child finds out that some things work better with one hand than with the other. Even if he still changes and tries for months, he uses the more dexterous hand more and more often for fine movements. It is the working hand, while the other is called the holding hand. In the fourth to fifth year of life, the so-called hand dominance is then usually developed.

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However, whether a child becomes right- or left-handed is already determined at birth. The decisive factor is in which hemisphere of the brain the movement center for the dominant hand is located. In right-handers, it is located in the left brain hemisphere and controls the opposite right side of the body. In at least 20 percent of the population, however, it is located in the right hemisphere of the brain: the left-handers. It is assumed that handedness is inherited. This is because families with left-handed children usually also have left-handed parents or grandparents.

Left-handed people are not less dexterous than right-handed people, or perhaps they automatically have dyslexic phenomena, as was believed in the past. They are not impaired in intelligence or motor skills. However, some left-handed children are not properly supported or are even expected to readjust: Many parents are alarmed when their offspring grasps, paints and eats with the “wrong” hand. They give him toys specifically in the right hand, pass the crayon to him and practice the correct greeting with “Give me that nice little hand.” Such attempts at retraining are certainly well-intentioned, but they interfere with important processes in the child’s brain. This is because the brain hemisphere with the movement center for the dominant hand is inhibited, while the other hemisphere is overtaxed. Retrained left-handers therefore often have concentration difficulties and memory problems at school, so-called blackouts. For example, they confuse 6 and 9, b, d, p and q, or don’t know whose turn it is next in circle games. This can eventually lead to feelings of inferiority or even behavioral disorders.

Parents should therefore pay attention in good time to which hand their child prefers to use, but should by no means re-educate him or her.
It is much more important to support the child’s hand development from the very beginning. The more confident the child feels, the more self-confident he or she will be in a right-handed world.

And What About Children Who Do Not Have A Clear Preference For One Hand?

Often these are left-handed children who have copied some of the activities they do with their right hand. This is because young children are very observant of their surroundings and quickly memorize details that they imitate. In some cases, children with alternating hand use have slight “cerebral irritations” or partial performance disorders that need to be treated separately. It is therefore very important that parents bring their observations to the attention of the pediatrician in a timely manner. In case of doubt, occupational therapists or special educators can test the child accurately at an early stage and support it in its “correct” handedness. After all, if the child uses both hands equally until he or she starts school, none of them will be sufficiently trained. For every activity, the child has to think about in which direction and with which hand to do something. This costs energy that would be needed for thinking about content. It is not uncommon for ambidextrous children to end up in remedial classes, where they do not really belong.

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In order to spare children serious attempts to retrain, pediatricians should ask parents about their preferred hand during early checkups and make them aware of the problem. Only when both cerebral hemispheres work together properly can the child move in a well-coordinated manner, speak and learn undisturbed.

Which Hand Is Better?

Eating or cutting with scissors are no longer suitable for testing handedness at an early age. This is because left-handed children usually begin to imitate certain things with their right hand on their own.

Two Suitable Exercises Are:

  • Putting different beads on a solid metal wire set up vertically. This reveals a holding hand and an action hand. Picking out the beads also says a lot about this.
  • Brushing fingernails with a nail brush: The dominant hand is the one that moves the most – both when brushing and when being brushed.

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