Mark this on your calendars: August 13, National Left-Handers Awareness Day! No need to engage the marching bands and plan the parade, but to some of us (about 10 percent of the population) this is some exciting news. Who knew? I’ve been a proud member of this club since birth (full disclosure – some time ago) and never knew we had our own day!
Now, we don’t really need much research to know that many children face lots greater issues and challenges than left-handedness. The important point here is awareness; awareness that every child is an individual, and has his unique characteristics and needs. It starts with awareness, and THEN our challenge is to continually find ways to best meet those needs.
I think most of us know by now that it is not appropriate to try to change handedness. I’ll give my parents and teachers credit, even “way back then” they didn’t make any efforts to do that (although it often happened). Still, in retrospect, a little more awareness and effort to support some of the unique needs of left-handedness would have helped. Honestly, we’re all not just clumsy and awkward! For example, many of us struggle to find our own way of gripping the pencil, bending our wrists, twisting in our chair, turning the paper, etc. to write from left to right. As we do this we can’t really see what we are writing, and our hand or arm often smear or blur the pencil or the ink. I guess I’ve spent most of my life with print residue on the sides of my left hand and fingers! And, regardless of politics, I think most left-handers feel some bond with our President when we see him officially signing a document, arm and hand bent around the pen so as not to smear the ink. Then of course there are the scissors, the computer mouse, spiral notebooks and ringed binders. The list goes on.
“Opposite-handed” teachers and parents can innocently create some confusion for young children, as well. For example, my husband and I are both left-handed, and it took us a while to figure out there were some skills we needed to teach in a “mirror-image” sort of way. Fortunately our two right-handed children are in their forties and have been tying their own shoes for some time now.
The left-handed challenge is not all bad. A little research shows that we are a resilient and resourceful bunch. I like being in the company of Beethoven, Einstein and Oprah!