1. Parenting

Understanding Left Handedness Myths and Facts

Does Left Handedness Cause Learning Disabilities?

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When babies first reach for and grasp objects, parents begin to notice hand dominance. Many parents are concerned when their children show a preference for using their left hands. They wonder if left hand dominance is a sign of learning disabilities. Rest assured, in most cases left handedness is a normal part of child development and can even be an advantage in some aspects. In some cases, however, left handedness can coexist with learning problems. Fortunately, this is the exception and not the rule. To help you determine if your child may have learning problems, consider:

  • Are there left handers in your family? If so, left handedness alone is usually not a sign of a problem, even if the trait occurred generations ago. Hereditary left handedness is a natural difference akin to eye and hair color differences.
  • Does your child show early early signs and symptoms of learning disabilities or developmental delays?
  • Was your child exposed to risk factors prenatally or in early childhood?
  • Has your child experienced severe illnesses such as meningitis, developmental disorders such as spina bifida, or accidents or abuse leading to brain injuries?
  • If these, or other developmental disabilities, are not a concern for your child, then his left handedness is likely just a part of his natural development.

What if Your Child Shows Signs of Learning Problems?

Learning problems may be present if your child shows a left hand preference and:

  • Has other signs of learning disabilities;
  • Was exposed to risks during pregnancy or in early development; or
  • Has developmental delays.
If you believe there is a possibility that your child's hand dominance is connected to a problem, it is important to remember that hand choice itself is not the cause of the problem. Even if hand choice is connected, it is simply another aspect of your child's development and should not be considered a problem to be "fixed." Your child will naturally use the hand he feels most capable of using for any task. He may show a dominant left hand preference or may use both hands to varying degrees, depending on the task and what he feels is the best way for him to do it. Attempting to change his handedness can lead to additional learning frustrations and self-esteem issues.

If you are concerned about the possibility of learning disabilities in early childhood, talk with your child's pediatrician. Your child's doctor can help you decide if there is a reason for concern and can refer you to early childhood intervention programs. If your child is age three or older, you may contact your local public school district for information on diagnosis, evaluation, and special education services.

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