Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Spiritual Formation Institute
Left to Right is not Always Right
Dr Alex Tang
This morning, a 7 years old Chinese girl was brought to my clinic because she is
having trouble in school. She is an intelligent girl but have problems reading
and writing. Her verbal skills are good and she does well in art and drama. The
teachers were upset with her for writing her “E”, “D”, “3”, “6” and “9” mirror
image. Initially they thought that she was being naughty. Sometimes she will
write the correct way but when she is tired or stressed, she will revert to
writing her mirror image writing.
Her parents brought her to see me because they wanted to know whether she has
dyslexia. On questioning, the parents admitted that she was initially using her
left hand but they forced her to write with her right hand. So she was left
handed, even though now she writes with her right hand.
Never force your left handed child to write with his or her right hand! All
children are born with either left or right brain dominance. A left-handed child
will be right brain dominant and a right-handed child will be left brain
dominant. Some children are ambidextrous. They are able to use both hands
equally well but usually one hand is more dexterous. When a child was forced to
use the hand that is opposite to his or her brain dominance, a state known as
mixed brain dominance occurs. The brain becomes confused and tries to adapt.
Another name for this is mixed-handedness or cross laterality. This is not
necessarily a good thing.
This problem is common among left-handed kids. Right-handed children do not face
any such problem. The reason being there is a bias against left-handedness. The
world is designed for right-handed people. If you do not believe me, just look
at the design of a scissor. A scissor is designed in such a way that the line
that is being cut can be only seen by a right-handed person. In fact, almost all
instruments are designed to be used by right-handed people even though about 10%
of people are left-handed. Hence I was excited when I discovered a shop called
“The Left Handed Shop” at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The shop catered
exclusively for left-handed people.
Left-handed people have problem writing. We write a sentence from left to right
on a page. Some left-handed people have problems with their elbows if their
tablemates are right handed. In writing Mandarin, the problem is even more
acute. Writing right to left causes them to smug their notebooks. Chinese
(Mandarin) characters are written in strokes in a certain format. Imagine how
confusing it is to look at the word character in a mirror image format. The
mirror image may actually be another Chinese character!
Left-handedness was once associated with Satanic influence. In the
Judeo-Christian tradition, the righteous will sit on the right hand of God. The
unrighteous will sit on the left. Thus it used to be the tradition in missionary
schools that children are punished for writing with their left hands.
In the Roman army, a left-handed person will have his left arm bounded to his
body and trained to use the gladius (Roman short sword) with his right. In the
Roman warfare strategy, left-handed solders will most likely stab their
comrades. Roman legionnaires do not take kindly to “friendly fire”.
Fortunately, most right brain dominant children who were forced to use their
right hands to write are able to adapt. Their brain just formed a visual “mirror
image” of what they see. It was postulated that left-handed person are more
visual in their thinking. Unfortunately, some could not and will be labeled
“dyslexic”. Hence left to right is not always right.
|posted 1 October 2006|