How to be on their side;Left-handedness

9th April 1999 at 01:00
When right is wrong

* Children should hold pencils at least 2cm away from the tip so they do not hide their writing.

* Left-handers push rather than pull a pencil or pen across the page. Younger children should use a soft pencil which won't stick or tear the paper; older pupils should experiment with different pens to find one that flows across the page. Left-handed fountain pens have angled nibs which won't catch on the paper and encourage smooth ink flow.

* Paper should always be placed to the left of the body's midline and the top tilted clockwise up to 30 degrees. This should automatically bring the hand into the correct writing position underneath the writing line. Paper should be supported by the right hand, placed in the middle or right-hand edge of the paper, not directly below the writing line.

* Young left-handers have a tendency to write from right to left (mirror script). A star or mark in the left hand margin reminds them where to start.

* To prevent left-handers knocking elbows withright-handers they should always be seated on the left side of double desks (although not againsta wall) or next to another left-hander.

* Once positioned for a good writing style, make sure left-handers can see the board without having to twist round.

* A low table can make a child raise his or her shoulders, encouraging a hooked style of writing.

* Buy some left-handed equipment, such as scissors.

* Try not to make a child feel tense about writing movements. Make allowance for clumsiness, smudging and untidiness. Praise any achievements and ensure that left-handers' work is on display, even if it is less neat than other children's work.

* Pencil grips moulded to fit the shape of the thumb and finger help children develop the correct grip and fit over all pens.

lTo lighten a tight grip and heavy pressure, use a pencil grip and then make a game of writing on three sheets of paper with carbon paper between them. Try to get the child to write lightly enough not to register on the bottom pages.

* Make sure the mouse can be used on the left side of the computer.

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