Which half of my brain is in charge now?

10th March 2006 at 00:00
If you're ambidextrous you can use either hand for any task. If you're left-handed, you use your left hand for most tasks. The equivalent is true for right-handers and their right hand.

Cross-handednessmixed laterality is slightly different. You use one hand for life's tasks, but not always the same hand. And it's often a bit of a nuisance, to be honest.

I remember trying to learn golf. I switched my grip and the way I stood to hit the ball every few strokes, although I wasn't aware I was doing it. The golf pro was more than a little perplexed, and became less tolerant of his pupil with additional support needs as the lesson continued. At one point he told me he'd taught "cack-handed" and "lefties" before, but no one had been "this stupid".

I write right-handed - more than a little encouragement a long time ago helped this - but I use my left hand to pour, slice, use the mouse, iron, play racket sports, dry dishes (I didn't know until someone told me that there was a rightleft-handed way to do this), deal cards and thread needles. I have a dominant left ear, right eye, right foot.

I recall being in the middle of a page of sums at school and suddenly being unable to remember how to do them. I made the mistake of telling the class teacher - a mistake I made only once - and can still remember the shouting.

At times I've been doing something when my brain's "gone off" and I struggle to finish the task.

"So what?" I thought until fairly recently. I've certainly got dyslexic indicators and a dyslexic daughter, so I put this into the same thought trolley. Then I went for an eye test. I needed help for near and far vision and was told that the way to do this was to wear one contact lens and my brain would sort out the vision.

It didn't. I stumbled around for 20 minutes into various people.At least I think they were people. With the vision I had, they could have been displays or staircases. Back at the optician I was told to try for another 30 minutes. All to no avail. I still was looking through a fog, blurred in both eyes.

The optician was baffled. Then I started thinking. I have a diploma in special needs and have read a lot of research and books about disorders of communication and language, and related areas. It seems that "ambidextrous"

and "cross-lateral" are lumped in as the same, yet they're not.

I would like to put forward the theory that if you're cross-lateral, neither hemisphere of your brain is dominant. Each takes on the role, changing without warning. So you might suddenly have difficulty with something you found easy five minutes earlier or the day before. Or you may have to use support materials halfway through a task.

The evidence? Those contact lenses. Obviously many people have been able to wear one lens, and their right or left dominant brain has controlled their vision. This doesn't happen if you're cross-lateral as the dominance constantly changes.

I've seen many pupils with the same thing. All too often the temptation is to suggest to them that they think a little more. How can they possibly have "forgotten how to do it" when they clearly could manage the task minutes ago? It makes me wonder whether a dyslexic's inability to remember is perhaps compounded by cross-laterality.

Carolyn Jones Carolyn Jones is a primary teacher in Kilbarchan, Scotland

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