Results from survey of left handed childrens experiences at school
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Left-Handers School Experiences Survey
Analysis of results

Index to survey results
and analysis on this page

Who completed the survey?
Is it statistically valid?
Handwriting
Elbows clashing

Teachers offering help?
Equipment
Computers
Practical subjects

Music
Sports

Overall comments
Conclusions
Further action

Index to separate pages with full comments
from each section
(also linked after each section of the report below)

Full list of countries of respondents
Handwriting problems
Problems with desks and elbows clashing
Handwriting help from teachers (or not!)

Responses to requests for left-handed scissors
Problems with tools and equipment
Safety devices and dangerous machinery
Food tech., kitchens and cooking

Textiles, sewing and knitting
Guitars and stringed instruments
Musical instruments
Advantages for left-handers in sports

Difficulties with sports
Need for more consideration of left-handers' needs
Advantages for lefties in school
Overall comments and final words


Follow the link below to complete the survey yourself
http://www.lefthandedchildren.org/school-survey.htm

Over 1,000 Club Members have now completed the survey on left-handers' school experiences and we want to thank you all for taking the time to share your stories. Our early analysis supports the evidence we were seeing in emails and from talking with members and customers that left-handers are still getting a far from equal service from their schools. Some of the statistics are quite worrying and we will definitely be on the campaigning trail soon to raise awareness among teachers on how to help their left-handed pupils.

We had a huge number of comments from people telling us about their own experiences in all areas of our survey. We have included a few examples in the main analysis and a link to a full page of each as we think others may find them instructive and it may reassure lefties who are having problems that they are certainly not alone.

If this survey or the comments people have made cause pupils, teachers or parents to become more aware of the problems and take action to solve them, it will have been a very worthwhile exercise.

Who completed the survey?

Handedness - The vast majority of respondents were left-handed, with only 1.6% saying they write right-handed.

Ages - We had lefties from age 5 to 82 give us their experiences and the breakdown into age groups was like this:

Age range
Number
% of total
Under 11
12 - 18
18 - 25
26 - 40
41 - 60
Over 60
140
262
163
233
179
33
14%
26%
16%
23%
18%
3%

So 56% of our responses were from people aged 25 and under and should give a pretty good indication of recent school experiences.

All of the analysis and percentages below are based only on the responses of people aged 25 and under so we can get a good assessment of current school practice. The detailed comments pages include everyone as we found them all really helpful

Countries - We had people from over 50 different countries complete the survey, reflecting the worldwide nature of the Left Handers Club. The largest groups were United States 47%, UK 35% followed by Canada, Australia and Ireland.

*** Click here to see the full listed of countries we had responses from ***

Are the survey results statistically valid?

We have tried hard to produce a survey that gives useful information, to check the data carefully and analyse it in a professional way. By its nature, the survey cannot be fully "scientific", because we cannot control the sample of people who complete it and the information given is based on personal opinions.

Due to the nature of the survey, we are only collecting left-handers experiences and it is probable that people who did have problems at school are more likely to complete the survey. it may be that right-handed children face some of the same problems or that the majority of left-handers were perfectly OK and just did not complete our survey.

We have, however, collected the considered views of a lot of people and we think that, even given the problems of a biased sample, they give valid information and lead to conclusions that could guide useful research and give a wake-up call to teachers and parents of left-handed children.

Where we have calculated percentages below, they are all based only on the people who actually made an answer to the question - we have ignored those who left the box for that question blank

Handwriting

98% of our contributors write left-handed and a lot reported handwriting problems.

Problem area
% of total reporting a problem
Smudging work
Aching hand
Writing slowly
Aching back
88%
71%
38%
37%

Here are some typical comments people made about handwriting problems

Before I started school my Mum taught me to tilt my paper, so that when i was writing i wouldn't hook my hand or smudge my writing. But when i went to school the teachers seemed to have a problem with anyone left handed and wouldn't let me tilt my paper (they would paperclip it to the table so i couldn't move it!), thus i now write with a hook and smudge my writing.
Being condemned by teachers for my "messy" cursive when young and for writing with my left hand. They were right handed and did not know how to teach a left handed person to use handwriting. I had this same issue with my 10 year old just this past school year. So I had to get the teaching material and teach him myself.
I am a teacher, and if I need to handwrite a sign, I work right-left, bottom-top in order not to smudge my work. Clever, but hard! I really feel for left-handed pupils. For all children, their day they first write with a pen should be a great achievement. For left-handers it's the start of blowing on your writing to help it to dry!

There were hundreds of comments like this so if you write left-handed and have ever had any problems - you are not alone!

*** Click here to see the full list of comments we received about handwriting ***

Clashing elbows at shared desks

This was reported as a problem by 83% of people, but only 34% of the total were allowed to move when they raised it. I guess the teachers either do not understand the problem or just don't care enough to allow it to be solved! This is such a common problem and so easily solved that it should be part of standard training for all teachers to make sure that left-handers are positioned on the left side of shared desks.

Here are some of the comments we received

Always a pain and I was the one who was told off!
I constantly have to deal with this problem, and worse than the teacher not letting my switch, the right-handed person almost always blames me for being awkward and left-handed.
Desks were made for right handed people, it was not possible to move the desk to the left hand side so my writing was often messy and awkward to do.
Had a right handed girl in the 5th grade punch at me because I my arm would touch her desk while writing

*** Click here to see the full list of comments we received about desk problems ***

Do teachers offer any help to left-handed children?

There are some fairly simple writing basics that will make a huge difference to the success of left-handed children when they start writing. So, do the teachers know what they are and offer any specific help?

Area where teacher could help
% who receive help
Any specific help for left-handers at all?
Showing how to angle paper to the right
How to hold a pen with a proper grip
Writing position to keep hand under the line
Providing writing position mats or other aids
Letter formation advice for left-handers
10%
14%
16%
7%
2%
3%

I guess not!

The comments about the help (or lack of it) for left-handers from their teachers were pretty depressing. Here are some typical ones:

All the teachers I have had were right handers so I have not had any help from teachers but my dad helps me with all that stuff
I received no help what so ever regarding my writing, and has not known about "To position your hand under the writing line", until now, doing the survey, 24 years old.
I am currently training to be a teacher and am about to enter my final year. We have received no information, to date, during lectures on how to support the needs of left handed children in the classroom.
Everything was taught from the right-handed view in learning how to draw each letter of the alphabet.

*** Click here to see the full list of comments we received about
help for left-handers from their teachers ***

Equipment

Only 18% of people were ever given a pen with a left-handed grip or nib

Only 26% have ever used triangular grips to help their writing position and grip

My mum ordered Yoropens from you & arranged for me to take these into school
I got my mother to buy a triangular grip for me in 5th or 6th grade :)
I bought a left handed Stabilo pen last year - it is fantastic!!!!

90% know that there are specially reversed left-handed scissors available to help them cut properly, but only 44% have ever had them available in their classroom

All school scissors are the same, they just say that they are left handed
My teachers thought I had a problem because I was having difficulties cutting until my mother told them I was left handed. I still have trouble with scissors today unless they are left handed scissors.
As a teacher, I have many left handed items in my classroom, including scissors.
At nursery and primary school my parents specially bought me scissors. At secondary school in textiles they did have left handed scissors but they were useless compared to right handed ones!

Only 16% of people have ever asked their school about providing left-handed scissors. These are some of the answers they got:

"Not cost-effective to provide specialised equipment for such a small group."
"You just need to learn to cut with your other hand"
I used to cry when trying to cut with scissors for school projects. Did not get a left handed scissors until I was an adult.
I once asked for left handed scissors as I had them at home, and was told to sit down and stop being so silly - there was no reason why I couldn't use the "ordinary" scissors. I was 7.

The comments about this were pretty sad (and sometimes amusing in a strange way).

*** Click here for the comments about schools purchasing left-handed scissors ***

61% thought that there are some tools or equipment at school they find hard to use because they are left-handed. What caused the problem? Based on your answers, pretty much everything!

I found it very hard to use right handed scissors. We also used to have singular desks that would fold up, they were right handed. Sewing was a nightmare because the teacher would do it right handed and i would ask her how do i do it left handed and she would just tell me to work it out myself!
All of the standard machinery in the Design & Technology workshop; the tools like pillar drills and bandsaws even have all the emergency stop buttons in inaccessible places. the other tools like tin snips and guillotines aren't so deadly to misuse, but it's still awkward.
Chalk and dry erase markers are nearly impossible to use. Also, albeit a little silly, I always had trouble tying shoes until a left-handed person showed me how they did it. Shoe-tying proficiency tests in the earliest school years were always dreadful.

*** Click here to see all the comments about problems with tools and equipment ***
- right-handers just would not believe how many things cause us lefties real problems!

Only 18% of those that have a Yes or No answer thought that their teachers noticed they were left-handed and checked that they could use the tools or equipment in a comfortable and safe way

My primary school teacher tried very hard to correct my hand writing - by putting my pen in my right hand and telling me to copy the others!
Only as far as making sure they are sitting on the correct side of the desk, to avoid banging elbows, unless the teacher themselves is left handed, they are unaware of the difficulties a left handed child has. When doing arts and crafts, I had to see the way the teacher was doing it and then reverse it.
They just concentrate on Right-handed people!

Computers

31% of people said they prefer to use a computer mouse with their left hand and 56% said that their school would let them use it that side if they wanted to (so it looks like most people who want to use a mouse left-handed can do so).

On the other hand, 41% also said that shared workstations were a problem. So it seems that the schools will allow people to use a mouse left-handed but in practice it can be difficult to do so because a lot of school workstations are shared.

Here are some typical comments that people made

Another area that is much improved although due to the nature of school computer systems only an adult logged on as administrator can actually change the settings of the mouse to left-handed use. most left-handers either adapt to right-handed or use right-handed settings in left-hand and click the wrong way!
As a mother, again I have approached the school about this. they finally agreed/understood that he needed to use his left hand for the computer, and I even gave them a copy of the programme obtained from this site, which allows for changing between left and right easily. However, this programme has been lost in the school as the teacher (also the SENCO) didn't quite see the need for it!. We took time to point out that the finger positions for left and right are different!
I forced myself to just learn right-handed (as with many other things). Left-handers in computer class weren't even thought about. No one cared.

Practical subjects

Safety switches - We asked if the people who took woodwork / metalwork / Design Technology or similar classes, had seen over-ride switches or safety devices on equipment that are more difficult for a left-hander to use? Of the people who answered, 49% said they had.

I almost sawed off my leg because the safety blade on a power saw was on the side for right handers
I am a science teacher. Most of our equipment is designed for right-handers, such as focusing knobs only on the right side of a microscope.
I don't have the time to point out all the hazards and challenges. I am in the Engineering field and everything is specifically designed for right handers!

There were some pretty serious problems here and a lot of examples of people being badly injured because they were left-handed and the equipment was not safe for them to use.

*** Click here to see the full list of comments about safety devices and dangerous machinery ***

For food technology students, we asked if they had to adapt to right handed kitchen equipment or whether left-handed tin openers, peelers, serrated knives etc. were provided. Of those who answered, a full 95% said they had to adapt.

I cut my self in the kitchen almost every time I picked up a knife. I was laughed at and called a clutz.
I have to constantly use righty can openers, and knifes because they do not supply the lefty ones. it is very hard to adapt and decreases my grade because they take me more time to use. I am not able to use such products quickly.
I normally use ring pull tins, but my cutting is very wonky with the right handed knives. The peelers are the worst thing to use if they are the wrong way round though.

*** Click here to see the full list of comments about food tech, cooking and kitchens ***

For textiles students, 63% said they knit / sew / crochet in the opposite direction to right-handers but only 9% had ever had any help in reversing patterns or techniques.

Another area that is much improved although due to the nature of school computer systems only an adult logged on as administrator can actually change the settings of the mouse to left-handed use. most left-handers either adapt to right-handed or use right-handed settings in left-hand and click the wrong way!
As a mother, again I have approached the school about this. they finally agreed/understood that he needed to use his left hand for the computer, and I even gave them a copy of the programme obtained from this site, which allows for changing between left and right easily. However, this programme has been lost in the school as the teacher (also the SENCO) didn't quite see the need for it!. We took time to point out that the finger positions for left and right are different!
I forced myself to just learn right-handed (as with many other things). Left-handers in computer class weren't even thought about. No one cared.

*** Click here to see the full list of comments about textiles, sewing, knitting, crochet ***

Music

Of the people who play guitar, 49% said they play left-handed (strumming the strings with the left hand) and the same percentage, 49% said that they had been allowed to make their own choice of which way to play.

These were not the same people - it is just a coincidence that they both come to 49%! A closer look at the answers shows that roughly half of the people who play right-handed were forced to play that way (even though they are naturally left-handed).

Interestingly (and a bit confusing!) half of the people who play left-handed also said this this method was not their own choice. From looking at their detailed comments, they seem to have made this answer because, being left-handed, they had no option but to play that way rather than that they were coerced to play that way by someone else.

I have a son who is also left-handed and wanted to play guitar. We considered it easier for him to learn the right-handed way as there are not many left-handed instructional books available at the local music store and the likely availability of a music teacher that could teach left-handed.
I naturally hold a guitar backwards, but since the guitar was made for right-handers, I learned that way.
ok, it's not actually guitar but the upright bass, which is made with the sound post off centre so the larger strings are receiving more support, to restring a bass would collapse the body, I could have a custom made but that may cost $5000 at the VERY least

*** Click here to see the full list of comments about guitars and stringed instruments ***

38% of people said that being left-handed made some musical instruments more difficult to learn and play. These were some of their comments:

Most instruments require the right hand to be more dexterous (which isn't a pun!) The piano is an obvious example, but even a trumpet is difficult to play left-handed.
Balancing a flute without hitting the next person was sometimes a challenge, but actually pretty funny for the teachers.
Actually, it made playing cello easier, because (once you get past the beginning stages) the left hand actually requires more fine-motor coordination.

*** Click here to see the full list of comments about musical instruments ***

Sports

47% of people thought that being left-handed gave them an advantage in at least one sport. Here are some of the sports that were mentioned:

10 pin bowling
Archery
Badminton
Baseball
Basketball
Boxing

Cricket
Fencing
Kendo
Rounders
Soccer
Softball
Squash
Table tennis
Tennis
Volleyball
Water polo
Wrestling

*** Click here to see the full list and the reasons people gave for their advantage ***

And 49% of people thought that being left-handed made certain sports more difficult.. Some of the sports mentioned as being more difficult were :

Dancing
Golf
Hockey
Horse riding
Javelin
Discus

Some of the sports that were stated as advantages for left-handers were also repeated (by different people!) as being more difficult for left-handers. A lot of the reasons were due to difficulties in getting equipment, e.g. Archery.

*** Click here to see the full list and the reasons people gave for their difficulties ***

Overall comments

88% of people thought that their school and teachers should give greater consideration to the needs of left-handed students, so no surprises there! There were lots of comments about this, including:

I feel that both my children are not able to 'make a fuss' about being left-handed. It's almost as if they're being a nuisance so they don't speak up for themselves which means when I go in to make things easier for them I'm sometimes perceived as an overprotective mother or worse, someone who interferes with 'their' class! Certainly some messages have got through but not the important ones about positioning the paper and posture. These I hope to help address over this summer as both children will be having new teachers and hopefully the children will help to 'educate' the adults.
I wish all classrooms and schools would go out of their way to make left handed children feel great and special about being left handed, along with providing whatever can help with that notion.
Well maybe, but I think there are bigger problems for schools to be concerned with instead of left handed stuff. It's not like being a lefty is crippling or anything. I go to school with deaf kids, and kids with learning disabilities, kids that certainly need more attention than a left handed kid. I think being a lefty is what you make of it, not a big deal for most.

*** Click here to see the full list of peoples' thoughts on the need for more consideration ***

Only 21% thought that being left-handed had given them an advantage in some academic subject at school. Some of the things mentioned were:

Art
Chemistry
Computers
Creative writing
English
Being more gifted
Intelligence
Music
Theatre
Generally being smarter, unique, creative and interesting
(and a lot of people mentioned sports again, but I have left those out here)

*** Click here to see the full list of peoples' thoughts on their advantages as lefties ***

 

We gave people one final chance to comment on anything they had missed out and we got a whole lot more really interesting thoughts and experiences. Here are a few examples:

Adaptation is the key word. Everything from scissors to people thinking "it's so cool" that you are left-handed, you get used to it all, and it becomes normal to you.
Holly has completed this via me. We both feel that her school has not effectively taken account of her left-handedness. Unfortunately this has lead to some bullying incidents.
I have received no support due to me being left handed from teachers, nothing is ever said. However I myself got annoyed with this treatment and approx. 2 months ago I set up a left handed campaign within my school calling for fairer treatment of lefties. I sent out questionnaires to all the lefties in years 7, 8, 9 and 10. At the moment most of the replies are in, and I am preparing to collate the data over the summer, so I can present it to the head teacher and senior staff in September and hopefully get things changed.

Once I have collated my data I will e-mail you a copy to use in your own lefties at school campaign. :)

*** Click here to see the full list of peoples' final thoughts and comments ***

Conclusions

The results of this survey seem to very strongly support the evidence we were seeing that left-handed children are still having problems at school and that they get very little help from their teachers.

Despite previous campaigns by the Left-Handers Club that resulted in left-handed awareness being added to the teacher training curriculum, it seems it is only a small minority of teachers who actually take it on board.

If you are a left-handed child and want to avoid being disadvantaged at school, it seems you either need to be lucky enough to have a left-handed teacher or to have parents who are aware of the issues and are willing to find out more about it and buy you the things you need themselves.

This is all pretty sad and some of the comments and personal experiences people have told us about are heartbreaking. Such a huge difference could be made for so many children with just a little consideration from teachers and a small investment in the proper tools (actually, hardly any investment at all because they would just be buying left-hander versions instead of right-handed).

We think that the results of this survey and the pages of comments that go with it should be compulsory reading for all teachers and those that set policy and training requirements for them Ware also sure that all parents of left-handed children will find them instructive and they may help in getting better consideration for their own children in their schools.

Further action

We are going to put together an ongoing campaign to bring this to the attention of as many people as possible and try once again to have an influence on teacher training and classroom practice.

We will let you know via the Left-Handers Club newsletter what we are doing and how you may be able to help.

*** If you are not already a Club member, click this link to join free ***

Complete the survey yourself

Follow the link below to complete the survey yourself

http://www.lefthandedchildren.org/school-survey.htm

 

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Left handed products - practical and individual

Click on an image to see the full range of left handed items available

Childrens scissors - cut shapes easily, accurately and comfortably childrens' pens and writing equipment - write smoothly and comfortably without smudging Left handed rulers - draw your lines from right to left Left handed pencil sharpeners - hold the pencil in the left hand and turn anti-clockwise to make it easy

Triangular pencils, fibretips and crayons to encourage the correct grip Boos and videos to help with writing, cutting and lefty life in general Left handed childrens sets and offers Lefty fun and games