As an occupational therapist, I frequently get asked about handedness, or hand preference for young children. Some children will show a hand preference as early as 1 year old. Others will switch hands frequently at 5 or 6 years old. Developing a hand preference is critical to handwriting development. Children with Autism, Down Syndrome, and other special needs often have difficulty establishing hand dominance. Here are some ideas that may help parents and teachers.
- Take note of which hand the child starts an activity with; encourage them to continue using that hand throughout the activity.
- Present scissors, spoons, pencils (any utensil or manipulative) at mid-line or in the middle of a child’s body (think belly button) and see which hand he uses to grab that utensil
- Verbalize to your child or students “you are using your right hand” so they learn the name of the hand they have chosen.
Establishing hand dominance is not only a frequent issue with parents, but one that teachers and therapists address as well. Parents and teachers will need to work closely with children when helping with this issue. Therefore, communication between school and home is a critical piece for maintaining consistency. Happy writing!
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