Accomodating Our Left-Handed Students

By Megan Power on October 25, 2010

 
It’s the 21st century, and we are still fighting the same battles over left-handedness. Only the tools we have to consider are different. As a right-handed person, I did not think much about this topic until this year. I currently have three left-handed students in my class, and I believe my own son will be a leftie. So, I am stepping into the left-handed world, and I am bringing an issue, recently raised in my class, to you, to get your thoughts. Please join in this conversation.

 

Shortly after school began, the mother of a student in my kindergarten class approached me, asking if I would change her son’s mouse. She explained that he is left-handed and is used to having the mouse on the left side of the computer, with the primary mouse button also switched. Even after nine years of teaching and with all the technology I use in my classroom, including one to one laptops, I have never been asked to do this before. It’s a simple process, really. You go into the control panel, click "mouse properties," and select "right" for the mouse button. Then you place the mouse on the left side of the computer.

It sounds so simple, right? Wrong! What was a simple process on an ordinary home computer was anything but at school. Because my district has systems in place to prevent students from changing computer settings, the computers, even when I log in as a teacher, will not accept the change. (One of my district techs is currently working on this situation.) Because my students all have their own laptops, switching for a left-handed user will not be a problem with our system. The issue is, what are they going to do in future grades when they don’t have laptops?

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Accommodate Lefties?

Most (right-handed) peoples’ response is to keep the mouse as is and let them get used to it. We already know that you should not force a child to hold a pencil in their right hand. Why is this different from forcing them to use a computer mouse with their right hand? This tool is the pencil of the future. The decisions we make now will affect our students for the rest of their lives. As educators, we accommodate many types of children so that they can have the same opportunities as the rest of their peers. Why not accommodate our left-handed kids?

When I first started asking around to get people’s thoughts on this topic, most people said lefties need to adapt and get used to a right-handed mouse and a right-handed world. Their reasoning was that most people are right-handed, and they need to be able to use community computers.

As an adult, I barely ever use someone else’s computer. I have my own computer at home and at work. If I am away from a computer, I use my iPhone. Very rarely is there a time when I need a publicly accessible computer.

As the discussion continues, more and more reasons for switching the mouse buttons have come to light. Left-handed students could be at a disadvantage because they are being forced to use their opposite hand. Do you work as well using your other hand? Would your work be at its best if you had the physical obstacle as well as the mental obstacle of using your non-dominate hand?

What I Am Noticing

My students are currently using the touchpad mouse on the laptop, and I have started to watch the students’ movements with the mouse more closely. I have noticed that my right-handed students use the touch mouse and click more smoothly than my lefties. For example, when moving the mouse to click on something, both right-handed and left-handed kids move the mouse smoothly, but with their dominate hands. When it comes time to click, my right-handed kids naturally move their hand down to the buttons and click. My left-handed kids all have to pick up their hands and actually look and place their hands on the correct button. This slows the students down.

This conversation is necessary to decide how we should accommodate our left-handed students. If our schools have restrictions in place, how can we get around them to change the mouse buttons?

After these last few weeks of researching left-handedness, I wish I had paid more attention to my previous left-handed students. I had no idea that being left-handed makes simple tasks more difficult. I feel guilty that I differentiate for and accommodate all of my students, taking into account academic levels, maturity levels, behavioral patterns, and socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, and that I haven’t done this for my left-handed students until now.

How do you feel about this topic? Do you switch the mouse for your left-handed students? Please complete the survey below and/or write a comment. I’d love to get your thoughts on this topic.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Here are some left-handed links:

Famous Left-Handers

Anything Left Handed

 

Comments

happened upon this post as my daughter is starting high school and will be using a binder now.A problem for lefties. Yes, the world is right-handed and because left-handed people have to adapt I would say they come out better in the end as they are able to do more with both hands. My daughter uses the mouse right handed b/c in our family of 7 she is the only leftie. I taught her to tie her shoes across from her rather than beside her, and when she took skating lessons I told her to turn opposite the other kids who would always spin to the right and she coulnd't master it. I explained to her coach too. Now, with dancing you can't change because there is form and synching that takes place so one must adapt. I have her taking piano and that uses both hands. She did archery and b/c that is an eye-dominant sport she shoots right (I shoot left and had a much harder time adapting than she did) violins are right handed and look funny in an orchestra if you change the strings (you'd poke someone's eye out or have to be stuck in a corner) anyway, yay for left-handed scissors, but I think lefties are surviving and flourishing without our right-handed pity.

whoops, neglected to click on laptop switch (left - side) before trying to write my opinion

happens all the time if I do not use the mouse (left-handed) - please don't accommodate us by moving left for everything/right for special as we have adapted to that....

however: being 71 yrs old, trying not adapt to the non mouse method, I find I can survive: however, always get a reading on my laptop this is not an acceptable device to be attached to my laptop ...

when it is not in use, have to always go back to left click before entering anything where my mouse would allow me to do that automatically

hate it that I am slowed down because OF MY TOTAL LEFT-HANDED-NESS - back - click on the bottom left of the board, back to my starting point, etc.

My son and my dad are/were

more about into using both hands but I find this
so terribly difficult.....

apparently computer geeks are either not left-handed or can accommodate using both in the technique....

thanks for your time

redcadillac030

It is still discrimination and after

I was told this by my son's teacher...

"Our tech people have done research and there’s just no way for them to have it so his profile switches the mouse buttons and then switches back for another user. It may work at home, but here where my room is full all day I really can’t change a computer over and leave it that way all day. I’m sorry, but I think we’re stuck like we were last year. At least this is what my tech folks are saying."

Thank you Megan for highlighting this. I had a similar experience. I have a left handed child. No one else in the family is left handed so we didn't understand the challenges. I was very surprised to learn that a student's handedness is simply not on the radar in the schools. When my child was learning to write I was getting notes from his teacher about his sloppy handwriting. I asked to meet with her and in the meantime watched my son and researched left handed writing techniques. As a lefty his hand was moving over the letters as he was writing them making them less legible. I met with his teacher. She did not notice he was left handed and did not know she could simply instruct him to tilt his paper slightly to avoid rubbing his handwriting. And, as was your experience, none of the computers in the school were set up for a lefthander. Not even in the computer lab where there are 30 computers. Yet 10% of the population is left handed. While my child can work with a mouse on the right, the left is more natural and easier to use. Many tests are administered on the computer and if they are timed tests I wondered whether this could affect his grades. I met with the principal to discuss all of these concerns and her response was that she has a nearsighted daughter so she has to ask her teachers to sit her in the front of the room. In other words I am going to have to continue to advocate for left handers. The school is not going to be proactive. I wrote to the State Dept of Education. They have no requirements or guidelines for left handed students. I thought this could be learning experience for everyone but unfortunately no one I encountered seemed interested in trying to help these students. I spoke with one of his classroom teachers about moving the mouse for him. She said "but what if a right hander sits down there after him"?

Please do whatever you can to make the learning environment equal for both lefties and righties. When I was in sixth grade I was a teachers pet with mostly As and some Bs. One day we were doing a measuring and cutting assignment and there were no left handed scissors available for me to use... I got my first F and ended up in tears. I told myself that was a failure because I really had tried and I couldn't even get a C or a D... Because of this I assumed that I sucked at cutting and I never bothered getting left handed scissors because it wouldn't matter...I will never be able to cut right. Now I am 27 and I am thinking about ordering a pair online along with a few other things. Also when I was in preschool I could not figure out how to tie my shoes, and the teachers were trying to tell my mom that I might have a learning disability... The first time a left handed person showed me I said oh...I get it and did it....no disability. I am going back to school to become a preschool teacher, and so much emphasis is put on understanding socioeconomic back grounds and cultural differences...how all children should be treated equally, but nothing is said about lefties. I sit in class in my right handed desk listening to these lessons wondering why there is still prejudice against left handed students.

Thank you for caring about your students...your actions and willingness to help them will stick with them for life :)

Betty, Thank you so much for your post. Your granddaughter is a wonderful little girl. Another parent bought leftie scissors for those students for the classroom at an online store. The kids say they make a huge difference in their cutting. I completely believe them as the blade is now on the correct side. It is interesting that this is not much of a topic of discussion anymore especially with all the push to differentiate for your students of all abilities and learning styles. Thanks again for your comment and compliment. I am trying to do what is best for my students! Smiles, Megan

Jennifer, Thanks so much for your thoughts on this topic. You and your son are the inspiration behind this topic I am working on this year! I am so happy to have him in my class and I love how proud he is to be a leftie! Smiles, Megan

David, That is so great to hear!!!!! Hopefully more school are going in that direction. Hope you are doing well! Smiles, Megan

KP, Glad you liked the post! Yeah I remember you trying to write on those tiny odd shaped desks in high school. Go lefties!!! Yup Mason might be leftie although sometimes I am not sure. I guess we shall see! Smiles, Megan

Patti (#29) I had a parent in my class that bought leftie scissors for my lefties. They love them and can actually cut now. I highly reccommend them. Most scissors say they can be used both both hands but the blade doesnt work as well for these kids. I suggest trying to get her one of those. Thanks for your comment! Smiles, Megan

Patti (#29) I had a parent in my class that bought leftie scissors for my lefties. They love them and can actually cut now. I highly reccommend them. Most scissors say they can be used both both hands but the blade doesnt work as well for these kids. I suggest trying to get her one of those. Thanks for your comment! Smiles, Megan

My granddaughter is a lefty in your class. Ever since we discovered she is left handed I have been trying to find left handed scissors for her and have looked at many education supply stores in the bay area. No one carries them and say that all children can now use the same scissors. I remember when I was in grade school in the 1950's, my left handed friends teachers ordered them left handed scissors. I never hear anyone discuss this issue any more and I am very happy that my granddaughter has such a good teacher who is thinking about what is best for each student. Hooray, for an attentive teacher.

It is not true that all left handed guitar players play with their right hand. Paul McCartney was already mentioned, but also Jimi Hendrix.When learning guitar they have to make a choice, and using the left hand brings about many obstacles. They have to learn to read the music in a different way, which can be very difficult when learning.I have done a lot of research on this because my 5 year old son (the one in the pic) wants to learn and he comes from a family of musicians. Some of them think it will just be easier to use his right because of all the roadblocks, while others don't think any natural talent should be stifled by using his non dominant hand.

Lefties are weird!

But seriously, I am the site SAT/ACT supervisor at my school and they both now have accomodations for lefties as a requirement to hold the test. I also have a few kids with lefty accomodations on their IEP's. So we are making progress!

My favorite post so far Meg! Even being left handed, I never thought of changing the settings on my computer at work or home because all of my life I've been told to just deal with it. I, too, took my SATs on a right-handed desk at good 'ol EHS. On behalf of all "lefties" - adults and children - THANK YOU! Mason's going to take after Aunt KP??

i have a leftie! its crazy because i can not teach my daughter to cut with scissors! my husband used to push righty on her but hes now accepted she a leftie! there are going to be many challenges along the way for her living in a house with 2 right handed parents who can not help!

Comment from our survey

I think students should be able to switch mouse clicks. As a lefty, I don't but it is because I am right eyed and the coordination is better right handed.

Comment from our survey

I just wish that school districts would recognize that we are professionals and, as such, we should be allowed the codes to remove the freeze function that is in place in order to accommodate our students.

Comment from our survey

I grew up as a lefty in a righty world. Everything is difficult. Think about a notebook. What side is the spiral on? Its on the left and it hurts to rub down it all the time just to right. The computer is hard because Im 23 so I grew up using it on the right but now that I have discovered that it switches I have it on the left and it makes for a much easier faster computer time. Being left handed my two lefty students are thought of and I do what I can to help. My students are 4K so they are just learning to hold pencils and things. Even hold a pen in your hand and read the words. Now put it in your left--the words are upside down. Its amazing the things right handed people miss but left handed people are sometime forgotten.

Comment from our survey

We need to accomodate. We do it for everythign else.

Comment from our survey

We once had a teacher who used his mouse on the other side and then turned it upside down. I never worked out how he made it work, but it did

Comment from our survey

As a leftie, I've always used my right hand for the mouse... its the way I was taught and now I can use most hands with ease- something most right handers cannot do. I can see switching the mouse if a student is still having real trouble after a few weeks of practice, but only if it's a hardship... afterall, if we switch the computer mouse, shouldn't we also buy left-handed scissors, binders and notebooks? I can attest that writing in a binder as a leftie is much more of a challenge than using a right-sided mouse!

Comment from our survey

Hadn't thought about it, but thanks!

Comment from our survey

It really is a preference thing for stuents and adults. If it is more comfortable, or natural, for them to use their left hand to control the mouse, then it should be done. Schools and teachers are all for accommadations and modifications, so why would this be any different?

Comment from our survey

I have always had to adapt to the right-handed world. For example, in school, because the left-handed scissors worked so poorly, I forced myself to use the 'regular' scissors. Now, that's all I use. It takes a while to train your brain to use the other hand for something that includes many fine motor movements. I am very aware of my left-handed students and try to give them tips on how to set up or organize things. Our 'mice' can be moved to the other side of the computer, however, the buttons are not in the correct place to be as efficient as a right-hander. I would love to see an adaption mouse for lefties.

Comment from our survey

All computers in public settings have the mouse click set to the right side. That's the way that students should learn to use it.

Comment from our survey

Being born in the 80's computers have always been a part of my life. I remember first learning how to mouse. I did start out using the mouse on the right hand side, but clicking with my middle finger for a left click and my pointer finger for a right click. This only lasted for a short while. I use the hand mouse and pad mouse right handed. I have several students who are left handed who I never even thought of looking at how their mousing skills compare to their right handed peers. My bigger concern for left handed kids is helping them hold their pencils properly so that they do not have that hooked hand writing style which can really tire a child out. I was blessed to have a mommy who helped me with hand writing at home because my right handed teachers did not know what to do with me or how to help me.

Comment from our survey

Im left handed and I click okay with my right hand and have no issues with it...maybe before it was annoying but now it doesnt feel like im using the wrong hand when I click.

Comment from our survey It should be an option.

Comment from our survey I'm a left handed user. When I use the mouse, I use my right hand. When I'm using a touch pad, I use my left hand. I have learned to use the mouse on the right side out of necessity. I'm sure at first it must have been odd, but as an adult it doesn't make a difference. In fact, it's helpful, as I am an artist and use a Cintiq tablet, so I can draw with the cintiq pen in one hand, and use my right hand to mouse over things at the same time. However, I don't think lefties should be forced to just accept things because it's a "right handed world".

Comment from our survey I have 4 left-handed students in my class and observed them after reading this article. It seems they have accomodated themseves and work relatively smoothly using a mouse or the touch pad. Tomorrow I will ask them questions reagrding their thoughts and watch them do more complcted tasks.

Comment from our survey Last year in Kindergarten I had 6 left-handed kids. Very unusual. I accommodated them by placing them at the ends of our rectangular tables so they had handwriting space on the left side for arm movement. I feel we should also do this for computers. I never knew you could switch a mouse. I'm going to check with my IT at school tomorrow and look into changing one of my kids' desk tops in my class room too. Thanks.

Comment from our survey Last year in Kindergarten I had 6 left-handed kids. Very unusual. I accommodated them by placing them at the ends of our rectangular tables so they had handwriting space on the left side for arm movement. I feel we should also do this for computers. I never knew you could switch a mouse. I'm going to check with my IT at school tomorrow and look into changing one of my kids' desk tops in my class room too. Thanks.

Comment from our survey Not really just about the mouse clicks...It is everything. When I went looking for supplies for my 5 year old, left handed son, I was utterly shocked by the lack of supplies for him. There was literally zero scissors, notebooks, etc., for lefties. The terrible thing is, I never really paid too much attention to those things before my son, especially the mouse for a computer!!! Way to go to the mom who advocated for her son and you for making this a mission for you and your student! :)

Comment from our survey With few exceptions (Paul McCartney-guitar)left handed musicians play the same way as righties. Some instruments are even left handed (french horn). As a quilter I have never heard my lefty friends complain that sewing machines are right handed. I have never had an issue with my kindergarten lefties having any more problems with mouse control than my righties--they simply learn to use the right hand. I have never had to "allow" students to use their left hand because it has never been requested. Soccer athletes must be able to use both feet equally well...what about great switch hitters in baseball...dancers...hmm.

63% of the people that responded to our survey said their schools or districts have software in place that makes switching the mouse clicks difficult.

How can we work around this?

We have had 49 people respond to this survey- 29 right-handed and 20 lefties!

95% of the lefties that responded use their mouse with their right hand.

100% of teachers felt it is wrong to force a child to write with their right hand.

94% said that chidren should be able to use their mouse with their left hand if they wish.

So far we have 37 responses to our survey! Thank you for all of your thoughts I will post some s others can hear your thoughts. I was excited to see so many left handed people take our survey!! Smiles, Megan

Christy, Thanks! It looks like we both might have leftie kids and will have to think even more about these issues. I know I will make sure my child has leftie accomidations. I saw a leftie toddler spoon and I am thinking of getting it for him. I never even thought that would be difficult for him. As for your kids, it is great to survey them. Many just adapt to right handed mouse because they don't know there is an option. Starting with the touch mouse really showed me the kids need the left mouse. If I would have just given them the mouse, they would just use it as a right handed person. It is a digital world and we need to make sure they know they have the right to choose which works best for them. Of course we need to make sure that they can use a right handed mouse for those times they need to adapt. let me know what your outcome is. I'm curious! Smiles, Megan

Adelle, Wow! Taking your SAT in a right handed desk that is something a right handed person would never even think about! That is exactly what I am finding. Lefties many times have that one extra thing to have to figure out or adapt to that takes away from the task at hand. Thank you for sharing your story! Smiles, Megan

M Dahms, Thanks for your comment! It really is amazing that our leftie kids (and adults) are not accomidated as much as our other students. It really makes me think about all of my former students and who were lefties that might have had difficulty with fine motor skills. Smiles, Megan

Barack Obama is a leftie?! Megan, what a great post. I'm about to get new laptops. I definitely need to inventory all my classes to see who is a leftie. (We are only using the touch pads now.) AND my son looks as if he favors his left-hand too. (He is two.) I'm all over your links to shop for him. Thanks for bringing attention something so important!

Christy

I will never forget taking my SAT in a right handed desk (me being left handed). I was having a hard time and literally stopped to think about how unfair it was that I was forced to think about how I could make the small right handed desk surface work for my left handed self.

It's amazing how much discrimination still exists for left handers. The university I attended didn't have desks usable by left handers. Most schools don't have scissors for left handers. And because of the number of things you have to learn to do with your right hand, you are slower to develop fine motor skills.

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