Education Quandary: My two pre-school children are ambidextrous. Does this mean that they have learning problems later on?

Hilary's advice

You are understandably worried about recent research which found that ambidextrous children had more problems in school than other children. Researchers examined 8,000 children from northern Finland and found that the 87 who were mixed-handed had a higher incidence of language problems, such as dyslexia, by the time they were eight or nine, and of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder by the time they were teenagers.

But the researchers, from Imperial College London, emphasise that this does not mean all ambidextrous children will have these problems, and I know from experience this is true. I am completely ambidextrous yet never had any problems at school and went on to get a good degree from Cambridge University. (In contrast, two of my children, both right-handers, have struggled with dyslexia.)

However, even-handedness can cause some odd effects. Whenever I switch hands when writing, there is a nano-second when my brain seems to freeze, and I've always felt slightly clumsy and badly coordinated, so I'm not surprised to hear that neurological problems show up among some ambidextrous students.

I would say keep an eye on your children and, when they start school, ask their teachers to keep a careful watch on their development. That way, if either shows signs of problems, they can get extra help as soon as possible. But don't ever make them think there is anything wrong with them. Instead, encourage them to see the advantages of being able to use both hands.

Readers' advice

At school in Japan I had to use my right hand even though I always picked up the pen with my left. Whenever I did this, my hand was smacked. Imagine my astonishment when I was eight and we moved to the US and I was allowed to write with either hand! By then it was too late for me, and I have always written with my right hand although my body has always told me this is wrong. Now I type whenever possible and avoid writing as much as I can. Allow your children to be themselves and to develop as they wish to. Anything else is a form of child abuse.

Jo Tanaka, London W8

I am ambidextrous and believe this does link to some minor problems. I've always had difficulty with memory and coordination. However there are also advantages – like still being able to write when I broke an arm. Maybe some extra help would have made me more coordinated, but basically I don't think you should worry.

Paula Carroll, Kingston

Leave your children alone and let them develop their own preference for a writing hand. Help them develop as much dexterity as possible. Things like left-handed scissors might help. Never let anyone tell them there is anything "wrong" in how they are, and do everything to build up their self-confidence.

Jennifer Alderden (KS1 teacher), Suffolk

Next Week's Quandary

I'm a new teacher who recently had a pupil behave very violently towards me. Nothing in my training prepared me for this, and nothing anyone has said since has helped me get over it or given me any advice that feels useful. I love teaching but my confidence has completely gone.

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at They can be searched by topic.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Reach Volunteering: Would you like to volunteer your expertise as Chair of Governors for Livability?

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Ashdown Group: Payroll Administrator - Buckinghamshire - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + substantial benefits: Ashdown Group: Finance Admin...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine