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 www.hilarywilce.com. They can be searched by topic.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Nursery Nurse

£6 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Newcastle: Level 3 Nursery Nurse - Newcas...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Welsh Spe...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz