Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 11 Feb 2010

My two pre-school children are ambidextrous. Will they have learning problems later on?

Hillary's Advice

You are understandably worried about recent research which found that children who were ambidextrous 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 ADHD by the time they were teenagers.

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

However, I do know that even-handedness can cause some odd effects. Whenever I switch from writing with one hand to the other there is a nano-second when my brain seems to freeze, and Iíve always felt slightly clumsy and ill-coordinated, so Iím 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 tell their teachers to keep a careful watch on their development. That way, if either of them shows signs of problems, they can get extra help as soon as possible. But donít ever make them think there is anything wrong with them. Instead, encourage them to see all the advantages of being able to use both hands.