Left-handed Boy with a Barrier to Writing

Left-handedness - a learning difficulty that can impact upon confidence

When my son started to learn to write, some areas of difficulty, such as holding the pencil, began to surface. I am right-handed. Only 12 percent of people in the world are left-handed – with twice as many males as females. I was surprised to find a Harvard study of 47,000 individuals in the UK and US that suggests left-handers are at a significant disadvantage in the workplace - even to the extent that that right-handers will earn 12 percent more over their lifetimes than lefties.

By the time he reached the age of seven, my son's increasing reluctance to participate in writing at home was noticeable. I saw incidences of mirror lettering, and the complaints about hand aching rolled. I could see how forming letters taught in a fashion biased towards the right-handed method was awkward for him. Positioning the paper at a comfortable angle and holding the pen took time - the task around getting started, let alone get through homework, caused a lot of frustration. Writing represented a chore. It was something to get done as quickly as possible - preferably avoided if at all possible. My son was aware that he was noticeably slower at writing than the others in his class group and I began to worry about his despondency and decreasing confidence.

I had a challenge on my hands. With my background in creativity, I feared for a loss around the thought flow that's intrinsically linked to the art of writing and longer-term, for the impact upon the love of learning and a sense of resilience. I wanted to share how challenges become an opportunity to thrive, and that the focus on perfectionism could become more than just need to dot your I’s and cross your T’s; it might magnify into a state of mind that becomes characterised by an “all or nothing” thinking.

But try explaining that to a young child who is feeling demoralised looking at a blank page anticipating hardship and a messy scrawl. I could understand why avoidance might seem a more attractive option.

I washed my superhero 'T'shirt.

Challenge: replace apathy with love for writing in my left-handed boy: The concept for Scribeasy and its methods were born. The first need was to get his interest. I referred to the image montaging methods I use when I'm teaching Art and Creativity: helping a student to get started and identify areas for all sorts of relationships with a project that can become a personal angle.

I decided that using image juxtaposition could be an inventive method for my son, as it shifted the focus away from the dreaded anticipation of writing. The bonus came as the conversation started to flow exploring the graphic and emotional detail about and behind the picture composition. The who? What? And why?

Lift off! Story invention began to represent quality time together that was more playful. It became easy to capture ideas, which we did in many ways - scribbling down notes, voice to text, typing, but with something achieved quickly onto the page, it was far easier to revisit and craft a story.

The upshot was I could see how my son was becoming more enthusiastic and confident in his abilities to invent, tell and write a great story. He began to experiment more with words and copy the styles of authors. The complaints were morphing into comments like, "Mum, this is my kind of writing."

Like any parent, I want the best outcomes for my son. But my son's relationship with his writing represented something far deeper. Working through the barriers and banishing the fears around the blank page had become a great opportunity, to tackle learning how to learn; this is a skill in itself. Now that he is twelve, the ability to get started has become a strength for my son that will continue to assist his life; he is better equipped now with more learning resilience and some creative thinking techniques.

He can also look for clues in the information around him and know how to begin to interpret and convert it as data into something new and exciting.Having these skills are making it easier for him to get stuck into writing as a practice, alongside building up a sentiment around caring about the quality of his learning and writing.

Creativity and writing a story

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