Possible link between pupils’ choice of left or right hand and language development disorders

How an infant chooses to be left- or right-handed could be used to identify if the child is at risk of developing language problems, according to research

A study is being undertaken to find out whether there are links between a child’s choice of “handedness” and language development in an effort to allow earlier interventions and therapies.

Children typically settle on a preferred hand at around four years of age, around the same time they acquire proper language skills.

Gillian Forrester, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Westminster, said that previous research has suggested that children who are strongly left- or right-handed have “typical” language development.

However, children who have “mixed-handedness” – those who do not choose a dominant hand – are more likely to be “linked with atypical development of motor and language abilities”.

Language problems

According to the academic, around 3 to 4 per cent of the general population is ambidextrous, but this figure jumps to between 17 and 47 per cent among children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Writing in The Conversation, Ms Forrester says her research is looking at how infant handedness can be used as a “marker” of a child’s risk of developing language problems.

“Current diagnoses of ASDs tend to occur relatively late, when children fail to produce and understand basic language,” the academic writes. “Late diagnoses can limit benefits that may come from early interventions and therapies. Infant brains are incredibly flexible and the right kinds of early intervention may improve later cognitive development and mental health.”

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