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Tips, Tricks and Hacks for doing everyday occupations for children and adults – HAND DOMINANCE

I saw a 5 year old child who has a diagnosis of autism today who is struggling with hand dominance. The parents asked lots of questions about this as they have received conflicting information about how best to support him. So, I thought a would write a short blog about the importance of establishing hand dominance and tips to support your child or children you work with.

Children start to develop hand dominance at around 3 – 5 years with hand dominance fully established by age 6. Having hand dominance allows the dominant hand is used consistently for manipulative and co-ordination skills use in many tasks such as scissors, buttons and handwriting. The no-dominant hand works to assist in manipulating, stabilizing, and positioning objects to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the dominant hand’s movements. If a child is always switching the dominant hand it is harder to build up muscle memory to do a task correctly. It can also have an impact on bilateral coordination, using both hands together at the midline, and crossing midline.

To work out which hand is dominant ask the child to pick up a pencil, from the middle of a desk and get them to open a jar or ask which hand they brush their teeth with.

Activities to help encourage hand dominance:

· Encourage the child to use one hand as the stabiliser and the other as the lead hand (e.g. left hand is the stabiliser if you’re right handed).

· Do activities such as stencilling or rubbings so the child has to hold very still with one hand. Or tasks that involve mixing, such as paint, glue or cooking. This will allow the child to stabilise the bowl and mix with the other.

· Collecting items (e.g. pencils, brushes) from around the classroom, home or garden by holding the pot in one hand and pick up with the other.

· Reminder the child to hold the paper still with one hand when writing

· When opening jars and containers, remind your child to hold the jar/container very still with one hand whilst turning with the other hand.

· Lacing, sewing and threading activities can encourages use of the dominant hand. You can make these from thin cardboard and punching holes.

A technique I found very helpful was placing a sticker on the child’s dominant hand to help remind them of the working hand.

You must also repeat activities over a period of time and provide opportunities to practice. This will help the child to develop an awareness of which hand is more skilled.

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