What is Cross Domination and what does it mean for a struggling learner?

Most of us know someone who can use both hands to perform a task, like writing, playing an instrument or a sport.

These people seem to have an amazing ability to do these tasks equally well with both hands. This is known as being ambidextrous and is quite rare.

Imagine being able to use both hands to play a forehand shot in tennis (so no backhand needed) or the advantage of being able to swing a baseball bat either right or left handed depending on who is pitching.

Also rare, but not uncommon is a group of people who can do certain tasks with different hands. This means they may write with one hand, but play sports or a musical instrument with the other. These people cannot perform the same tasks equally well with both hands and as are called Mixed-Handed or are said to have Cross Domination.

Many years ago, left-handed people were considered flawed and children were forced to use their right-hand. My dad fell into this category and he still remembers a ruler being whacked across the knuckles of his left hand if he tried to use it.

In my early primary school years, some teachers even tied the left hand of children behind their backs or to chairs. These students were forced to write with their right hand. Thankfully, this practice has stopped.

Left-handed people make up a smaller percentage of the population around 10-20%. At one stage left-handed people were also considered more creative since they predominantly use the right side of their brain, the so-called creative side.

Recently a friend told me about her outing to a golf range with her grown children. One of her sons had never played golf before but is generally a good athlete at any sport he attempts. Although he writes left-handed, he plays most sports right handed. He picked up the club right handed and swung at the ball. The result in his words was ‘embarrassing’ and somewhat dangerous to those around him. He barely connected with the ball, but when he did the ball hit the roof, sliced off dangerously at an angle and dribbled only a few feet. Finally, my friend suggested he tried playing left handed. Success!

He didn’t suddenly become Tiger Woods, but he was able to hit the ball reasonably well saying that it didn’t feel awkward anymore. My friend’s son is mixed-handed or has cross domination. He now plays golf, tennis and cricket left handed and continues to write left-handed, despite attempts to write with his right hand. He is naturally right-handed for basketball, bowling and boxing, kicks with his right foot and uses his tools as an apprentice in his right hand.

“Cross domination or mixed-handedness is when a person favours different sides of the body for different tasks. Some people may write using one hand and play sports using the other or use different hands
or feet for different sports.”

The interesting thing is, he has also been diagnosed with ADHD and has many symptoms of dyslexia, but has never been tested. He really struggled at formal schooling and didn’t enjoy it. Although he is highly intelligent and verbally articulate, he struggled with reading and the written and testing components of school.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

“Whilst initially you may think that being able to use both hands for activities would be an advantage, some researchers suggest that cross domination or mixed handedness can be associated with language
and learning difficulties.“

Cross Domination may result in your brain being disorganized, with information all over the place, causing delayed processing as the brain tries to recall where the information is located.

Just like a shoebox full of receipts at tax time, you know the receipt that you need is in there somewhere, it just takes a while to find it.

Other parts of the body like eyes and ears can also have cross domination. If information is being heard by a dominant left ear, but being seen on a white board with a dominant right eye, then written down with the left-hand, this combination may result in comprehension difficulties.

To find out which is your dominant eye, extend your arm out in front of you and place your thumb over a distant object, I used a light switch. Now close each eye, one at a time. Your thumb may seem to move depending on which eye is open. If your thumb remains over the object when one eye is open, this is your dominant eye. I was left eye dominant.

Cross or mixed domination may also result in confusing letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’ or words like ‘was’ and ‘saw’ when writing.

Although the association of learning and language difficulties and cross domination or mixed handedness has been the subject of some research, the results aren’t widely known. The findings are interesting and research shows the brain can change, it just takes practice.

So are you a good reader and do you have left eye or right eye dominance?

Just for the record, I would consider myself a very good reader and I am left eye dominant.

1 Comment

  1. Anna Campbell   •  

    I am a good reader and am left eye dominant.

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