Fictional yet real-life typical scenario:
Jack is in the first grade and he is having a lot of trouble with letter formation. He is left-handed and his right-handed teacher always sits to his left-side when teaching, because of how her chair and his desk are situated. She carefully shows him how to make the letters, how to hold the pencil, and the sequence of strokes. Jack tries, but can’t seem to get it right. He grows frustrated with his inability, and she does as well, because she JUST SHOWED HIM. What she doesn’t realize is that all her careful work means almost nothing, because she is blocking his view the entire time and all he sees is the back of her hand doing some random/vague moments. This provides him with no useful information he can copy. Since Jack doesn’t realize there could be a better vantage point, he just assumes he is failing to understand. Both Jack and his teacher are unhappy with the outcome, because neither realize what the other is missing. Neither of them “know what they don’t know”.
*Common sense rule #1: Common sense is not common. I have super amazing problem-solving genius engineers/rocket scientists parents not know which side to sit on when their kid is writing.
If any of you have ideas or thoughts on how to best sit with the child depending on handedness or other factors (as maybe I’m missing something huge!) please share 🙂
Longer version (after I processed here, I went back up and wrote the minier version)
I’ve read stories about people who get glasses for the first time and are so shocked to realize that the individual leaves on the trees are something that everyone else has always seen. It’s not like a kid will realize that the “green fuzz” of a tree isn’t what everyone sees, if that’s all the kid has ever known.
I’ve noticed that a lot of our OT kids either “don’t know what they don’t know”, or are too scared to say something, or know something is wrong but don’t know how to make it right.
For example, if I am working with a right-handed child, I sit on their left-side since I’m left-handed. That way the child sees what I am doing with my fingers, and I can see what the child is doing. If I work with a left-hander, I sit on their right side, and when it’s time to write, I’m going to figure out whether it’s best for me to write with my right-hand for that child, or to write “around them” (like standing behind them and wrapping my hands so they are at the same angle as the child’s), or to write “above them” in a somewhat upside down stance for me.
Luckily, most of my kids are right-handers, and so as a left-hander I just always stay on their left. I prefer to always be by their side rather than across from them, because I too have spatial issues and find spatial rotations challenging. It pays to practice handwriting with both hands. It’s fine if your non-dominant hand isn’t great, as long as it’s good enough. It’s like when you watch an expert do something on Youtube and it seems like it will never be achievable, but if you watch an amateur do it you are like oooh I can get there. So if your handwriting isn’t PERFECT with your non-dominant hand, that’s fine!
You can also just switch back and forth depending on what you are doing, ie show the child on his left, then watch the child on his right, etc.
The reason I went into this diatribe is because sometimes right-handed parents sit to the left side of their right-handed child without even thinking about it. The parent can see what the child is doing, but the child can NOT see what the parent is doing. The parent is saying “Do it like I do” and from the child’s vantage point, they see the back of a hand vaguely moving. Many higher executive-functioning “neurotypical” kids may complain “I can’t see anything!” but many of our OT kids will just know that they never seem to understand when someone shows them “do it like I did”.
The kid doesn’t know what they don’t know, and since we aren’t mind readers, we often don’t realize the basic issue a child is missing, and assume it’s something graver.