How did the role of the mis-match between the writing and the adept hand as a co-factor in many intractable problems come to be discovered? It's a difficult story to tell since the 'what' cannot easily be separated from the 'how'. In hindsight, what should have been fingerposts, were in fact stepping stones. One key is that that assessment and treatment need to be seen as different sides of the same page, meaning each 'assessment' session was conducted in a pedagogic manner with the form and content evolving in organically. I finally settled on a structure where I treat each case as both a stepping-stone and a fingerpost.

A sample handbook for conducting the most difficult evaluations - in secure settings for legal purposes - is available from download. In the handbook I confront directly the contentious issue of introducing 'banned' objects into security dominated penal institutions.

Missed opportunities

Looking back I should have been able to diagnose latent / converted handedness years before I did, because I had already come across some pieces of what eventually turned out to be a puzzle:

  • A six year old pupil wrote his name 'John' with his right hand as Arabic is written, right to left, or as we would say mirror-writing.
  • I asked a pupil: "Can you do what I'm doing?" as I held my right arm straight out to my right (Berges & Lezine's Imitation of Gestures test). She raised her left hand across her body to point in the same direction I was pointing. I said she had her arm across her body but I didn't. I asked if she could do it without crossing her arm in front of her. Without hesitating she turned round to face in the same direction as I was facing, now with her left arm held straight out from and not crossing the body. We were now pointing in opposite directions.
  • At the end of a lecture to a group of PGCE students in which I referred to both above incidents one female student came up to me and told me that when she wrote for others to read she wrote with her right hand, but when writing for herself, she wrote faster with her left. [ Chris Seed, a left handed pianist made an equally intriguing comment about playing a left - as opposed to right-handed piano.]

At the time I didn't question the implications of each incident.

Remedying the deficit

The need to remedy this deficit was prompted by:

  • a conversation with my very good friend Seb. We agreed that although different cultures told different stories the one constant was that they all told stories.
  • attendance at 'Festival of the Mind'session. I belatedly realized that I hadn't written down the story of how I uncovered the phenomenon of latent / converted handedness
  • without the story it is difficult to see why latent / converted handedness has such profound implications for the conduct of educational and psychological evaluations and such radical consequences for'treatment' .


While many might know what stepping stones are - rocks set across a river to allow one to cross from one bank to the other; fewer know what a fingerpost is. There is probably no better definition than that of Francis Bacon, in his 1622 Novum Organum Scientiarum Section XXXVI, Aphorism XXI)

"When in Search of any Nature the Understanding stands suspended, then Instances of the Fingerpost shew the true and inviolable Way in which the Question is to be decided. Those Instances afford great Light, so that the Course of the Investigation will sometimes be terminated by them. Sometimes, indeed, these Instances are found amongst that Evidence already set down."

Evaluations for educational purposes

Unless otherwise stated all of the following wrote with their right hand and considered themselves to be right handed. And in the case of children all were of primary school age, again unless otherwise stated.

Sit still

Stop rocking

Robert as Robert

Craig with two 'g's

I used to be left handed?

I want to be ....

C...c...c...communication is ...

It is my left hand!!!

Which way does it go?

I think with my feet: Get out of the room ... would you please mind leaving

I'm prepared to admit ...

Adult and self-referred evaluations

Oh my god... I see my mother

I don't think I can have cancer in the brain ..

I did touch the floor

In the pipe-line

  • Is there something wrong with my brain (adult: County Court Judge request
  • This (gesturing string - spinner) was the most interesting thing we did (Young Offenders Institute)
  • The 'voice' on my right shoulder tells me to do bad things, on the left good things (Primary School pupil
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