Institutional inertia

I’d rather be dead than left handed!”

Who might have uttered these words? Would you believe: a Headteacher of a Primary School during a post-assessment meeting with the parent on being told, that, among other facts, the pupil whose case was being considered, was not right but left handed?

Of greater significance is that the Headteacher had misunderstood the issue. It was not whether the pupil was right or left handed. It was whether or not the pupil exhibited a mis-match between his writing and his adept hand.

Her attitude can be described as medieval: a time when using the left hand instead of the right was taken as a sign of the devil at work.

Failure to note this mis-match also explains why so often such pupils are described as lazy, fidgets, lacking in concentration, or – in the case of poor handwriting to practice (with their current right hand) but with more purposefulness.

Her attitude is the tip of a more substantial problem: the subtly pervasive role of the hegemony of the right / rite / wright / write in a variety of seemingly intractable problems.

The radical position of this website is:
to eliminate a possible mismatch between the writing and the adept hand as a co-factor in whatever the apparently intractable problem is.

This entails asking the question:
What constitutes necessary or sufficient evidence that a mis-match between the writing and the adept hand is NOT a co-factor causing or sustaining the presenting problem?

Of course, if one doesn’t look for it, one can’t find it. And here we pose Judge Mort,  Prof. McKay and ex-MP David Moffat’s questions.

1:1 Questions posed:

The case for needing to know the implications and consequences of the mismatch between the writing and the adept hand has been made by County Court Judge Mort, British Psychological Society ex-President Professor McKay and ex-MP David Mowat MP.

In a Crown Court Case, Judge Mort commended my report saying he was not aware of the implications of latent / converted handedness and that if the young man took my advice he would not re-offend yet again; his mother said she couldn’t believe how I had managed to get to the root of her son’s problem in on hour and a half when years of involvement with her MP, Beverley Hughes, and the ‘child help’ agencies including educational psychologists had failed to do so. Judge Mort asked “Why don’t all psychologists know about this condition?”

British Psychological Society ex-President Professor Tommy McKay, in a Tribunal Hearing asked: “All educational, all clinical, all forensic, indeed all psychologists ought to know about this work shouldn’t they!”

I held a meeting with my then Member of Parliament, David Mowat, to discuss how I could promote knowledge about the implications and consequences of the mis-match between the writing and the adept hand. We hadn’t been talking for very long before he asked “Do you realize the full implications of the writing / wright hand mismatch?”, because he self-evidently had! David Mowat MP was one of the few individuals who actively supported my unsuccessful ‘campaign’ to get the mind-body-mismatch acknowledged as a ‘dys-ability’. He wrote to the then Minister of State for Children and Families, Sarah Teather he received this reply:

Thank you for your letter of 24 August on behalf of your constituent Dr Peter Mathews about his research into converted handedness. l am sorry for the extremely long delay to this reply.

To deliver the Government’s commitments on special educational needs I am publishing a Green Paper shortly to look at the wide range of issues concerning children with special educational needs and disabilities. To inform this important work, l issued a call for views and have met parents, teachers, local authorities, charities and other groups. I am also considering the findings of recent reviews, including the recent report from the Office for Standards in Education.

The Department has received over 1,800 responses to the call for views and I have asked my officials to look at Dr Mathews’ work on his website as we take forward the work on the Green Paper. I would encourage Dr Mathews to contribute to the public consultation following the publication of the Green Paper. Further details will be available on our website at

Thank you again for your letter, and please pass on my regards to Dr Mathews.

Needless to say I did so respond, to no effect.

1:2 The rhetoric of evidence based policy and treatment

Second, one might have hoped that one of the pre-eminent institutions with a vested interest in acknowledging the role of the MBM as a co-factor in a variety of presenting conditions would be the British Psychological Society. Indeed its website states that it is an examining body granting certificates and diplomas in specialist areas of professional applied psychology. It proclaims:

“We are committed to providing and disseminating evidence-based expertise and advice, engaging with policy and decision makers, and promoting the highest standards in learning and teaching, professional practice and research.”

And yet it rejected the presented evidence, and more to the point ignored that of Dr Johanna Barbara Sattler, Director of a Left Handed Institute in Germany who has a network of professionals working in this field across the specialisms. The BPsS had Brexited before Brexit had been invented!

And the National Institute of Care and Excellence emphasizes: The importance of delivering evidence-based care: establishing the effectiveness of therapies and NICE-recommended therapies

It seems the phrase ‘eidence-based’ is used more as a ‘branding’ exercise, referring to an objective neutrality but without questioning the notion of theory-free objectivity. It’s used in ignorance of Karl Popper’s distinction between problem-based rather than discipline-driven research and his falsifyability criterion and Stephen Pepper’s on World- Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence.

Here it’s useful to consider David L. Faigman in Legal Alchemy who describes the different situations in which expert evidence is presented. He claimed experts attest to:

  • a general or specific scientific opinion that is supported or refuted by sound research
  • an opinion based on experience but has not been studied extensively or at all
  • an opinion based on experience but is inconsistent with other research but has yet to be studied fully
  • the application of a well researched or well regarded body of work but are themselves not themselves familiar with the underlying theoretical or research basis for the work
  • experience that is not testable but comes from a field with certain professional standards

If the third situation is modified to ‘an opinion based on experience but is inconsistent with other research, and has been thoroughly researched by that expert but not yet by other agencies’ then the action research presented here, falls into this category. An exemplary instance is provided by my attempt to emulate Dr. Sattler’s work and establish a similar centre in Warrington. To this end, I wrote to Councillor Woodyatt and received the following reply. (Note the mis-spelling of my name!)

Dear Dr Matthews,

Re: Centre for Mis-Matching Writing – Adept Hand

You wrote to Councillor Sheila Woodyatt in August this year in respect to issues relating to the mis-matching of the writing – adept hand. In your correspondence you propose that Warrington Borough Council establish a working party tasked with formulating council policy, and set up a programme of practical workshops for parents and workrelated professions.

Councillor Woodyatt has passed your response to me as Executive Director of Children and Young People’s Services.

In your correspondence you make the argument for the recognition and treatment of problems associated with the mis-matching of writing and adept hand. You also refer to the evidence indicating that such a mis-match has potentially serious and significant implication across a number of domains including personal wellbeinq, educational progress and career success. You also point to the fact that whilst the condition is recognised and addressed in Germany, there appears to be resistance to its recognition as a condition in this country.

I note that in your communication you present a list of wellbeing evaluations and treatments where the mis-match between the writing and adept hand is a factor; however you also indicate that the condition is not one that is recognised by the British Psychological Society. Indeed, you state that you were removed from the register of Chartered Psychologists following a complaint from a headteacher who objected to your evaluation of a pupil.

I am aware that many conditions we recognise and accept today were deemed to be radical when first proposed but over the years have become mainstream. From what you say, the evidence for the presence and/or recognition of a condition specifcally relating to the mis-matching of the writing – adept hand appears to be controversial this country. Until a larger body of evidence is available through peer-removed research, we would not, as a Council be willing to take your proposal further.

I wish you well with any further research you undertake and look forward to reading any

peer-reviewed journal articles around this issue in the future.

Kath O’Dwyer

Executive Director


Kath O’Dwyer was wrong in one major respect: the MBM isn’t controversial it was and is ignored or rejected.

A further reason for ignoring or rejecting the evidence is that currently the discovery of non-instructed or non-sought for conditions are labelled ‘incidental’ findings. And because they fall out with the brief they are typically dismissed as irrelevant and non-evidential. This is seemingly the case with the Royal College of Psychiatrists reply to my letter informing them of the condition.

1:3 Client Needs versus Professional Needs?

Third and focusing on child-help agencies, as long ago as 1970 Lourie & Lourie stated:

“Child-help in this country is still provided through a confused set of fragmented services. We parcel children out to institutions on the basis of social, legal, and sometimes diagnostic labels that neither describe the child nor offer a prescriptive base for treatment. A new, universally accepted classification system for children is needed: institutions now defined by category must be replaced by functional institutional arrangements.”

They went on to say:

“Most observers agree on the following conclusions about present child helping systems:

Service delivery arrangements are geared more to professional and field needs than to the needs of children,

  • We deal with crises more than prevention,
  • We reach only a fraction of the need population,
  • We know that childhood difficulties begin in infancy, yet our child programs concentrate on events beginning after this critical period,

Our programs do not follow research findings. We concentrate on those likely to be cured rather than on the tough cases.”

Lourie & Lourie’s comments would have been equally true were they to have extended their coverage to include adolescent and adult agencies and institutions. More disturbingly what they claimed then about provision in the USA could have been said about provision in the UK. The greater tragedy is that the claim still holds true over 50 years later.

1:4 Diagnostic Labels versus Explanatory Schemas. Goes Here

Fourth, one of the problems bedeviling progress in the field of evaluation, assessment, evaluation, diagnosis is that novices and experts treat the relationship between words and deeds differently. Novices treat labels as evidence of discreet and singular entities. Experts treat labels merely as short-hand descriptors for a cluster of symptoms. They do not treat the label as evidence for discrete entities, not least because many of the items in the cluster will also be found in other conditions, eg dyspraxia, dysgraphia, ADHD, PTSD and offendingbehaviour.

A radical solution to the descriptive label versus explanatory schema argument is to re-frame the issue as a world-view framing problem. In this radical practice this means seeking to establish whether it is possible to eliminate a mis-match between the writing and the adept hand in the client. If it can’t then to ignore it in any treatment programme will prove to be at best inadequate and at worse ineffective.

2 Absence from current diagnostic and treatment frames

Astonishingly the MBM is not covered by McManus, a leading authority on handedness and laterality nor by Bishop. another authority on developmental disorders. Nor does it figure in (a) DSM-IV or the ICD-10 manuals (b) DDA legislation or (c) SEN legislation. This, however, does not mean the condition does not exist. Indeed the elementary school curriculum in Bavaria was altered over a decade ago after the mind-body-mismatch was identified by Dr Sattler.

2:1 Illiteracy and Offender Behaviour

It is a well established fact that illiteracy rates are high amongst offenders. Atomists regard these two sets of facts, illiteracy and offending, either in terms of a correlation between two fundamentally different aspects of the individual or causally, with offender behaviour the result of poor literacy. Holists on the other hand regard these two sets of facts as indicating a third core-problem, which manifests itself both in poor literacy and in offender behaviour.

Typically offenders will have been seen (often) by a vareity of educational and clinical psychologists who had failed to help them, as had the various education courses in YOIs and prisons.

The case of MP Graham Stringer is highly relevant here

3: Historical Context

There is nothing new about ignoring or rejecting new ideas or practices. Thus acknowledging the MBM as a co-factor in a variety of personal, educational, medico-legal and legal issues is little different from other historical instances of introducing a radically different perspective on conventionally held beliefs.

Rejection of new ideas and practices eems to be an enduring human characteristic, and scientists —despite extolling the virtues of objectivity and evidence-based-practice— have often proved themselves no different from anyone else. Many of the radical breakthroughs in science were initially rejected or ignored, sometimes for decades, and mainly because of the prevailing mental set. It is useful to consider some of the reasons behind scientific advances that were originally rejected.

Loss of face. By definition, change is a departure from the past. Those people associated with the last version — the one that didn’t work, or the one that’s being superseded — are likely to be defensive about it. When change involves a big shift of strategic direction, the people responsible for the previous direction dread the perception that they must have been wrong.

Concerns about competence. Can I do it? Change is resisted when it makes people feel stupid. They might express scepticism about whether, for example, the new method of teaching reading will work or whether project based learning is really an improvement. Deep down they are worried that they will no longer be listened to or that their skills will be obsolete.

Ripple effects. Like tossing a pebble into a pond, change creates ripples, reaching distant spots in ever-widening circles. The ripples disrupt other disciplines and client groups who start to push back, rebelling against changes they had nothing to do with that interfere with their own activities. [See Stringer]

Past resentments. The ghosts of the past are always lying in wait to haunt us. As long as everything is steady state, the real problems remain out of sight. But the minute you need cooperation for something new or different, the ghosts spring into action.

The threat of the new is real. Change is resisted because it can hurt. When new practices displace old ones, jobs can be lost, costs can be cut, investments can be wiped out.

Grasping the significance of the mis-match entails engaging in the self-reflexive exercise of examining and making explicit the tools we ourselves think with. I have already alluded to two key tools: the hand (as a measure of contra-lateral hemisphere function) and our personal (Pepper) or institutional (Douglas) explanatory schema or world-view.

People, agencies who have been informed about about the role of the MBM and ignored or rejected the evidence.

The following correspondence had been conducted with no positive action.


     PVM to Graham Stuart MP, Chair House of Commons Education Select Committee

     David Mowat MP to Sarah Teather Minister of State, Department of Education [See above]

The British Psychological Society

     PVM to The Psychologist

     The Psychologist (Dr Sutton) to PVM

Warrington Borough Council

     PVM to Cllr Sheila Woodyatt

Warrington Borough Council:

     Kath O’Dwyer to PVM [See above and for further details Subscribe]

     Sheila Woodyatt to PVM

     Sheila Woodyatt to PVM


I wrote to the House of Lords Behaviour Change inquiry stating;

The task of presenting evidence to this inquiry involves a number of interlocking issues that are not easily resolved by answering, in a one-to-one manner, the inquiry’s general or detailed questions.

The form and content of my presentation of the evidence has been dictated by:

$ the nature of a proposal about a behaviour change intervention based on a body-mind phenomenon which is acknowledged by solicitors, crown court judges, employment tribunal panels, educational tribunal panels, civil courts (for RTA litigation), parents of evaluated children, and adults but critically not by critical regulatory bodies (eg British Psychological Society, the Health Professionals Council), or expertise certifying authorities (eg Bond Solon Cardiff University Expert Witness Accreditation),

$ recent personal history in trying to disseminate the required behaviour change intervention systemically within:

$ the Department of Children Education and Families and the Ministry of Justice

$ the British Psychological Society, the Health Professionals Council and Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers,

$ the Bond-Solon Cardiff University Expert Witness Certification Scheme,

$ Warrington Borough Council

Publishers such Blackwell were not interested in translating and publishing Dr Sattler’s German publications in English because “It was not a hot topic!”

4: Summary conclusion

There is a simple short answer to the question of who benefits from ignoring or rejecting the evidence that the mis-match between the writing and the adept hand is a co-factor in a variety of educational, medical and medico-legal conditions. It is those individuals unprepared to shift from being dogmatically opposed because of their vested interests to those multi-million pound industries devoted to labelled conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD, PTSD.

What Is the problem

What is the Mind-Body-Mismatch Problem?

Find out More

Who can identify it?

Who should focus on the mis-match between the writing and the wright / adept hand?

Find out More

Mind-Body Mismatch

Institutional inertia

Path to Discovery

Awareness and advocacy

Treatment and Implications

Identification and support