Left-Right Confusion is when you have trouble telling your left from your right. Do you struggle with this? Do your kids? 

Did you know that if you are neurodiverse, it is perfectly normal to not know your left from your right? Yup. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much you practice. It is information most ADHD, autistic, and neurodiverse brains just don’t care about. 


The neurodiverse brain may have a weakness in the region of the brain that sends the signals for which is right and left, which results in left-right confusion. However, it is also possible that the problem is that left and right are variables that can change. If I pick up the squishy octopus toy on my desk and rotate it, there is no obvious left or right side. I can assign it a left and right based on my own left and right. If a person is facing me though, their left and right are the opposite of mine. This means, telling left from right is tricky. 

When you give directions with lefts and rights, those can change too, depending on the direction you approach from. Those with a neurodiverse brain often make maps in their heads of how objects relate to each other. So, instead of remembering that the coffee shop is on the right, they may remember that it is across the street from the pet store. 

When it matters

There are several situations where you, or your child, will need to be able to tell your left from your right, and having left-right confusion is a problem. Dance class, sports, yoga classes, and driving are all times you need to know which is which. But what can we do to make this easier? 

While everyone knows they can hold up their hands to see which hand makes the “L” for left, that isn’t always convenient or safe. There is nothing good about taking both hands off the wheel while driving to look for that L! And doing it in a class with peers can be embarrassing. 

Most importantly, when asked to tell left from right under stress, you are more likely to make mistakes and get confused. For some reason, the “fight or flight” part of your brain doesn’t think right and left are what you should be worried about. 

Tricks for Success

To combat left-right confusion you can actually use a washable marker to write on your child an L and an R to show them which is which. This works for little ones, but this isn’t practical in many situations. Looking for visual information on your body can be helpful, such as a scar or mole on your right hand. But looking for the information takes time. 

Instead of a visual cue, I prefer a tactile one. When I was little, I had a callus on my right hand from holding my pencil wrong. I could feel for it to remember that was my right hand. Rubbing my thumb to my finger was discreet and no one knew I was doing it. 

If you and your kids are fortunate enough to not have a weird callous, what can you do? Jewelry is a great solution.  My wedding ring is on my left hand and I can feel for it just as easily as that callous that is now gone.  These days there are lots of unisex fidget rings that your child can choose from if this option appeals to them. 

My daughter likes to wear a paracord bracelet on the same wrist every time she goes to her dance class. She can easily feel the weight of the bracelet on her wrist and move to the right or left as directed very quickly. No one knows her jewelry is serving a different function than is obvious.  If she wants to be more subtle, she can switch to a hair tie on that wrist. 

If your child is old enough, a watch is another great option for a wearable item that can help them know left from right. As a right-hand dominant person, I always wear a watch on my left hand, when I wear one. When I was younger, I would actually pick up a pencil to remind myself which hand I didn’t want to put it on. It took an extra minute in my getting ready routine, but having it on the left saved me other issues during the day. 

Find what works

Nothing will work if you don’t like it. So, if you are problem-solving this with your child, be sure to listen to what they think will work best. Find something for them to wear that matches their style and doesn’t embarrass them. 

And if you are considering this for yourself, I give you permission to buy yourself something nice to wear every day to help with this problem. You deserve it. Besides, you are going to wear it every day, aren’t you? 

About the Author

Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.

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