When are letter reversals in writing no longer appropriate?

Letter reversals, when children write letters backward or upside down, can be common up until the age of 7 years. It is often called mirror writing. This is due to poor working memory as well as weaknesses in visual processing skills. Children typically reverse the letters b, d, q, p, and the numbers 9, 5, and 7. People often think this is a sign of dyslexia however dyslexia is more complex than that.

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What can I do to help my child with letter reversals?

To help with letter and number reversals, we can work on increasing the child’s recognition of letters and numbers and improve their memory of how to make each letter or number.

Work on one letter or number at a time.

  • Once that tricky number or letter is mastered, begin to work on another. Continue to review numbers or letters that you have previously taught.

Use your child’s senses

  • Integrate a multisensory approach into making the letters and numbers. Use your child’s 5 senses to support learning how to form each letter and number.
    1. Visual:
      • Look at the letter and/or number, talk about the curves and straight pieces and which direction they face. Compare and contrast numbers and letters, talking about which have curves or straight lines and which do not. Try sorting letters by their formation, for example: curvy letters versus straight letters. 
    2. Tactile:
      • Practice making letters and numbers with different textures. You can write in a tray of shaving cream, use sandpaper to cut out and trace letters with fingers, use playdough to make and trace letters, write letters in a tray of play sand, use colored hair gel or aloe in a sandwich bag to make a fun tracing surface, or make letters and glue glitter on each to trace with your finger. 
    3. Auditory:
      • Use funny, memorable phrases like “b has a belly and d wears a diaper” or a poem to remember how to form the letters. Have your child say the name of each letter as they are tracing them.

Improving your child’s working memory, or their ability to hold onto and work with information stored, may also help with letter reversals. This executive function is vital for following multi-step directions or doing a math problem.

What can I do at home to help my child improve his working memory?

There are several ways you can help improve your child’s working memory at home. Here are some suggestions for improving your child’s working memory capacity and what they can do with their working memory:

1. Practice visualization.

Encourage your child to create an image in their mind or draw a picture of what they have just read. 

2. Let them teach you.

They can tell you how to form each letter/number and watch as you write them. Ask your child to teach you what they have recently learned, whether it be something they learned at school or in soccer practice. 

3. Play games that use visual memory

Games like memory are helpful for improving visual memory. Try making a memory game with cards that have letters on them or matches of letters and a picture with the letter sound, such as a picture of a cat to match the letter “c”. 

You can also practice reading license plates and then challenge your child to read the license plate backwards.

4. Play cards games

Games like Uno or Go Fish are helpful for improving working memory skills. Children need to keep the rule in their mind as they play, remember the cards they are holding in their hand, and remember what cards each player asked for on their turn.

5. Use multisensory strategies

While forming letters, incorporate more than one of the multisensory strategies together. For example, make letters in shaving cream and say each step to make it.

Professional Help

If your child is still having trouble with letter and number reversals after practice, this may be a sign of challenges with visual processing or memory. It may also be one sign of a reading disability, when combined with other challenges, such as continued decoding errors. You can talk to your child’s teacher about what they are seeing at school and discuss these concerns with your child’s pediatrician.

If you are concerned about your child’s reading and writing, give us a call, we’re here to help!

srcs: https://www.nessy.com/uk/teachers/further-dyslexia-information/dyslexia-and-visual-difficulties/

Hands on As We Grow: Gel Tracing Bags

Kamhi, A. G. & Catts, H. W. (2012) Language and Reading Disabilities, 3rd Edition

Maggie’s Kinder Korner: Letter Formation Poems 

RLLC: What is Dyslexia and How is it Treated?

Understood.org: FAQs about Letter Reversals

Understood.org: Working Memory Boosters