Why do some children reverse letters?

December 30, 2014 STABILO

When you hold an object, no matter which way you look at it, it is the same. However, letters change depending on which way you write them. For example, if you reflect a ‘d’ it becomes a ‘b’, with an entirely different shape and sound. Young children can struggle with deciphering these changes, and reversing letters is a common problem in the early stages of writing.

A popular myth about reversing letters is that it’s a clear sign of dyslexia. While mirror writing can indicate dyslexia, it is not a defining symptom and lots of children can struggle with it, regardless of any learning difficulties.

So how can you help?

If your child is finding certain pairings of letters difficult to write the right way round, focus on one letter at a time. In particular ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘p’ and ‘q’ can pose problems. Spend several days practicing ‘b’ for example, before introducing ‘d’. By isolating each letter your child may find it easier to see them individually, rather than reflections of the same shape.

Using visual clues brings the letters off the page and allows your child to see it in another context. A great way to do this is by using their hands. For example, two thumbs up makes a ‘b’ and a ‘d’. Put an ‘e’ in between and you can spell out ‘bed’. Multi-sensory materials are also fantastic for teaching letter patterns and shapes. Why not try paint, glitter glue, or clay? Find out how to make learning letters fun with these great tricks.

To keep your child in the reading process when learning letters, try mouth formations. For example, when you make the sound of the letter ‘b’ your mouth creases into a line, just like the backbone of the letter. When you sound out ‘d’, your tongue is curled like the curve of the letter.

Most children will stop reversing their letters by Year 1 or 2, so the problem usually rectifies itself. However, your child might just need a bit of extra practice. If you are concerned about an older child, an Occupational Therapist may be able to help with targeted exercises.

For extra support with grip and hand posture, try STABILO EASYstart. This range of ergonomic pens and pencils are designed for children learning to write and are recommended by handwriting experts.


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