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My Fifth-Grader Reverses Numbers When He Writes

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


My son is in fifth grade, and he still reverses some of his numbers. He doesn't reverse his b's and d's like he used to, but he still writes his 4s, 5s and 6s backward about 50% of the time. This doesn't seem to impede his ability to do math, but it worries me.

I've had him tested by the school psychologist for learning disabilities. She said he tested in the normal range, so he doesn't qualify for special services.

Is there anything further that I can do? Or should I just be patient and see if the reversals go away.


I think you have a valid concern and you did the right thing by having him tested. He'll be in middle school next year and you want to make sure he's getting what he needs to make that next big step.

If you already met with the school psychologist and he or she went over the results with you, I would check in with the learning resources specialist at your school (special education teacher). Have the specialist have him look at his test results. His impairment may not qualify for special services, but the specialist teacher should have a good sense of what exercises, if any, may help him. In some schools the specialist or special education teacher will meet only with special education students and parents, so you may want to speak with your principal first.

Because his b's and d's straightened out, and he can perform math skills, the specialist may likely tell you your son will correct the reversals on his own, but it never hurts to get more information and support. If you want a second opinion, your pediatrician may have private evaluation referrals for you.

Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"My Child doesn't reverse the numbers but if she see 245 she may write it 254 is that just clumsiness or is it a real problem"