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Ask the Experts

My Child Started Reversing Letters

By Dr. Joseph Gianesin, Behavioral Consultant

Question:

My daughter has been writing since before she started school and was good at it. I was a stay-at-home mom and worked with her so that when she started school she would have no problems.

Now that she has started school and I am a working single mom she has issues with writing letters and numbers backward. Could it be because she no longer has the one-on-one attention? She was writing so much better before.

Please help me.

Answer:

It sounds like you are very interested in helping your child get off to a good start at school.

As far as her writing letters and numbers backward, the teacher may have taught her a different way of forming the letters and numbers so she may be a little confused after learning one method from you and another from the teacher. This is something you could find out in a conference with her teacher and reinforce the teacher's method at home.

There is a good reason we wait until first grade to teach writing letters and numbers, as most kids' fine-motor skills have developed enough for them to take this on.

On the other hand, if she continues to have difficulty in this area, this may turn out to be a form a dyslexia or a mild learning disability. The teacher can give you feedback if this is a real problem.

At this young age, we want to allow the child to make mistakes and reinforce her when she does something right. My best advice is not to worry unless the situation perpetuates itself. Putting pressure on your child to do things perfectly could cause more harm than good.


Dr. Joseph Gianesin is a professor at Springfield College School of Social Work. He has more than 25 years of experience as a child and family therapist, a school social worker and a school administrator. Along with his academic appointment, Dr. Gianesin is a program and behavioral consultant for public schools in Massachusetts, helping them develop and manage programs for children with significant mental health problems.

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 GreatSchools.org readers

05/4/2010:
"I am not sure if our experience with twins applies to other children that write backwards, but I have always found it interesting that one of our twin daughters wrote her letters backwards at an early age, while her identical twin sister did not. They are 'mirror' twins. One is right handed the other left handed. The left handed twin was the one that wrote her letter backwards. They were 2 or 3 when they started writing. Their school skills pretty much progressed at the same rate, although I always felt that the left handed twin in the early grades had to work a bit harder at reading. I have always suspected that there is an extra step in her thought process that requires her to reverse the letters when she is reading. When she was very young and writing all of her letters backwards, I once accidentally glanced in a mirror and saw something she had written that had previously made no sense. I was amazed at how well the letters were formed and that I could read it perfectly! . When they tested their IQ's at age 5, they both tested well and were within a few points of each other. Throughout elementary school the left hander would read math books for fun, whereas the right hander was more inclined to read novels. The right hander was probably the faster reader during that time, but now I think they read at the same speed. On standardized tests, we could never predict which child would score higher on math or reading, but they consistently were within a few points of each other on these tests. They have both made good grades throughout, typically all A’s with an occasional B. They are now 12 years old finishing 7th grade. They took the SAT's in January this year, and both scored pretty well. The lefthander, who used to write backwards, scored an 1800, 610 in math, 590 in critical reading and 600. Her sister scored the same in math, and slightly lower in each of the other two areas. In conclusion, it looks as though writing her letters backward! s at an early age has not hurt her performance in school or he! r ability to test well, although it may have contributed to how she learned to focus and apply herself at an early age."
11/30/2007:
"My son is in the first grade, He just turned seven last week, they have a 10 to 12 word spelling list every week, he hardly ever gets the spelling wrong, but reverses the letters b and d mostly, his teachers said it was very common. Then starting the second nine weeks, they started marking all of the words spelled correctly, but with reversed letters WRONG, he went from making A's to F's and D's how am i supposed to not make a big deal out of it when his teachers are! "
12/26/2006:
"My son is in the first grade and has difficulty with the letters 'b' and 'd'. I teach him that 'b' is a line then a circle and 'd' is a circle then a line. This method seems to help him remember which letter he is trying to write."
12/21/2006:
"I like that Dr. Ginesin advises that one practice communication with the teacher and praise with our children. It's a good reminder. Thanks!"
12/20/2006:
"I'm glad that I read this email. My son is in 1st grade and continues to write a few of his letters and numbers backwards. The teacher stated in conference that he recognizes his mistake when asked to review his work. Thanks for the great insight."
12/19/2006:
"Also---talk about bat and ball for b. First draw the bat then put a ball next to it. D--draw the dog's head, then his tail that sticks up in the air."
12/19/2006:
"Yes, I have a daughter in the first grade, and she's prone to reversing letters (G, b, d, s) but I'm being patient with her. I point them out to her, and she uses the 'bed method' to help her with b and d. The world 'bed' looks like a bed, forming the letters with the headboard and foot. It worked. Above all, be patient with them. They respond to a reward and encouragement far better than 'Why do you do that!' Peace! "
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