Friday, February 7, 2020

Letter Reversals

We are continuing our series of posts by Beth Guadagni, M.A., who teaches students with dyslexia in Colorado. Today, Beth looks at what happens -- and what teachers and parents can do -- when a child reverses letters. 

Most dyslexic kids reverse letters (and even whole words) when reading and writing, but so do most young learners. Parents frequently panic when they see a child flipping b's and d's, assuming that this is a sure-fire sign of dyslexia. More likely, the child simply needs more practice and better practice. Multi-sensory strategies (learning opportunities that stimulate a child’s auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic senses along with their vision) are extraordinarily useful in giving kids the practice they need to get comfortable with directionality.

First, let’s take a look at why reversals happen. During a young child’s life, he learns that an object seen from one side is the same object seen from another side. Whether he’s standing on the left or right of the blue armchair in the living room, it’s still the same armchair, even if the image appears to be reversed when he moves from one side to the other. When he begins school, he has to unlearn that concept; applied to letters and numbers, directionality can really change things.

This ability to appreciate mirror images is really useful—in most settings. On the page, it presents problems. Here are some ideas for helping your child:

Letter Formation – It Matters!

Watch your young child as he is writing and insist that he form letters the same way every time. This is particularly important with b and d. Many parents and educators skip this step, thinking that as long as the letter looks right in the end, how the child wrote it isn’t important. This is far from true. Remember:
  • To make a lowercase b, the child should write the line first, starting at the top and moving downward. The loop is added next, so the letter takes two separate strokes.
  • To make a lowercase d, the child should write the loop first. Then, without lifting her pencil, she can sweep upward to form the line, then down again for the tail.
Why does this help a child stop making reversals? Following the same sequence of motions each time embeds letter-writing in muscle memory, so a child can store that information along with the physical appearance of a letter. This helps with writing and, believe it or not, reading, too.

We worked with a young boy whose insightful mother came up with a mnemonic to help him with b's and d's. When he wrote a b, he said “bat to the ball” to himself. The “bat” was the stem of the letter, which he had to write first. The “ball” was the loop. When he wrote a d, he said “dog to the door” to remind him to write the “dog” (the loop), then the “door” (the stem). This clever strategy marries the auditory and kinesthetic senses.

Resource: Handwriting Without Tears

If you’re worried about letter formation, we love Handwriting Without Tears. Its step-by-step instructions are easy enough for parents with no training in early education to follow at home.

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