Reversals in Handwriting: Should I Worry?
As a parent of young children, how often have you seen something like this? Your child sits down to write something and one or more of the letters she has written is backwards?
Many, many parents find this frightening. They immediately think that there is something wrong with their child. Many people often jump right to, “Oh, my! My child has a learning disability!” If you have seen this and had that moment of panic, you are definitely not alone. I cannot tell you how many times I had to calm down an anxious parent and tell them that this is completely normal. Yes, it is normal. In fact, just tonight when I was working on some numbers with my son, he wrote “01” instead of “10.” I just let it go because I knew he thought he was writing “10,” but it just came out that way. Later, I showed him the number 10 written correctly and then pointed at his 10 and asked, “Do you notice anything different about the way the number 10 is written in these two places?” Immediately he said, “Oh!” and took out his eraser to change it.
Some Facts about Reversals in Handwriting:
- Nearly all young children who are learning to read and write make reversal errors.
- Most do not continue to do so after the first few years of school (usually age 7, but that is not a hard and fast rule)
- Reversing letters and numerals is not a sign of a learning disability, but some students with learning disabilities do reverse letters and numerals during elementary school and even later.
- Letter reversals are for the most part due to weak memory or lack of enough previous experiences.
- Some say that most lingering reversals go away when a child begins to write in cursive (usually around grade 3), others disagree.
What Can You Do:
- Don’t panic!
- Explain to your child that letters and numbers have a way that they are meant to be.
- Practice (in a light and fun way) and reinforce the correct way to write the number or letter.
- If you know your child has trouble with a particular number or letter, pre-teaching is a great tool. When the child is writing, say something like, “Oh, look what is coming up! That pesky ‘b.’ I’m going to show you how to write it and they I want you to give it a try.”
- Create (or find) visual clues or sayings to help. My son has trouble with the numeral 5. We practiced and I really exaggerated the “big belly” of a five. We even put a belly button on it! So when he is about to write a five, I say, “Don’t forget the big ol’ belly on that number.” and he gets it right every time.
Note: If your child continues to make reversals at age 7 or 8, talk to your child’s teacher.
Looking for something to help your child with reversals? Check out our post, Games for Letter Reversals.
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