Dyslexia Letter & Number Reversals
If your dyslexic child is reversing letters (or numbers), you can help. Find out why dyslexics reverse letters, if reversing letters indicates dyslexia, and how to eliminate letter reversals.
Why do dyslexics reverse letters?
A dyslexic individual usually thinks visually and, when quickly having to decide on a letter (or number), may choose the wrong orientation. A younger dyslexic child may not even understand that letters that have the same shape have different sounds. After all, a chair is a chair, no matter which way it's facing.
Letter reversals for dyslexics are usually more problematic when writing (not
reading). When reading, there are other clues for context in a sentence, however
if reading words in isolation then reversals may rear its head. If a child is
asked to read words in isolation such as: dib, bib, dab, or pad, they may
reverse letters and misread the word. This, combined with nonsense words, is a
good test to include in any kind of dyslexia evaluation.
When writing, dyslexics either have to stop and think about the letter direction or write without stopping and then review what was written later when done, checking for their known problematic letter reversals.. Some younger dyslexics may incorporate capitals that are not reversed into a word instead of using the lowercase letter. For example, they may write the word "number" as "numBer".
Any letter or number that has the same shape may be reversed or flipped. The most common letter reversals are 'b', 'd', 'p' and 'q'. The common number reversal is 6 and 9, or 6 and the hand written 2. Some letters or numbers may be reversed regardless if there's another letter or number with the same shape. The number 5 is often reversed despite that there isn't another number that has a similar shape.
Are letter reversals an indication of dyslexia?
Reversing letters or numbers is normal up to age 8. Letter
reversals after age 8 may indicate dyslexia. If your
child is age 8 or older, still reversing letters or numbers and is behind in reading, then there
is a high probability that he or she is dyslexic. If you have a family member
who is dyslexic, then the probability increases since dyslexia often runs in
families. For a professional diagnosis, a neuropsychologist is recommended.
How to help dyslexic students with letter reversals?
The main way to help dyslexics with letter reversals is to teach the child that direction does matter, and then provide a framework for the child to remember the direction of that letter. Here is where you must work with what the child knows. Keep an eye out for which letters and/or numbers they are reversing and then come up with a way to teach the proper direction that the child can remember. Important note: do not create a problem where there isn't one, since you can inadvertently create confusion with other letters or numbers by simply bringing attention to it. Our free to use Reversal App for Dyslexia (see below) can help provide the necessary framework to help eliminate reversals.
Interactive Approach to Helping With Letter & Number Reversals
Our Reversal App, which can be played on any browser, provides a multisensory way to help with letter reversals, as well as number reversals. This reversal app for dyslexia has several activities to combat the popular 'b'-'d' reversal, as well as 'b', 'd', and 'p' reversals. There are also two games where you can choose other letters or numbers and their problematic orientations. This app will also help children who have motor skills issues as they will drag and write on the screen (note that we recommend touch screens for the activities). Play on your web browser!
For Apple devices not getting sound, watch this video for instructions.
Multisensory Ideas for Letter and Number Reversals
As part of a multisensory approach, for the common b-d reversals, have your student write a series of uppercase ‘B’s in a line (using a colored pencil). Then have him/her write lowercase 'b's on top of the uppercase 'B's. Point out how the two go in the same direction.
Then have your student write a series of uppercase 'D's, and then write the lowercase 'd's on top. Point out how the 'd's do not go in the same direction as its uppercase letter.
Click on the image below for the b-d printable for this exercise.
Another idea to help combat the b-d reversal problem is to make a fist with both hands, thumbs pointing in the air, fingers facing each other. When you put your fists together, it looks like a "bed" (with a headboard and footboard), you can see the direction of the "b" and the "d" in the shape of the hands. A modification of this method, which uses only the left hand (freeing up the right hand to write - as long as you're right-handed) is to use just the 'b' as in "bed". By knowing the orientation of the letter 'b', you will automatically know the other flipped orientation is the letter 'd'. By building on the "bed" method, your student will have an easy way of reminding themselves of the proper orientation.
As part of a multisensory method for letter reversals, it can help if the child feels the letter or number. You can create "feel boards", using twine and cardboard, or use plastic shaped letters. With these, you can play games by having the child feel the letter (or number) with eyes closed and have him or her guess what it is.
You can create visual images that will help reinforce direction of the letters or numbers that your student reverses. For example, below is a link to a PDF that has a series of "slides" to help with when the number 6 is reversed with a handwritten 2. Click on the image to download the PDF, and use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to easily swipe through the slides.