By: Michelle Yoder, OTR/L
Young readers and writers frequently have letter reversals: b instead of d, p instead of q, and even a 6 rather than a 9. It is concerning to most parents, but remember that this is quite normal for children under the age of 8. You may wish to have your child evaluated if he or she continues to have reversals or exhibits “mirror” writing (right to left and backwards) beyond the age of 8 or the second grade.
Literature suggests that children need repetition and emphasis on the individual letters. As well, children should be read to every day. Early readers should be encouraged to read street signs and other signs in the community, packages, labels in the grocery store, etc. While I have not found one trick that works for every child, these are some things that I have learned and that have worked for me over the years:
Teach them their right and left hands- play Simon Says, teach them strategies such as “I write with my right”, or my left hand forms an L.
Work on jumping or moving their bodies to the left and to the right. We use a sign with three rows of arrows going in each direction, or even up and down arrows to represent forward and backward.
Make sure they understand directionality- top, bottom, sides, straight lines, diagonal lines, etc. I use Fundanoodle’s Magna Strips to practice this.
Work on crossing the midline of their bodies with soldier marching or with rainbow writing (draw a rainbow or the infinity sign) on a large piece of butcher paper.
Provide boundaries for writing letters for early writers. Window panes and window markers are a fun way to do this! Then, move to boxes on paper to give them a boundary while they first learn to write their letters.
Work on visually scanning to locate items on a page, foster scanning in a left to right direction- if necessary use a piece of paper to “block” out certain parts of the page.
Encourage them to begin their work on the left side of the paper first.
Perform kinesthetic writing in shaving cream, play doh, hair gel, pudding, etc.
Provide visual cues in the room near the alphabet strip or on their desks:
Show them that if they start with an upper case B and erase only the top half, it still is a b!
For a lower case b- the bat comes before the ball
For a lower case d- you need a doorknob to open the door
A lower case b has a belly- this will make sense to them if they know that they move from left to right across the paper.
For the number 6- the circle sits on the bottom on 6
Make phonics bags: identify the letter, say it out loud and then trace and write the letter
For some children who have continued difficulties with reversals and writing, in general, it can be helpful to move right onto cursive! Just last week, I had a boy tell me that cursive is so much easier for him than printing! He was all smiles learning to write with Fundanoodle’s Cursive book.