Mirror writing, also known as reverse writing or letter reversal, is when children write certain letters or numbers backward or upside down.

Why is your child mirror writing?

Mirror writing is a typical developmental behavior that many children display around the ages of 3 and 7. This is very common. Children with excellent fine motor skills may struggle to reverse letters and numbers. But why is your child mirror writing? To begin, it’s essential to understand how a child’s brain works. You can start developing this understanding by carefully observing their writing.

Many children may struggle with reverse letters and mirror writing from a poor understanding of correctly forming letters.

Mirror writing can also be a standard indicator of dyslexia in students. However, it is essential to know that not all students with dyslexia struggle with mirror writing.

Another possible cause is visual processing issues. In this case, a child might have trouble identifying how images are different (visual discrimination) or which direction they face (visual directionality).

Is mirror writing rarely?

Not at all! It is widespread for young children to demonstrate mirror writing in their early education. However, with the right teacher and home support, children should be able to correct these mistakes consistently.

While mirroring writing errors are common in young children, it is rare for adults to demonstrate mirror writing consistently. Habitual mirror writers are scarce. Most students will outgrow reversing as they get more potent at reading and writing.

Did you know that perhaps Leonardo da Vinci’s is the only recognized example of mirror writing?

Mirror Writing Examples

One of the most common letter reversals in children is ‘b’ and ‘d’. Since the letters are so similar, when a child means to write ‘b,’ they may write ‘d’ instead, and vice versa.

Confusing ‘p’ and ‘q’ is also common, as well as ‘m’ and ‘n’ or ‘m’ and ‘w’ when writing upside down.

Other common examples of mirror writing include reversing numbers and even whole sentences.

Some children may write the first sentence forwards, reach the edge of their paper, and continue writing right under where they left off: this means their following sentence is backward.

Another typical example is writing singular words backward. This can often happen when children learn to write their names for the first time, and they write them in reverse.

Why do children mirror letters?

There are many reasons why a child may be writing in reverse. It’s a misconception that any child who mirrors their letters has dyslexia. While some children with dyslexia can struggle with forming letters correctly, mirror writing is not always a sign of this.

Some children may mirror write because they find it difficult to remember how to form the letters in the first place. For example, they may have a general idea of the shape of the letter, but they’ve forgotten how it’s supposed to face. In these cases, it can be pretty simple to fix with extra support and guidance.

On the other hand, some children may show signs of letter reversal if they have visual processing issues. This means they struggle to identify how and when images are different or which way they should face them. This becomes difficult when children try to differentiate between similar letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’, ‘p’ and ‘q,’ and so on.

How to test children’s mirror writing?

There are several strategies and activities that you can try out to assess whether your students are mirror writing. For example:

  • Give children activity sheets that ask students to copy out the alphabet in order. This can help you spot which letters children are struggling with.
  • Observe before you act. Try to let students write independently without interruptions. This will show you how they naturally write. Are they reversing any particular letters? Do they start writing from the wrong side of the page?
  • Watch out for students who hesitate when they are forming letters. For example, when writing letters with a circle, such as an ad, students may write a few circles over and over while trying to work out which side the ‘stick’ goes on.

How can I correct mirror writing?

Many children naturally grow out of reverse writing as they grow and develop their handwriting skills, usually at around seven years old. So reversing letters is pretty standard up until this age.

This is because children are just beginning their journey into reading and writing. As adults, we can easily differentiate between letters like ‘p’ and ‘q’ because we know their differences already. However, children are just learning this, so sometimes they’re expected to confuse them.

As children become more experienced readers and writers, they’ll develop their knowledge and begin to understand the differences between similar letters for themselves. This means they’ll be able to make the correct decision when deciding which way the letter ‘b’ should face.

Some children may need extra support and guidance when correcting their letters. If you have an older child in your class or at home who still struggles with differentiating notes, there are ways to help them. Take a look at these ideas:

  1. Dot the starting point.

For children who write entire sentences in reverse, simply marking the paper with a dot to show the starting point will help them remember where they should begin to write their sentences.

  1. Trace over letters.

The physical movement of tracing over letters helps to build muscle memory. The more children trace over each letter, the more likely they will remember how to write it in the future – without even having to think about it.

  1. Work on one letter at a time.

If the child is confusing two letters, it’s best to focus on one at a time. This will help them to master that letter first, so when it comes to the following letter, they’ll know which way not to face it.

  1. Write with fun materials.

Having fun while practicing can change a child’s attitude. Try writing in gel pens or something messy if you’re brave.

  1. Try a multisensory approach.

Engage more than just one sense – we have five at our disposal, after all. For example, encourage children to write out the letter or word and say it aloud simultaneously.

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