Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dyslexia or Vision Problems? Why does my daughter reverse her numbers?

Ever since I can remember our oldest daughter has had difficulty with letter and number reversals. In case you are unaware a number reversal is when a child writes a number backwards. Just to clarify any further confusion before we go on, the school does not want them to write their numbers backwards (thoughts of my sister), but our daughter when completing her assignments writes many numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and a few letters b, d, s, z, g, q backwards.

We have discussed this with every past teacher and the response is always "it's developmental", "she'll grow out of it", "practice and reinforce". I've always accepted these responses and continued to "practice and reinforce" at home. UNTIL our daughter came home with an assignment that scored a 2/7. I don't get to wrapped up in grades and always look for concepts our daughter may be struggling with. But, this was simple single digit addition in the second grade and her answers were correct, but backwards. The next morning I headed up to school and when I walked into the classroom the teacher states to me, "Do you know your daughter reverses her numbers?" So glad we are on the same page, that's the reason I stopped in.   We were able to sit and discuss my daughter and I explained a few of the interventions we had been working on over the years, along with a few newer strategies we've been working with.

When we do homework, I always check and erase any reversals. I then model on a seperate sheet of paper and have her trace three times, before returning to her paper to try again. As she continues through I make sure that I praise her correct formation and inform her when a reversal occurs.  This year I switched from using only the visual approach we had been using to more of a tactile approach. I took 2"x 3" posterboard pieces and wrote on them with marker the numbers she had a difficult time transposing. I also did this with the letters.  Then I went over the letters and numbers with Elmer's glue. When they dried, (almost 15 hours later) she was able to trace the letters and numbers with her finger and feel the direction that the symbol should be written.

A few other strategies suggested to correct this are:

  • Have the student construct the word or letter in different ways with a variety of materials such as magnetic letters, MagnaDoodle, with chalk, in the air, shaving cream, wiki sticks, in the sand, salt, dirt, on a whiteboard, use sandpaper, etc.
  • Use a hole punch as a tactile anchor to indicate where to begin writing.
  • Provide the student with an individual alphabet or number strip for easy reference while writing.
  • Trace over dots to from letters.
  • Use a “school font” that has arrows to show directionality. Enlarge the letter with a copier or in a Word document, and place in a plastic sleeve for tracing activities.

I'm still not satisfied with the response that number and letter reversals are developmental.  Many emerging readers and writers will make letter reversals.

I understand that. 

It is not uncommon or unusual to see children 4, 5, 6 and even 7 years of age making letter and/or number reversals.

I understand that. 

There may be a need for some concern if a child continues with letter reversals into and beyond the 3rd grade.

We're in 2nd grade and I'm becoming weary. We have looked into many possible reasons for why she does this.

Is it dsylexia? 

No she has no difficulties reading, actually she's always been in the highest reading group and is reading 2-3 years ahead of grade level.

Is it a learning difficulties?

No, because she was tested and entered school at age 4 and is actually classified "gifted."

Could it be vision problems?

Possibly, she has worn glasses since Kindergarten.

I started to look into the vision issue a little further and come to find out there is a disorder classified as convergence insufficiency.  I'm going to be looking into this further with her pediatrician and optomitrist and hopefully have this issue resolved before she turns seven and enters third grade!

Has your child experienced this issue?  What did you do to correct it or did the grow out of it with age?


  1. Sorry to hear this, I don't know enough about Dyslexia to comment on that. I do know that children ages 3 to 5 invert their written letters and numbers because their eyes and their vision are still developing. But ages 6 and up would need some testing on the matter. When my son writes a letter backwards, etc., I feel it is important to correct him or he'll just keep repeating it and then it becomes a habit that is hard to break (like allowing him to hold a pencil incorrectly when he was younger). But it is tricky due to his Down syndrome!

  2. Our daughter did this, and was diagnosed with dyslexia years ago. She's 10 now. She's using the Barton method, and it is amazing. it retrains the brain. And, it's amazing. I'd contact your library and ask if they are running literacy programs with the Susan Barton method.