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Letter and number reversals in writing

It’s not unusual for children who are learning to write to accidentally reverse letters and numbers. If they keep doing this, however, there are a number of things you can try to help them.

The most commonly reversed numbers are 2, 3, 5 and 7. They’ll often use the number 6 instead of 9 too.

Common letter reversals to look out for are the lower case b, d, s, c and z. Sometimes they’ll swap the letters w and m around too.

If your child is persistently reversing letters, you can try:

  • Reinforcing letter formation by asking them to trace their commonly reversed letters on a blackboard, fine sandpaper or in Playdough or putty. Try and get them to trace it in the same way they would write it
  • Learning cursive (joined-up) writing can sometimes stop letters from being reversed
  • Adding directional and verbal cues, e.g. “d” faces the diamond (draw a diamond on the left upper corner of each page) and “p” and “b” face the pink ball (draw a pink ball on the on the upper right corner of each page)
  • Other cues rely on visual images for distinguishing letters:
    • Lower case “b” is like the “B” only without the top circle
    • To make a “d”, draw a “c” and add a line
    • Hold their hands out with their palms upward and the little finger closet to their chest. Ask them to hold their thumbs up and make two fists. The left hand forms a “b” and the right hand forms a “d”
    • Draw the vertical lines first for capitals then always add the other lines and curves to the right hand side: B, D, F, K, L, P, R
    • Develop a personalised cue card with the common reversals for your child to use at home and at school
  • Working on an upright surface can also reduce their difficulties with directionality, especially when they are first learning to write
  • Read our visual perception support pages

If you’ve tried all of these techniques and you’re still not seeing any improvement after four months, please do speak to a teacher or health professional for advice.