Letter and number reversal is something that tripped me up for years – I have evidence still in a scrapbook which I started at the age of 7, though I clearly couldn’t have written that number the right way around. Click on the photo below to see what I mean.
I know it’s related to difficulties with spatial awareness; even today, telling left from right and reading a conventional clock require my full concentration. I have felt compelled to tell a prominent dyslexia specialist that it is of no help whatsoever to tell someone like me that you can tell your left from your right by making a capital L with your thumb and forefinger; they both look like plausible L’s to me. And just yesterday I amazed my husband by confessing that I don’t know the difference between a 3 and an E until I write them down. (He considers this to be a sign of genius, for which I’m grateful.)
In addition, I’ve noticed over the years that fewer and fewer young people form letters and numbers in a traditional manner. Even well educated and literate teenagers write b and d almost like a 6 and a mirror image 6 – both of them written from the curl, around and up to the top of the line.
So what can be done?
DON’T make a “bed” by curling your thumbs and forefingers into a b and a d and hope that this will solve everything.
This is by far the most popular suggestion for fixing b and d reversal. Imagine seeing a 17 year old doing this while he’s trying to fill out a government form. He’s an adult! And anyways – someone with a brain like mine will only panic at having to deal with very similar shapes in the air.
DO make this about writing and muscle memory. Associate writing the letter correctly with saying the sound clearly. Demonstrate the following for your student.
Draw 5 x’s on a drywipe board. x x x x x
Using the x as a starting place, make a strong line down saying “b” (the sound, not the letter name) as you make the movement, then follow through with the “ball” part of the letter b.
Do that five times in a row then let your student have a go. Make sure they say “b” (the sound, NOT the letter name) every time they write the downward line.
Clean the board and draw 5 more x’s.
This time, using the x as a starting place, make the circle saying “d” (the sound, not the letter name) as you make the movement, then follow through with the up and down line of the d.
Do that five times in a row then let your student have a go. Make sure they say “d” (the sound, NOT the letter name) every time they write the circle.
This is the best solution I’ve ever encountered and I’ve used it with success many times. I don’t know where it origninated but would be very happy to give credit to whoever thought it up. You may have to do this exercise at every lesson for a while but it eventually becomes automatic for both writing and reading.
I think the “b” is the most memorable and the “d” is remembered by elimination and it helps with reading as well as writing. I’ve seen a seriously struggling reader get to a word, quickly and surreptitiously move his forefinger down and read the word fluently. More grown up and less “special needs” than giant quasi-sign language.