UCB Parents Advice about Worries Big & Little

Writing in Reversed Letters

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Nov 1999

For the last month or so, my almost 4 1/2 year old has been fascinated with taking "dictation" -- I spell a word for her, and she writes it down. morning, as I was sorting laundry, she wanted to write a "Dear Grandma" letter, so I spelled it out for her. When she finished, she showed it to me and it was done completely backwards -- right to left, all the letters perfect except that they were reversed i.e., if you were to hold it up to a mirror it would look normal. My question is, is this a normal developmental thing? Is it an early sign of dyslexia? Or is she a budding Leonardo/a DaVinci? Any thoughts would be appreciated!


My now 13 year old daughter also wrote nearly all of her stories, notes, letters as an exact mirror image - all letters and the order reversed. She continued to do this through at least part of kindergarten, when we started noticing it occurred less and less often. We thought it might have had something to do with the fact that she is left-handed. She has thrived in a bilingual program since kindergarten, writes well and loves to read, so her mirror-writing style doesn't seem to have signified any problem. We enjoyed being able to hold them up to the mirror and reading them - we have even managed to preserve a few wonderful examples.
My son's kindergarten teacher said that writing backwards is a development stage and completely normal. He's in first grade now and still reverses individual letters and digits some times. His first grade teacher tells us we can gently point out that these letters are beautifully formed but backwards, but I don't bother.

P.S. I recall reading that DaVinci's mirror writing was done by writing backwards with his left hand. I've tried it and find it easier to write backwards than forwards with my left hand. (I'm right-handed.)


For most pre-literate children, letters are drawn, not written. With practically every other shape they draw, left-right orientation is not significant, so they concentrate on getting the shapes right, and forget about orientation. My daughter not only wrote forward and backward at random, but had difficulty being convinced that there was any difference. Nowadays she has some interesting laterality concepts--she has always felt that most numbers face the opposite way from most letters, and she likes to use her left hand to write in Greek--but she's neither dyslexic, nor another DaVinci. (I could be wrong about the latter.)
This is in response to the woman whose 41/2 year old daughter wrote "mirrored" or backwards writing and wanted to know if it was normal. It is. My daughter, who is now 71/2, still writes some letters and numbers backwards. Her second grade teacher said that it is perfectly normal, and that we should only worry if it doesn't clear up by the end of the year.
My daughter who is 5 years old also reverses some of the alphabet letters. She is in Kindergarten now and she is learning more and more everyday. Sometimes she recognizes the letters in reverse i.e. she would see a lower case ba and think that it is a q. I spoke to her teacher about it because I was also concerned about dyslexia. She informed me that this was very normal at their age as they are just learning the alphabet. There are so many new factors that they have to work with, how to hold the pen, how to sit, which direction the letters go and etc... that in the beginning, the 1st year they may reverse the letters. The teacher said that if this continues into 1st or 2nd grade, then you should be concerned but not during their 1st year of learning. I hope this helps put your mind at east.
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