General Question

tranquilsea's avatar

Ideas needed to help child with letter reversals i.e. b and d?

Asked by tranquilsea (17754points) April 5th, 2010

My dd is 12 and has had a life long frustration with letter reversals. She confuses her “b“s with “d“s and her “g“s with her “q“s. She can go for long periods without reversing them but then she’ll insist that a “b” is a “d” or a “q” is “g”.

She had a LOT of problems learning how to read, but she can now. She is very right brained. I have long wondered whether some visual behavioural therapy would work..but we don’t have ophthalmologists in our town who even know what that is. Let alone practise it.

I am reluctant about doing a lot of drill work with her as drills tend to frustrate the heck out of her.

Does anyone have any ideas on what I can do to help her? Is this something she’ll just grow out of? Or, will it plague her the rest of her life?

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29 Answers

gemiwing's avatar

Something my mother did with me was to have me write short stories- for fun- where I had to use special colored markers for the letters I had trouble with. I would write a story but every b had to be in red, as opposed to my regular letters that were all in green. Something about that separated the letters for me.

Another thing I’ve noticed, this as I’ve grown older, is that certain fonts will affect my ability to correctly be able to identify letters. Sometimes, even with a difficult font, if I enlarge the print I can read more easily.

ETA a really long ramble_ There is something that I taught myself. I’m not sure if this would work for your daughter or not but when I read, I read words and replace the word with a picture in my head. A visual representation for nouns and adjectives; I use symbols for more obscure concepts.

So when I read (writing is a bit different) I replace the word with the symbol. This probably makes little sense but it works for me. So when I see bed or ded I picture a bed and that’s what I take the word to mean. Since there is no such thing as a ‘ded’, I replace it with what’s closest. Sometimes I’m off but that’s what reading in context is for.

It helps me because I think in pictures. Writing is much much more difficult for me. I can type fast because I’ve memorized keystrokes to make each word. Handwriting something out is an exercise in scribbles. I squeeze letters in, omit others and have to scribble over it and start again. Typing helps my reading in a way because I can see the visual representation of the word on my screen and how it correlates to my keystroke pattern. Hope that made some sense. Sorry it was so long.

Cruiser's avatar

She sounds very creative and you need to be creative to help her. Start with what I call little victories such as simple recognition of the letters in question. Art mediums to paint or “mold” the letters and let her see them in a different light may help her appreciate and understand her limitation. She may benefit from a tactile connection to these easily flip flopped letters and numbers.

tranquilsea's avatar

Thank you @Cruiser and @gemiwing Those are really great ideas. I’ll try them with her.

susanc's avatar

I’ve also read about cutting the letters out of a find sandpaper and cutting other letters out of thin board without texture, and letting her make words out of these. Same approach as the colored letters, but more tactile.

netgrrl's avatar

It sounds like she’s dyslexic. Has she been tested?

ubersiren's avatar

The word “bed.” When spelled correctly, it looks like a bed! See the head board and foot board?

gemiwing's avatar

These tactile ideas are amazing. I might try them out later, it sounds like fun and a great way to keep up on my mad skills. GA’s indeed!

tranquilsea's avatar

@susanc another great suggestion. We’ll try that too.

@netgrrl from my extensive research back when she was struggling to read…dyslexia is a catch all term for many different learning disorders. In finally teaching her how to read: she only needed someone to show her how to break down a word to sound it out. (We have a LOT of whole language teachers in our system still). It is very possible that she does have some form of dyslexia but there was not definitive help I could find when I was searching for it.

From the suggestions listed here already…they sound a lot like different therapies for people with dyslexia.

ubersiren's avatar

I wish I knew one for g and q. Maybe someone more clever than I could come up with one.

SamIAm's avatar

this is a great question. i struggled with bs and ds forever (still do sometimes, even though at 23 i know the difference). i had a teacher that once showed me the word “bed” and for drew a bed out of it (connecting the tops of the b & d like @ubersiren said) and this helped for manyyy years. now, when i’m writing quickly, i tend to make capital Bs and/or Ds because it’s just faster for me to not have to think about it.
and also what @netgrrl said… i don’t think anyone realized i had an issue and i didn’t realize it until i was older. i just had to teach myself to get past it. good luck!!!

tranquilsea's avatar

@ubersiren and @Samantha Rae thanks for the bed tip. I have a dim memory of using it myself when I was a kid.

netgrrl's avatar

My son had some “unspecified language disabilities” and getting a diagnosis for him meant the school system had to give us some assistance, that was the main reason I was asking. To this day when writing he will switch things around. (He’s 29.) Usually these children are very intelligent too, so their frustration makes it that much harder for them. Cody & I often did flash cards on the computer because it was more interesting to him than paper cards. Sorry I don’t have any great answers like the others but good luck!

Theby's avatar

I used to have this problem when I was a child. My mother told me that the “b” was a pregnant lady and the “d” was someone with a big bottom! It helped me remember and worked a treat.

tranquilsea's avatar

@netgrrl When she was in school (we now home school) they told me she was reading…when she clearly was not. I worked with them over the course of 3 years and finally gave up and pulled her. Nine months later she was reading, not quite at age level, but very close to it. She is now working her way through the Twilight series (not the best series for learning good writing from bad).

Thank you for the good wishes. She doesn’t do it as often now…so it makes me wonder if this is something she’ll just grow out of. But I don’t want to just leave it if I can help her in some way.

netgrrl's avatar

Cody did not grow out of his so much as learn to be aware & how to cope. He’s successful in his own business now – although he will still have some one else write letters he dictates or type them, spell check & have someone else proof.

tranquilsea's avatar

My daughter’s passion is photography and she takes beautiful pictures. So, perhaps, this will be what she pursues in life.

gorillapaws's avatar

+1 more for the “bed” strategy. I’m dyslexic and the bed trick was the only thing that could get things clear for me. I agree that she should get tested for any possible learning disabilities, it could make a big difference if you have that kind of knowledge so you can help her learn best. I ended up going to a gifted public high-school, but probably would’ve been in special-ed if they’d not caught my disability as early as they did.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Reversing letters is a symptom of dyslexia, a learning disorder.
You can’t drill dyslexia out of a child by repetition alone.

YARNLADY's avatar

My son was diagnosed with dysgraphia when he was four. He learned to type, and used a laptop until he was about 13. He carried an ‘alphabet card’ the size of a playing card
around in his pocket to refer to when he couldn’t remember how to form a letter.

When he was old enough, it became important to him to develop his handwriting, and he did. I never pushed him, so when he was ready, he learned on his own. He was home schooled most of the first 9 grades.

tranquilsea's avatar

@YARNLADY my eldest son is a bit dysgraphic as well. Teaching him how to type was a must. He is now writing novels.

@Captain_Fantasy I don’t know that she has a learning disorder. She just learns differently than other kids. She is visual spatial as opposed to audio sequential and very artistic. But that being said, if there is a way to help her realize when her letters or numbers are turned around then we will work on it. But not in a drill fashion, in a realization way.

susanc's avatar

“learns differently from other kids” is a better way to say what other people mean when they say “learning disorder”. We should all talk like you and think like you as well. Yay you.

tranquilsea's avatar

@susanc Thank you. I firmly believe we all have things we are good at. When it comes to reading…well this is a relatively new thing for humans on the evolutionary scale. That being said, we live in a world where you really do need to be able to read to absorb all the information that comes at you.

tranquilsea's avatar

@gorillapaws Very high IQs run in my family and I know that very smart kids can often successfully hide their difficulties. I’m happy to hear that you were correctly diagnosed and went to a school that challenged you.

gorillapaws's avatar

@tranquilsea I REALLY think it makes sense to have her tested, the information could be really valuable in helping her understand how she learns so she can be an advocate for her learning needs throughout her life (even if there’s no disability, they will still learn a lot about how your daughter learns)

Take a look at this site for information about famous people with dyslexia.

tranquilsea's avatar

@gorillapaws Thanks for the info.

whitenoise's avatar


Just out of curiosity, is your dd having any issue with her (fine) motor skills, or is she ambidexter?

tranquilsea's avatar

Her fine motor skills are great actually. She writes beautifully. But I haven’t noticed that she ambidextrous at all. Why?

whitenoise's avatar

@tranquilsea Sometimes, dyslectic problems, such as word and letter reversal is considered to be correlated to the lateralization of the brain (the specialization of the two halves of the brain, and the development of a dominant side). The brain may have less of a preference for giving dominance to its left or right side and therefore have a poorer ‘natural reference’ to what is left and right at the intuitive level of reading.
(I hope I didn’t oversimplify, here.)

In that case, it is believed that physical exercise/games that help improve lateralization, such as throwing and catching balls may have a positive impact. It doesn’t seem to be the case with your child though.

tranquilsea's avatar

Thanks for the explanation :-)

Nope, that is not my daughter, she is very athletic too.

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