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Reversing letters & writing backwards: Dyslexia?

September 14, 2022

Many children are referred for Dyslexia evaluation because they write some letters backwards (sometimes called “mirror writing”). Does writing backwards or reversing letters mean your child has Dyslexia?

Myth: Reversing letters is a sign of Dyslexia

“This is unfortunately a myth that seems to have nine lives,” says the Yale Centre for Dyslexia and Creativity1. “Many young children reverse letters when learning to write, regardless of whether or not they have dyslexia”. Many children with dyslexia do not reverse letters2,3.

It is common for young children to reverse letters and numbers when they learn to read and write. Most children outgrow this difficulty as they become better readers and writers. However, if reversing persists after around the age of 7 (or the end of year 2), it could be a sign of a learning difficulty.

writing letters backwards

Letter reversal is different from transposing letters. Reversing letters is when letters are written as a mirror image (such as a b being written as a d), whereas transposing letters means letters are written in the incorrect order.

Myth: Dyslexia is caused by vision problems

Dyslexia is not caused by visual deficiencies, rather it is a learning difference that affects how the brain receives, processes, and responds to language.

Children with dyslexia have problems recognising and manipulating the underlying sound structures of words (known as phonological processing) and find it hard to map oral sounds to written language.

So for example, a child with phonological processing issues may find rhyming difficult, or have problems breaking words into syllables. These sound processing issues can’t be explained by vision difficulties.

Reversing letters poor vision dyslexia

Even if reversing letters is not dyslexia, here’s what you can do

You may feel that although your child does not have dyslexia, they could definitely do with help to strengthen their reading skills. What can you do?

As we have discussed, a child with phonological processing issues will often find reading difficult. So it makes sense that many reading programs focus on phonics skills – teaching readers how the letters they read correspond to the sounds they hear. Right?

Not necessarily.

Reversing letters teacher
Most reading programs provide more and more reading practice or work on phonics skills without first building the underlying skills that support reading and phonics development. This is like building the roof of a house without first building the supporting walls.


Build the foundations of reading – memory, attention, processing and sequencing


Explore word meanings, build sentences and paragraphs, work on punctuation and much more


Build reading fluency with guided reading using real books

What’s needed is a reading program that also build the underlying skills that contribute to strong phonological and phonemic awareness – such as memory, attention, processing and sequencing. Phonics skills depend on the ability of a child to recognise and map sounds onto letters. Poor processing, attention and memory can make this much harder to do.

The Sonic Learning 3 step reading program can help

Our online 3 Step Reading Program uses a 3 step method to build the underlying skills that support reading and writing development and then target fluency and comprehension.

These online exercises adapt to your child’s skill level, working on skills from memory and processing progressively up to reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Watch the short video above to learn more about the program. Click the button below to access demos and pricing.


1 Yale Centre for Dyslexia and Creativity
2 Blackburne, LK., Eddy, MD., Kalra, P., Yee, D., Sinha, P., and Gabrieli, J. (2014) Neural Correlates of Letter Reversal in Children and Adults. PLOS ONE 9(6)
3  Dehaene, S. (2013) Inside the Letterbox: How Literacy Transforms the Human Brain. Cerebrum. May-June:7. Published online 2013 Jun 3.
4 ACT Education Department, Factsheet 6: What is phonological processing?
5 Tallal, P. Improving language and literacy is a matter of time. Nat Rev Neurosci 5, 721–728 (2004).


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