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Old 09-22-2002, 08:45 PM
JohnW77707 JohnW77707 is offline
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My Backwards-Writing Six-Year-Old

My 6 1/2 year old daughter has always had a little bit of an issue writing letters/numbers backwards, i.e. writing a 2 that looks like a 5, etc.; also certain letters like b and d. Sometimes even items that don't have a clear counterpart, like 7, she will write the "wrong" way. Of course, at first I immediately thought "dyslexia", knowing nothing about the subject beyond crass humor in Farrelly Brothers-type movies. But her teachers have reassured us that this is not unusual at her age, that kids mix up their letters from time to time, don't sweat. So I don't.

Today she is writing in chalk on the driveway. She writes "I love you" completely backwards. Like "Redrum" in The Shining. She turns the whole sentence around -- it reads "<backwards> you, <backwards> love, I". She even gets the "e" correct (i.e., it looks like a normal "e"), which is funny in a way because she puts it backwards quite frequently when she is writing "normally" (i.e. she got it backwards when she was writing it backwards!).

This just seems like such a bizarre thing for a child to spontaneously do, even my daughter, who is already quite an artistic, free-spirit type even at a young age. I mean, she just decided "Hey! I'll mirror-write!", like DaVinci(? -- or was it Michaelangelo?).

Not that I think I should be getting child-behavioral advice from the Teeming Millions any more than medical advice (though I love you all), I just gotta ask -- has anyone seen anything like this? Do they know what it means? Or is it just "one of those things" that is part of the mystery of children? (Note: She is my first of two).

Thanks in advance.

Old 09-22-2002, 08:52 PM
dragongirl dragongirl is offline
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My daughter did the same thing when she started learning to read and write, I worried too. Both the teachers and the doctors told me that it's normal and after she gets a little more used to it, she'll change. She did !
Old 09-22-2002, 08:56 PM
JohnW77707 JohnW77707 is offline
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I should note that she reads OK for her age, not great, not bad.

Old 09-22-2002, 08:59 PM
zen101 zen101 is offline
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she's posessed.
Old 09-22-2002, 09:23 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is online now
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I did the same exact thing when I was 6-7 years old. Never was dyslexic - in fact, I was reading far ahead of my grade level. For that matter, I can still mirror-write with almost no effort, and occassional do as a party trick.

What the deal is - I have an usually well-developed ability to visualize things in three dimensions. While I'm writing in reverse I mentally turn it around... oh, bother, it's hard to explain. What it boils down to is that I have unusually well developed spatial abilities.

As long as your daughter is not having trouble reading (which is the real mark of dyslexia or related learning disoders) don't worry about it. Cripes, folks what to make everything a pathology these days. She may later develop artistic abilities. Or she might go into engineering, where such a talent is quite useful. Get her involved in puzzles and model building stuff like that if she's interested. Let her have fun with her talent, because that's what it is.
Old 09-22-2002, 09:48 PM
Calliope Calliope is offline
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My 8yo daughter did the same thing, and sometimes still does on occasion. It is bizarre, because she doesn't even notice that she has written backwards. I just attribute it to her left-handedness, but who knows.
Old 09-22-2002, 11:14 PM
Primaflora Primaflora is offline
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Sadly being able to read doesn't rule out dysgraphia or agraphia. I've got a kid who is reading waaaaaay above age level but who still struggles with handwriting to the extent he uses a computer to write. Yay for technology. His spelling doesn't even qualify as creative. When spell check is stumped by every second word you know you're in strife.

But don't worry until the kid is past 8 and not making progress. It sounds well within the norms for a 6 yo and rather cool. My 4 yo is regularly doing letter reversals and number reversals and is fairly consistent with which ones he reverses. I'm confident (or deluded) that this will sort out with age and time.
Old 09-22-2002, 11:50 PM
h.sapiens h.sapiens is offline
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When you think about it, it isn't that hard to understand. If she's writing on paper, she may naturally start on the edge of the paper closest to her writing hand (assuming she's right-handed) and just go in the only direction available. When you start to read and write, you do it letter by letter, not so much word by word. The direction isn't as important as the order of the letters. The more you read, the more you begin to see words as objects or entities, and the left-to-right thing becomes more important.

This is a theory I just came up with on the spot, it could be complete rubbish.
Old 09-23-2002, 01:20 AM
Slugworth Slugworth is offline
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I know when I first started writing, the only thing I could write was my name, which I always wrote backwards. Not sure if I was mirroring the letters though, since my name is Tim - All symmetrical letters.. All of of my old belongings are proudly labeled as property of miT though..
Old 09-23-2002, 02:25 PM
ratzingersreactionary ratzingersreactionary is offline
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I wouldn't really worry as of yet. But keep an eye on it, and if things don't look right, talk to a specialist. My best friend is a dyslexic and his stupid teachers didn't catch it untill he was in the sixth grade. By then he was so far behind, he almost couldn't catch up.
Old 09-23-2002, 03:05 PM
Eva Luna Eva Luna is offline
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Does her school have a reading specialist or other diagnostic folks available? Is her teacher worried? See what's available in your local school system.
Old 09-23-2002, 03:52 PM
lucwarm lucwarm is offline
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Just to add another data point, my 3 1/2 year old daughter likes to write her name backwards (mirror style). For what it's worth, she does seem to have above-average spatial ability. It also might have something to do with the fact that she's being taught a little Hebrew.

In any event, Mrs. Lucwarm is kinda freaked out about it, but I'm not too concerned because my daughter can recognize the difference between forward and backward. I figure that if she knows the difference, she'll eventually write in the proper direction (when appropriate).
Old 09-23-2002, 04:02 PM
Knighted Vorpal Sword Knighted Vorpal Sword is offline
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My kids also wrote letters backwards occassionally when they were 6. I think by second grade it pretty much went away. Talk to the teacher.
Old 09-23-2002, 04:08 PM
cdhostage cdhostage is offline
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You should spank her and send her to bed without supper. Then go and do it yourself.

Hey, that's what my parents did when I played doctor with my neighbor
Old 09-23-2002, 04:17 PM
Tamex Tamex is offline
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My daughter is 5, and she's done the same thing more than once. Her preschool teachers were never concerned about it--I don't know if she's done it in kindergarten yet. Her preschool teachers told me that it's just something some kids do.

Yes, it was DaVinci who did mirror-writing in his journals. In fact, after seeing an exhibit about DaVinci once, I tried mirror-writing, and it was surprisingly easy for me. So, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that my daughter would have the same talent. h.sapiens, I think your theory has merit, especially since my daughter herself has told me as much--"I just decided to start on this side of the paper!" She is left-handed, though...but that may be part of it, too.

However, my husband had a very difficult time learning to read and making his letters correctly. It turned out that the problem was that he has astigmatism, and needed glasses to correct it. Therefore, regular eye exams, etc. are important, too.
Old 09-23-2002, 04:18 PM
Jodi Jodi is offline
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Is she by any chance left-handed? Mirror-writing is not uncommon in left-handed children, while they try to process doing with their left hands what they see others doing with their right. When you think about it, if you were to write exactly the same way with your left hand as you see people do with their right, you would mirror-write. Many young lefties spontaneously do it and it's no cause for alarm.
Old 09-23-2002, 04:56 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Has it occured to you to just ask her about it? Maybe she doesn't realize it's backwards, in which case there might be some sort of problem. Or maybe she was just doing it to be deliberately silly or creative, in which case you might have a budding artist on your hands.

Also, you say that the individual words were forwards, but the word order was backwards? I.e., "you love I", rather than "uoy evol I"? And did you see in what order she wrote it?
Old 09-23-2002, 05:35 PM
UWmite UWmite is offline
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I got my b's and d's mixed up all the time at that age for the same reason. Also, IIRC from an article in Skeptical Inquirer sometime last year, backwards writing isn't a sign of dyslexia at all. You should actually start worrying if your child can't produce rhyming words. Hopefully that'll set your mind at ease a bit, though of course it won't rule out other learning disabilities.
Old 09-23-2002, 05:41 PM
ladydisco ladydisco is offline
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*raises hand*
Another left-handed backward writer here. Well, at least I use to be whe I was learning to write. And I turned out just fine. In fact, I was in the 'gifted' class in gradeschool. I wouldn't worry about your daughter's handwriting 'talent'.
Old 09-24-2002, 12:30 PM
sweetsensation sweetsensation is offline
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It is normal. When i was 6 i was learning ro write and did the same thing. plus my american family has a little firl and she does it too so im guessing it is normal.
Old 09-24-2002, 12:38 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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Before she grows out of it, maybe you could get her a job painting "ecnalubmA" on the front of their trucks.
Old 09-24-2002, 03:18 PM
tourbot tourbot is offline
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My right handed 5 year old daughter also mirror writes on occassion. (Which deflates the left hand theory a bit, but where are all the boys who do this?) She doesn't do it all the time, and will even mix mirror writing with normal on the same page.

Then again, the direction of writing is an arbitrary rule in any language. Some languages write right to left, some up and down, and some switch back and forth. So it seems reasonable to me that a child just learning to write may not adopt that specific rule right away. Not sure if that explains the letters being backward.
Old 09-25-2002, 10:43 AM
SCSimmons SCSimmons is offline
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Originally posted by Jodi
Is she by any chance left-handed? Mirror-writing is not uncommon in left-handed children, while they try to process doing with their left hands what they see others doing with their right. When you think about it, if you were to write exactly the same way with your left hand as you see people do with their right, you would mirror-write. Many young lefties spontaneously do it and it's no cause for alarm.
Funny. My right-handed five-year-old son does this all the time, but my seven-year-old southpaw never did. Go figure.

I always just point out the backwards letter & move on. He seems to be reading OK for a child of his age, so I'm not worried about it.
"You won't like me when I'm angry. Because I always back up my rage with facts and documented sources." -- The Credible Hulk
Old 09-25-2002, 03:10 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Originally posted by ladydisco
*raises hand*
Another left-handed backward writer here. Well, at least I use to be whe I was learning to write. And I turned out just fine. In fact, I was in the 'gifted' class in gradeschool. I wouldn't worry about your daughter's handwriting 'talent'.
Me too on all accounts (except the gifted class was in middle school) however, I wouldn't say it's not a cause for alarm. I think my teachers did me a disservice by telling my parents that it was "normal" to write backwards when I was in kindergarten, and then only expressing concern to me in the 7th grade but reassuring me that because I read so well, I probably didn't have a LD. (why would you tell a 12 year old that? At that age I wasn't in a position to realize the teacher may not have been fully informed; I don't even know if I mentioned it to my parents.) I should have been tested as a child, because there is obviously something that doesn't compute in my brain when it comes to spelling and numbers- I see them normally, but there's something wrong in the traslation. I spell a lot better now than I did growing up, but only because I spent a great deal of energy memorizing the spellings- I can't sound things out because the sounds aren't distinctly different to me despite my hearing being within the normal range. I confuse all my vowel sounds, usually in pairs (o and u, i and e), and even things like the letters "d" and "t" which I know should sound very different.

JohnW77707 remember that you are your daughter's advocate. I worked with special ed kids, and while the staff avocated for the kids, the parents were able to get more results than the staff when it comes to getting aprovals from the school board for tests and IEPs. If you think there's a problem, go with your gut instinct, not by what the classroom teacher might tell you.
Old 09-26-2002, 07:40 AM
Theobroma Theobroma is offline
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My kid mirror-wrote too. Once, in kindergarten (5 years old), he drew a picture of himself in a Pokemon shirt that said "Got Ya!" with the entire design, and all of the letters, completely reversed.

He is now in 3d grade, and only occasionally reverses b & d, but that is all. No more "j" and "g" and 7 and 5 and 2 reverses. As his pediatrician expected, he simply grew out of it. It's considered developmental at your daughter's age, and only becomes a problem if she doesn't grow out of it.

Interesting bit, though--I just love this board--my husband is an engineer, and my son already says he is a "junior engineer." He goes nuts with Lego[tm] or K'Nex[tm] type building toys, and is excellent at visualizing and building in three dimensions. I never connected that with his letter/number reversals!

Verrrrrry interesting.....
Old 09-26-2002, 09:56 PM
monica monica is offline
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I heard a story of a child sitting in front of her mother when her mother was reading to her, and learning to read by following along. She thus learned to read upside down.
Old 09-27-2002, 12:47 AM
JohnW77707 JohnW77707 is offline
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Thanks for all of the replies and insight.

I feel confident that all is well; I was just wondering. I think her school is a good school and so if anything were out of bounds I'm sure they would let me know. She is reading OK for her age. I guess it is just something she will work out of. It's frustrating to her -- "Daddy, does the 7 go this way or that way?" -- but since it won't bother me (for the next couple of years, at least), I won't let it bother her . . .

Old 09-28-2002, 03:45 AM
Ersatz Shmoe Ersatz Shmoe is offline
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monica, I also learned to read upside down in the same way. I can still read upside-down nearly as fast as I can right side-up.
Old 09-28-2002, 08:26 AM
Ssarl the happy Martian Ssarl the happy Martian is offline
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Well, as a child I used to write right to left... the letters were all the right way but I'd start with the last letter and end with the first. I do remember why I did it though, I preferred to have my writing on the right hand side of the page and I liked it to be neat and finish exactly on the edge. So I'd write backwards...

I could also write and draw with both hands.

I grew out of both and I lost the ability to use my left hand equally.
Old 09-28-2002, 08:08 PM
sjc sjc is offline
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Originally posted by elfkin477

I confuse all my vowel sounds, usually in pairs (o and u, i and e), and even things like the letters "d" and "t" which I know should sound very different.
In fact "d" and "t' are very similar phonetically. They are articulated in virtually the same way, with the tip of the tongue touching the back of the teeth and/or the alveolar ridge. The only difference lies in the fact that the "d" is voiced (meaning the vocal folds are vibrating).

As for the vowels, "o" and "u" are both pronounced in the back of the mouth with a high tongue and rounded lips. "U" happens to be a bit higher, but otherwise pretty much the same (assuming we are talking about the vowels that are found in "boat" and "boot"). "I" and "e" are also pronounced similarly, this time in the front with a high tongue and spread lips (assuming that we are talking about the two vowels in "beet" and "bet". These sounds, and the sounds of the "o" and the "u" are the canonical sounds associated with these letters).
Old 09-29-2002, 12:00 AM
agentfroot agentfroot is offline
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In 1st grade, I wrote my "J" backwards. Our class liked to draw various people "in jail," and I drew a picture of my teacher and her dog in jail. She saw it and told me she was going to put ME in jail for making the J backwards! After that, I got it right, and I've been a spelling and grammar Nazi ever since. Don't worry, your daughter should be fine. Kids do grow out of things, you just have to find creative ways to set them straight.
Old 09-29-2002, 12:16 AM
manhattan manhattan is offline
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