|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Mirror Writing

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D.

Q: My right-handed four-year-old daughter can correctly write her name in uppercase letters from left to right. On several occasions she has written an exact "mirror image" of her name from left to right, so that "KAYLA" becomes "ALYAK." Should I be concerned about dyslexia or any other learning/language disability?

A: At four years of age, the presence of mirror writing is generally nothing to be concerned about. To understand why, it's important to know how the ability to write from left to right emerges in a young child. A young child first develops what's called laterality. This is an awareness of "leftness" and "rightness," or at least that the body has two sides. This internal awareness then matures into what's called directionality, which is the recognition and appreciation of right-left, up-down, forward-backward, etc.

Your daughter is still at this later stage, and because it's not fully developed, she can just as easily go from left to right as she can from right to left, and it all feels the same to her. At this stage, she doesn't even realize that she's printed her name in the wrong order. Her young brain just says, "Hey, hand...write Kayla's name for her, okay?" Her brain hasn't learned how the writing is supposed to look yet, and it doesn't much care whether the letters go this way or that. All her brain is concerned about at this stage is the order of the letters. So off goes the hand, and out comes ALYAK. As Kayla and her brain see more models of her name written correctly, she'll first say "Hey, that doesn't look right!" and later, "It's backward!" as the concept develops.

However, if mirror writing persists as she gets to be about six or older, then we might have something to worry about. This is especially true if any close family relatives have a history of learning disabilities. If the persistence of reversals, inversions (upside-down writing), or mirror writing are common when a child is seven or eight, this might be a sign of neurodevelopmental immaturity. This means that the brain has not developed at the rate we would expect for her age or indicates an early symptom of a learning disability (a visual processing disorder). However, such visual perceptual disorders don't usually show up as mirror writing, but rather as intermittent distortions in individual letters or numbers (backwards R, 3, 5, etc.) beyond the age when these disappear normally in most kids.

You don't want to make a big deal out of the way Kayla writes her name. Just let it happen and she'll probably self-correct. Make sure she has plenty of opportunities to see her name in print. You might want to get some tracing paper and trace a name that has been printed in the right order. Or you can have her write her name in a sand-filled cookie sheet after you have put the letter K along the left-hand edge. If she displays other signs of an early learning disorder (age-inappropriate word or language usage, excessive motor clumsiness, rapid frustration with simple tasks, etc.) then you might want to talk to a psychologist who specializes in the early identification of learning disabilities.

More on: Expert Advice

Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

highlights

Special Books for the Kids You Love
Celebrate 20 years of sharing love to the moon and back with the anniversary edition of Guess How Much I Love You, one of the world’s best-loved picture books. Plus, search our Book Finder for more great book picks. Brought to you by Candlewick Press.

Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Top 10 Math & Science Apps for Your Whiz Kid
Looking for the best math and science apps for kids? Check out these cool apps for all ages, which will grow your child's love of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks