Helping Kids with Reversal Problems

Here's a technique I learned from a dedicated South African colleague.  A fellow Specialist, she recommended it as an aid for children who have serious reversal problems when printing.  Any parent can try this.

Prepare a page that will allow the child to print letters about two inches tall.  Draw dark lines to indicate the top and bottom limits.  Stand behind the child in such a position that you can see the hand that is going to form the letter with a marker. Tell the child that you are going to draw the letter on her back while she writes. Have her sit quietly and feel the way you "draw" a top and bottom line on her back using your index finger.  This draws attention to the lines she sees in front of her on the page.  They are important. (These children usually also have difficulty starting and stopping their letters in the correct positions.  Darkening the lines in their notebook helps.)

"Now, we are going to print the small letter "a"."

The child may need a dot on the page to indicate the starting spot.  Talk to the child and watch her hand while you trace the letter on her back, and she writes simultaneously on the paper:

"First me curve up to the middle of the space and we curve around and go down and touch the bottom line and curve up and close the circle.  Now we start close to the circle and make a stick going down and we make it touch the circle and stop at the bottom line. This is the letter "a" and the word "a". " 

After repeating this three times with each of the letters that begin with the "curl" (c,a,d,g,q) over two separate sessions (ten minutes of one activity with young kids is always enough), "my"  five-year-old ambidextrous girl with serious pencil problems is suddenly able to draw circles with ease.  Before, she could only make scribbles with up-and-down motions.

She is not reversing her b's and d's nearly as frequently.  That might be because she knows that the "d" belongs in the "curl first" letters.  The "b" belongs to the ones that start with a tall downward stroke (l, t, b, h,) 

(Unfortunately, her school expects the Zane-Bloser style of printing.  D'Nealian would be more appropriate.)

It helps to group letters into motion patterns.  Since this child can identify all the letters, it is easy to use their names and talk about them as we print. 

The second set was comprised of letters that require "back-tracking" - r,n,h,m,b (the "b" printed in D'Nealian style saying "bat before ball").  She seems to enjoy this novel way of learning to print and space properly.  She will need to be allowed to use a large pencil and wide spaces between very dark lines.

This is NOT likely to work with EVERY child, but, like every little trick in a teacher's repertoire, it may help some.

Thanks to the teacher who was willing to share!


To leave a comment, please sign in with
or or


  1. SEC

    And until they do master the difference between the b and the d please keep the word ditch out of the spelling list!

    December 06, 2011
  2. rowekaple

    Here are some programs developed by Peterson Handwriting and my 25 years of research for correcting the reversal problems, Working together, we have put together a a (free) package to help instructors for the first time to really understand and treat the problems in their WLD/RPS dyslexic students. The programs are attached here for you to see and use. All we ask is that those of you who adopt the method report back your results. (Including any suggestions based upon your observations.) This is so as to help others to understand the true value of this important finding.

    Primary Cause:
    The spatial minds of the students demonstrating this problem, are sensing their writing in a counterclockwise movement flow. Because of having a neurologically, dimensionally based and spatial, rotational movement process, the sensation they pick up is off of the back (bottom/reversed) side of their writing motion. (That’s a mouth full, you might want to re-read it.)

    By simply turning the hand over so that the palm now faces downward and the wrist is straightened out and the index finger pushes down onto the pencil, clockwise (top/down) rotational motion is achieved. Letters are now sensed by correctly feeling their top side, and written language can happen, normally matching what is both seen and heard.
    From evidence we have collected, If those affected were instructed to use this process, and remained with the remedial method, countless academic problems, would be solved. 

    RPS Testing Guide
    RPS EXAM Kit
    RPS/WLD Remediation Guide
    Research paper regarding the project

    December 29, 2012