Letter Reversals

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Which picture is wrong?

When we look at the first picture, we see a horse.

And when we look at the second picture, we see a horse.

But when we look at the last one, we see an upside-down horse!

This is because when it comes to visual images, our brains do not distinguish left-to-right mirror images of most items. But, we are good at distinguishing the vertical dimension!

At a conference in Florida, Rick Wagner (from the FL Center of Reading Research) challenged the audience of Speech-Language Therapists and reading specialists to identify mirror images of the Mona Lisa or the Statue of Liberty. We failed to notice the error.

English speakers only need to distinguish mirror images of these particular symbols: <b> and <d> (and sometimes <p> and <q>). Not only are <b> and <d> mirror images of each other, they also share auditory features that make them sound alike, too!

The only way to help children sort through <b> and <d> confusion is through repeated pairing of each letter to its distinct sound! We do this best when we say the sound aloud as we form the letter in writing. Letter reversals are common in kindergarten through 1st grade as children. <b> and <d> reversal problems persist in 2nd graders with dyslexia because these children have weak sound processing skills, NOT because of weak visual processing skills!

Likewise, the only reason English speakers distinguish between the words “no” and “on” or “was” and “saw” is because we have learned to track sounds from left to right. 

Children with dyslexia demonstrate these word confusion errors because they are NOT TRACKING SOUNDS from left to right! Instead, they look at a whole word and make a guess…because, after all, a horse is a horse, of course. 

~Moira

Claire Baker