What Are the Causes of Children Writing Letters & Numbers Backwards?

By Cassandra Gailis
Small children often reverse letters or numbers when learning to write.
Small children often reverse letters or numbers when learning to write.

Small children are often observed writing their letters and numbers backwards. This common childhood stage of development sometimes causes concern among parents and educators, especially if they suspect the child has additional difficulties. It is important to know the difference between typical childhood writing mistakes and when more evaluation may be necessary.

Pre-School Development

Before a child reaches school age, they often begin scribbling letters and numbers for fun. At this stage, these number and letter drawings are considered childhood exploration, and parents may not even be able to recognize the shapes the child is writing. Invented spelling and backwards writing are to be expected as the child continues to develop his or her writing skills and abilities.

Kindergarten Development

Throughout kindergarten it is still common for children to reverse some numbers or letters. This is especially prevalent with similar looking shapes such as "d" or "p". At this age they are still learning writing skills and these are usually considered beginner's mistakes. However, if a parent or educator observes additional difficulties with sounding out words or understanding letter sounds, there could be cause for further evaluation.

Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a type of learning disability that could make it difficult for a child to understand letter and word sounds, rhyming, reading and spelling. If a child experiences these difficulties along with writing letters backwards throughout kindergarten, then further professional evaluation may be necessary. With proper skill building and help from educators, most children diagnosed with dyslexia catch up to their peers in writing and reading ability.

Dyscalculia

A condition related to dyslexia that often occurs at the same time is dyscalculia. Children experiencing dyscalculia have difficulty understanding the representation and writing of numbers. A child with this learning disability may not be able to understand the connection between the number five and holding up five fingers. As with dyslexia, if an educator or parent suspects a child is falling behind his peers in number skills, professional evaluation may be necessary.

About the Author

Cassandra Gailis lives outside of Anchorage, Alaska and began writing self-improvement articles in 2010. Gailis has extensive experience in professional grant writing, health research and international travel. She holds a Master of Science degree in health education from Minnesota State University.