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Reversals and Causes of Reversals

Done by Nyala Ustanny

What are Reversals?

A reversal is a letter written with the wrong orientation (Gardner 1979). He stated that reversal could be divided into four categories Mirror image: b for d Inversion: p for b Inverted reversals: p for d, u for n Rotations: _ for l In addition, reversing the sequence of letters within a word is different from reversing a letter in isolation e.g. was instead of saw

According to Orton (1943) a reversing reader is used to described children who demonstrate one or more of the following problems: 1. Confusion of single letter b and d and p and q 2. Tendency to read words backwards (read was for saw, on for no or ratshin for tarnish or astrep for repast) 3. The ability to read mirror print very well 4. Ability to mirror write very well.

Example of reversal in the letter b in the word birds. Instead of writing b the child writes d as in dirds

Example of reversal in the word was. Instead of writing was the child writes saw

Causes of Reversals


Gardner (1979) states that the most convincing theories are the one that consider impairment and visual memory to be the central problem of reversal. According to Schneck (2005) visual memory is the integration of visual information with previous experiences. In order to be able to manipulate visual information you need the ability to retain the information in memory for immediate recall or to store it for later retrieval. A child with visual memory deficits may demonstrate the inability to recognize or match visual stimuli presented previously because he or she has not stored this information in memory, is unable to retrieve it from memory (Todd, 1999).

Both Schneck (2005) and Gardner (1979) agreed with the theory and concluded that children with memory deficiencies have difficulty in establishing easily retrievable and recognizable sound-symbols associations. They struggle to recall the shape and formation of letters and numbers and the same letters may be written in many ways on the same page. This could therefore be one reason reverse letters in writing.

Visual Perception

Frostig and Horne (1964) felt that reversals could be attributed to a problem in visual perception. So how do Visual Perceptual Difficulties manifest in children? After an image enters the eye, the brain's visual perception capabilities tell the child what it means. It connects the image to something the child has seen before and gives it meaning. Something round that rolls is probably a ball. Visual perception skills also include the ability to tell similar images a part (p and q or words like skate and stake), or to separate important details from a background of information (taking the vowels out of the word), or to recognize the same symbol being used in different ways (Z is a Z no matter what color, shape, or size it is and no matter what word it's used in). Confusing saw with was is a frequent mistake made by people with this disability because they lack the sequencing skill needed to perceive the difference.

People with Visual Perception Disabilities may demonstrate the following:

Difficulty with visual memory and visualization. Usually rather slow to begin reading (helps them to sound out as they go along). Difficulty retaining spelling rules and unusually spelled words. (they spell phonetically) Copying from the blackboard or any source for that matter is wrought with mistakes. The image is forgotten between taking it in and transposing it.

Difficulty checking their on work due to problems retaining correct image.

Difficulty problem solving due to problems visualizing scenarios in their mind.

Difficulty visualizing the end result thereby becoming stuck in the middle of tasks.

Tendency toward concrete thinking.

Difficulty with spatial relationships such as distance, size, shape and how things fit together to form a whole. Difficulty estimating passage of time. Difficulty with a sense of direction.

They sometimes appear to others "self-absorbed" or "out to lunch."

Difficulty being socially aware. They miss interpersonal cues and are usually the last to know how someone is feeling. Also fail to pick up on what is and isn't "cool."


Directionality is thought to be important in the visual discrimination of letters and numbers for both reading and writing (Schneck, 2005). A child with directionality problems has difficulty dealing with direction of objects in relation to self such as to my right, to my left, above me, below me etc. Such a child has difficulty following directions on paper-pencil tasks such as write your name at the top right hand corner, draw a line under the word, etc. The child may also confuse letters b and d and write backwards, from right to left, the letters appearing like ordinary writing seen in a mirror.

Poor midline crossing could also influence a learners directionality. Baird et al. (2003) describes midline crossing as a brain-based developmental function that requires coordination within the brain and collaboration between the brains two hemispheres. A learner that is reluctant to cross his midline is likely, he he/she is right handed, to show preference for drawing a line from right to left, this could influence the development of his/her directionality. Dominance may also have a significant effect on a learners directionality. According to Lucas and Loweberg (1996) the left hander finds it more natural and comfortable to work from right to left and therefore shows a strong tendancy to mirror-write.

Dysgraphia Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities. Specifically, the disorder causes a person's writing to be distorted or incorrect. In children, the disorder generally emerges when they are first introduced to writing. They make inappropriately sized and spaced letters, or write wrong or misspelled words, despite thorough instruction. Children with the disorder may have other learning disabilities; however, they usually have no social or other academic problems. Cases of dysgraphia in adults generally occur after some trauma. In addition to poor handwriting, dysgraphia is characterized by wrong or odd spelling, and production of words that are not correct (i.e., using "boy" for "child"). The cause of the disorder is unknown, but in adults, it is usually associated with damage to the parietal lobe of the brain.

Developmental dyspraxia is a disorder characterized by an impairment in the ability to plan and carry out sensory and motor tasks. Generally, individuals with the disorder appear "out of sync" with their environment. Symptoms vary and may include poor balance and coordination, clumsiness, vision problems, perception difficulties, emotional and behavioral problems, difficulty with reading, writing, and speaking, poor social skills, poor posture, and poor short-term memory.

Dyslexia is a specific reading disability due to a defect in the brain's processing of graphic symbols. Dyslexia is a learning disability that alters the way the brain processes written material. Literal Dyslexia (Letter Blindness) a person has difficulty identifying letters, matching upper case letters with lowercase, naming letters, or matching sounds with the corresponding letters. Here, a person may read individual letters of the word but not the word itself, or read a word, but not understand the meaning of the word. Some people with literal dyslexia may read words partially. For example, a person may read the word lice as ice, or like. The person may realize that these words are incorrect, but cannot read the words correctly. Some people with literal dyslexia do better by moving their finger along the outline of a word, or by tracing the letters in the air.

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