Originally published February 20, 2015 at Diary of a Work-at-Home-Mom.
Learning to read backwards and upside down is how I learned to reorient letters. I seriously thought everyone could do it until I asked a coworker about something on a sign posted outside our window, and they responded by questioning how I could read the sign. It was only five years ago, when C. L. was taking the Ortton-Gillingham training that I learned it was one of the earliest methods of helping children with dyslexia learn how to reorient letters. Unfortunately, it's also a method that's effective for just 5% of those dealing with dyslexia, and while I might be part of that percentage, the girls aren't.
The only thing I can compare letter reorienting to is looking at a 3D model that's been spun around. It looks different from the back or upside down, but it's still recognizable if you can shift your perspective mentally.
I'm relatively lucky in that from my perspective, the letters usually appear in the right order or with only a couple of letters swapped around, but I often see letters flipped on either the X or Y axis. (Numbers are a different matter entirely.) Spelling/sound inversions only happen, for me, between the brain and either hands or mouth. In essence, I'll think the word or sentence correctly, but it will come out in a jumble. This is why I depend on muscle memory to spell for the most part since there's less reliance on the sequencing center of the brain.
Reading upside down takes a few more seconds to get going in because you aren't just reading left to right but from the bottom up. And reading something written normally is more difficult than reading anything in all caps since more letters look similar to one another. For instance B, D, P, and Q look very different when capitalized, but depending on the type face, b, d, p, and q can look virtually identical in the lower case if you have issues with orientation.
For those who have problems solely with orienting letters, the rest of the letters and text can be used to help shift the problem letters back around. Context clues also play a large part, particularly with words like bare and dare were both versions are words, but only one would make sense in context.
From what I can tell after reading with Nichole over the last few years, she experiences the written word differently. There are days she does just fine, but on others, a page of text looks like one gigantic word scramble puzzle. Whereas I see letters in the correct order but flipped and on occasion with the spaces between them in the wrong place, her mind can't seem to decide where each letter is on the page. Let's take the highlighted text here as an example. When she's trying to read the word "order," she might see the "l" from the word "place" from below it or "like" from above it in place of the "r." Therefore, she'd read the word as older instead of order.
Using cards to cover all but the line of text she's reading at the time has helped a good deal. However, context clues and an extensive vocabulary are going to be crucial to her gaining full reading fluency as she progresses to more complicated material. That's one area where she has trouble now because of her age. She's forever coming across new words in her lessons, so she isn't yet confident in discerning between seeing a word wrong and coming across a new term.
I've been hearing from parents who suspect their child may have dyslexia or who have received a new diagnosis. It's not something that's talked about much, even in this day and age. And all the different variants thereof still aren't that well understood by many. If any of you reading this have any questions, please feel free to comment or message me. I'm far from an expert, but I'll try my best to help.
If you're in the thick of it now with your child, please remember that they're trying and keep an eye out for patterns in their "mistakes." While the various "disorders" beginning with the dys prefix are caused by the same difference in "wiring," they are experienced differently from one person to another. It might take months to figure out how they are seeing the text and the patterns behind it, but once you do, figuring out ways to work with their mind versus fighting it can open the door for massive improvements.
A lot has changed for Nichole since I originally wrote this. She's reading on grade level with a lot less trouble than she had even a year ago. Spelling, particularly with English's reluctance to follow its own rules, is still a challenge, but we've found a method that works for her a few months ago. So she's making great strides there now as well.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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