Does your child reverse words when he or she reads or writes?
If you notice this occurring, your first thought will be that your child is dyslexic, as the tendency to reverse words is often thought to be one of dyslexia’s telltale symptoms. Because 5-10% of the population has dyslexia, this may be the case. However, there is another reason that often comes as a surprise to parents: Your child may have a vision problem.
How a vision problem can cause a child to reverse words
Part of your child’s vision development includes the concepts of laterality and directionality.
Laterality is the ability to know right from left on oneself. For example, because of laterality, you know which one of your hands to place over your heart when you recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Directionality is the ability to see right and left on other objects. With directionality, you would be able to detect how words appear left to right on a page of text, for example.
If either of these abilities are impaired, your child may reverse words.
These types of problems are not tied to acuity, or your eye’s ability to see an object clearly. They’re more closely associated with convergence, accommodative problems, and strabismus. These are vision problems that are not detected by typical vision screenings, and involve how the two eyes work together.
Get tested to rule out vision problems
A developmental optometrist who specializes in undetected vision problems can’t diagnose dyslexia. Through a functional vision test, however, they can diagnose vision problems that affect the development of laterality and directionality and create symptoms like word reversal.
If your child is reversing words/letters/ or numbers, it could be a vision problem. Or it could be dyslexia. Or it could be both. In cases where a child has been diagnosed with dyslexia, we strongly recommend a functional vision test.
Why do we recommend testing vision at this point? Because there is a chance that the entire word reversal problem, or even part of it, could be caused by vision problems.
If a significant functional vision problem exists, it often makes the most sense to take care of the vision problem first and then determine what reading problems remain. In most cases, treating the vision problem with vision therapy will make dyslexia treatment much faster and more effective. In cases where the child had a vision problem and did not have dyslexia, the problem will then be solved completely with vision therapy.
Dyslexia can be tricky, and you want to rule out any other conditions, such as vision problems, before you embark on a treatment program. To learn how we test for vision problems, review our Functional Vision Test for more information.Learn how undetected vision problems can impact a child's ability to learn. Download your free Vision and Learning Guide.