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I live in Japan. My wife is Japanese. My son is nearly 5. He has been heavily exposed to the alphabet mostly capitals. Before he was writing he was putting letter tiles and foam letters backwards and now he is writing but still putting letters backwards for example "D,E,F" when writing the whole alphabet.
The biggest problem is "L" since I am trying to get him good on left and right but given that even seeing a capital L in front of he still uses the wrong hand to form the letter "L" shape so naturally he puts his left on his right. I have tried getting him to get his left correct in multiple ways. He is strong willed child but I don't think its his will causing it. Getting left is a big problem given his undershirt has a tag on its left and his mother is stickler for wearing clothes correctly and getting him dressed after daily bath time is an extra hassle also his mother was doing some workbook and sent him to me when he couldn't get left on the correct side.

Should we be seeking professional help (extra hard with lockdowns)?

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Note: This is general advice; please make sure to talk to your child's teacher and/or your pediatrician if you have any specific concerns.

Capital letters backwards is very common at that age. From Dyslexia.org:

The majority of kids outgrow reversing as they get stronger at reading and writing. Reversing letters is typical and fairly common up until second grade.

That’s because the letters b, d, p, and q are really all the same letter. They’re just flipped and turned. As adults and experienced readers, we’ve learned that their position makes a big difference.

Young kids and beginning readers don’t always make that distinction right away, though. That discovery is part of the learning process. It comes as kids build their skills and become more experienced readers and writers.

They also have some great advice for how to help your child learn their letters:

How can I help my child at home with letter reversals?

Work on one letter at a time. For example, if your child is reversing b and d, start with b. Don’t introduce d until your child is having much less difficulty with b. After that, you can work on other significant reversals, such as p or q.

Do the same with numbers. Work on only one at a time. When your child is having much less trouble with that number, you can move on to the next.


Additionally to the sourced information, my personal experience is that 5-6 is still very common to have some letters/numbers backwards, and to have some trouble with left and right as well. Both of my children, who are very strong and early readers, continued to get the common letters and numerals backwards at 5.

My youngest is 7 and still has some trouble with a few numerals, though not so much we're concerned - they are able to do the numerals properly when they think about it, they just don't take care to write them properly right now. We're going to spend the summer working on the individual numerals. We've addressed this primarily by talking with their teacher and pediatrician, both of whom are comfortable with where my youngest is right now. I think the most important thing is to keep asking these two professionals on a regular basis to ensure we are aware if it moves to the "problem" category.

When we work on writing or math, per instructions from the teacher we are very careful to separate whether we are teaching "math" or teaching "handwriting"; when we are teaching subtraction, for example, we don't correct backwards numerals, and the same with when we are teaching writing - if they are answering a question about a passage they read, we focus on a good answer rather than correctly formed letters. Handwriting is a separate skill, and something that needs to be focused on by itself to avoid frustration spilling over and making the activity too difficult or too frustrating.

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  • Also, perhaps, relevant: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/25034/… (my own question about my older son four years ago!) – Joe May 21 at 1:46
  • Nicely written plus 1, and those dealing with multiple languages notice this too - gets sorted in time, don’t panic, don’t make a big fuss and they sort it out... – Solar Mike May 21 at 5:31
  • Capital letters only are the problem as far as I can tell. How does little letter problems mean capital letter problems. He wrote some little letters (copying) after consider urging and other than some bad shapes and sizes they are fine. He didn't write "p" or "b" or "d" because it was the planet's names. He doesn't have a teacher (except me) or regular pediatrician- he is entering kindergarten on the 2nd June and they will only do a English once a month and probably only spoken. – user2617804 May 21 at 23:31
  • At this age he should be seeing a pediatrician at minimum annually, to monitor height/weight, developmental abilities like this, and for annual (or more often) vaccines. If you are seeing a doctor but not a consistent one, try to get a consistent one - it's much harder to spot developmental issues seeing a kid only a single time, rather than over a period of time. – Joe May 21 at 23:33
  • And as far as letters little vs. capital - most of the articles talk about b/p/d/q because they're by far the most common to have issues with, but really any letter can have the same issue for writing. Reading is where b/d/p/q are problematic alone for the most part (as they really can't differentiate sometimes). – Joe May 21 at 23:34

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