Mirror writing is common when young children at preschool are learning to write. Parents worry that mirror writing is a sign that their child has a learning disability but the key to understanding why children mirror write is also the key to solving the problem.
Mirror writing or backwards writing is hugely common in the development of early writing in children. As an early years specialist teacher I am confident in answering parents’ questions on this issues but have come across many teachers and practitioners who are not so confident in dealing with the worries of parents and carers in understanding why children mirror write in preschool, school and early years settings.
Why do parents worry about mirror writing?
It is important to understand why parents and carers should show such concern about mirror and backward writing. They are curious about the reasons for mirror writing but also they are worried that when their child is writing backwards that it is an indication of an underlying learning disability or issue that is yet to fully manifest itself. It is vital that professionals have the knowledge about the facts around mirror and backward writing to pass on at parent conferences and parents evening meetings and to ensure that as far as is possible that parent’s feel their concerns are being listened to, understood and answered.
Queries about mirror and backward writing should be addressed in a factual but simple to understand fashion and professionals should take care to minimise jargon when explaining why children may write from back to front as they are learning to write their name and other words.
Young children regard writing and drawing as the same task and if you have made it fun for them to make marks on paper as a teacher or a parent, they will hopefully be keen to do both as they begin the process of learning to mark make. Children in their early years will see writing and drawing as exactly the same thing and an opportunity to express themselves – and with expression, there comes freedom. They may draw a house with 2 windows for example or they may choose to put a chimney. They may not always draw the house in the same way of course because it is their house and their own form of expression.
Similarly, they may choose to draw something in the middle of the paper and something else on the bottom right hand corner – and who cares at this stage?
Young children’s very first marks on paper (which in an adult world is often labelled as scribble) is the very beginning of a process known as emergent writing. This is a journey which ultimately should settle down so that their writing is something which begins to represent what are more universally understood and readable as words and sentences. This journey, like all emergent processes, takes time and will encounter many milestones along the way to its final destination.