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Directionality: Why Directionality and Writing Letters Backward is a Part of a Greater Problem |

Directionality: Why Directionality and Writing Letters Backward is Part of a Greater Problem

This article discusses directionality, spatial awareness, motor planning and visual perception used to improve writing skills. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.

As a child begins to develop their handwriting and writing skills, most parents don’t realize all of the different aspects and mechanics that go into something that seems very simple and automatic. From a young age, we help our children build their fine motor skills with activities that involve their hands, wrists and fingers to prepare them for pencil grip and writing from left to right, however, writing involves so much more than just your child’s hands and fingers. And, when there is a breakdown, it can be tough to know exactly where the gaps are in your child’s writing ability because most parents don’t know that writing can be affected by their child’s hand-eye coordination, motor planning, visual perception, spatial awareness, low muscle tone, posture or even the eyes themselves.

Directionality: Why Directionality and Writing Letters Backward is a Part of a Greater Problem |

Children who struggle with handwriting or even with Dysgraphia, a written-language disorder that affects a child’s mechanical writing skills and fine motor control, tend to have difficulty in many of the following areas:

  • Writes their letters backward
  • Doesn’t know how to space their letters appropriately on the page
  • Can’t write in a straight line
  • Has difficulty copying notes from the chalkboard
  • Inconsistent letter formations and slant
  • Cramped fingers while holding a pencil, odd wrists, low muscle tone in fingers
  • Mixes upper case and lower case letters
  • Poor organization on their paper
  • Writing is often illegible
Directionality: Why Directionality and Writing Letters Backward is a Part of a Greater Problem |
Before and After – Directionality

Kenneth A. Lane, Optometrist and member of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (FCOVD) said, “It is not surprising that many dyslexic children have poor visual motor perceptual skills. It appears that dyslexics have problems in spatial orientation and lack proper planning of the actions required of the drawing task. The writing performance of dyslexic individuals most often reflects disturbances in graphomotor and spatial coordination.”

Lane goes on to say that not all children with Dyslexia have poor handwriting, however, children with Dysgraphia and other learning challenges do show signs of weak visual and spatial development used for developing writing skills.

Directionality: Why Directionality and Writing Letters Backward is a Part of a Greater Problem |
Before and After – Directionality


One the biggest challenges children have with writing skills at our center is directionality and how they write their letters. It’s not uncommon to see kids writing their “bs,” “ds,” “fs,” “gs,” “zs,” and other letters backward. In addition, they may put the tails too high on their “ns” so they look like “hs,” or kids write their letters from bottom to top instead of top to bottom.

Directionality: Why Directionality and Writing Letters Backward is a Part of a Greater Problem |
Before and After – Directionality

Hand-eye Coordination

Because motor planning plays such an active and essential role in your child’s ability to write, children who struggle with writing may also have difficulties completing tasks and activities that involve coordinated movements using the hands and eyes together. This could be the reason a child has difficulty copying notes from the chalkboard or they stop tracking their hand movements across the page as their eyes can’t maintain their focus on the hand’s movement. Deficiencies in hand-eye coordination could be one of the primary reasons for poor tracking and decoding abilities.

Directionality: Why Directionality and Writing Letters Backward is a Part of a Greater Problem |
Before and After – Directionality

Spatial Awareness

When looking at your child’s handwriting, if you notice their letters are often spaced too far part or are too close together and the sizes and shapes often vary in one sentence, it could mean they have trouble with spatial awareness.  Children who have difficulty with spatial awareness sometimes appear to be clumsy, often run into furniture or even become “close talkers” in social situations. Many times children with spatial awareness issues don’t understand the relationship between their body, the objects around them and what’s in their environment. This is why you may notice your child starts out writing in a straight line, but eventually their writing curves downward in a diagonal direction.

Writing Letters Backward
Before and After – Spatial Awareness

Visual Perception

Visual perception is the process where the brain organizes information we see and gives meaning to what we see. As discussed in “Visual Perceptual Skills for Handwriting,” written by an Occupational Therapist at Your Kids OT, there are many components of visual processing, which work together to form and develop your child’s writing skills. Some of these include visual discrimination, visual memory and visual-sequential memory.

Writing Letters Backward
Before – Directionality, Visual Awareness

All of these unique aspects make a difference when your child forms their letters, writes their letters (size), retains words and letters, places the right letters in the correct sequence, and recognizes the letters and words when shown to them repeatedly.

Writing Letters Backward
After – Directionality, Spatial Awareness

Muscle Tone

Many of us already know how important it is to strengthen our child’s fine motor skills in the hands, wrists and fingers for writing development, but what about the eyes? The muscles in the eyes also play a key role in how our child writes, reads and comprehends. Many of our students who have not yet strengthened their eye muscles show signs of a lazy eye or their eyes may shift or jitter as we have them track a pencil in the air.

In Lane’s book Developing Ocular Motor and Visual Perceptual Skills he says, “A cause of deficiencies in children’s handwriting may be the inadequate control of the various muscles involved in movement execution. Handwriting is carried out with a variety of coordinated movements, and the child must be able to control spatial, temporal, and force requirements of the task.”

To strengthen your child’s eye muscles for reading and writing a series of visual exercises may be needed to improve eye muscle tone as well as visual-motor skills.

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Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs

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