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Why the “Bed” Trick Doesn’t Work to Resolve b/d Confusion for a Dyslexic Student

I wish I could have just 5-10 minutes with every single K-3 teacher. I would explain how we so often teach the b/d concept wrong. Learning a new way could keep teachers and their students from wasting years trying to master this concept! 

Look at how this can cause even more confusion:

Here’s the main problem with this way of teaching: people with dyslexia have issues with directionality. They often confuse their left and right, or they put things out of order, out of sequence. If you have them hold up both their hands and picture a bed, they may actually picture the bed like the bottom image.

Do you see the problem?? Dyslexic students often read from right to left, so they look at their hands here and are taught to say “B-E-D” when in reality they are looking at their hands from right to left and so they see the “d” but they are saying “b.” 

Here’s the answer: Overteach ONLY ONE hand! What does this mean? Pick only one hand and consistently and frequently teach which letter is associated with that hand. 

  • At our center, we demonstrate to students how to make the letter “b” with their left hand. They trace it and FEEL it and then draw it on paper and say “b” /b/ multiple times over several weeks and sometimes months.

  • Try to avoid using the word “left” or “right” because of left-right confusion.

  • Have them use that same hand and ONLY that hand to check if it is a “b” or a “d.” So, if they are reading a word like “dot,” they STILL check with their “b” hand that they know is ALWAYS their “b” hand, hold it up next to the letter on the page, and compare it. “Does this look like your “b” hand? No? Okay, then you know it is a “d” and makes the /d/ sound.”

  • Do this with BOTH reading and writing to reinforce the concept of this hand is ALWAYS going to be my “b” hand.

Guess what?! This same rule applies when teaching left and right. Look at the image below. This is how people teach dyslexics how to figure out left and right. Please don’t continue doing this!

  • Remember, dyslexics have directionality issues. They do not see things backwards, but they will look at the shape of their right hand and also see the letter L!!!

  • So, please overteach one hand. ONLY use ONE hand and teach them which hand it is, and try to not let them hold up both hands to “check.” This only causes more confusion!

Did you know that many dyslexic adults already intuitively do this trick without even realizing they’re using this trick?! 

  • One person told me he got a tattoo on his left arm and his left shoulder but he will never get any tattoos on the right side! This way he will remember what direction “left” is by quickly glancing down at his tattoos. 

  • Another person told me she only wears rings or bracelets on the left side so that she can easily look at her jewelry and figure out which direction is left.

If you don’t have dyslexia yourself, you may not fully understand this struggle. But it can be debilitating sometimes for both kids and adults. Try out this simple trick and stay consistent with it every single day, and in a few short months you WILL see results!


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