Confusing Left And Right? How To Manage Directional Difficulties In Dyslexia

Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Editorial Team


Dyslexia does not affect academic life but also may hamper life beyond campus. People suffering from this disorder find it difficult to keep up with spatial orientations. They also find it difficult to understand instructions if they are meted in a specific order. A very common example of a directional knowledge deficit is the inability to differentiate between left and right. 

Imagine losing your directional abilities for a day. Reaching your destination will be nearly impossible if you keep on messing left or right. Of course, Google Maps has really made our lives easy. But still, you’ll have a very hard time relating the delta distance between points A and B on GPS vs. real life. ‘Directional Dyslexia’ is what they call to describe directional difficulty in dyslexic individuals. So, What’s the reason behind most dyslexics lacking directional abilities? What day-to-day problems do they face due to it, and Most importantly, how to manage it?

Note that Dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder which means the issue is in the brain. Multiple studies conducted throughout the decades confirm the structural differences in the brains of people with and without reading disabilities that are responsible for the symptoms of dyslexia.

The left hemisphere of our brain is generally responsible for speech, visual memory, spatial awareness, language processing, and reading. There are four major lobes associated with these functions; Frontal Lobe, Parietal Lobe, Occipital Lobe, and Temporal Lobe. Spatial awareness and navigation are primarily associated with the Hippocampus situated directly underneath the Temporal Lobes. Occipital and Parietal also play their role in order for our navigational skills such as a sense of direction (Left, Right, East, West), to work properly.

left hemisphere of brain
Left Hemisphere of the Brain with various lobes

The visual cortex in the Occipital Lobe gives necessary visual info, whereas the parietal lobe provides other sensory information such as touch and body movement. Furthermore, our brain is made up of two types of material: gray matter (responsible for processing Information) and white matter (responsible for transferring information).

An MRI scan of a dyslexic brain done in research[1] suggests people with dyslexia have less gray matter activity in the left part of the brain than non-dyslexic individuals. Observation is one of the prime factors responsible for weak spatial awareness, spatial memory, and visual perceptual skills required while understanding directions.

Now that we know the reason behind let’s take a look at how a dyslexic individual deals with this issue daily. What sort of issues are faced by him on a regular basis?

Some common issues faced due to directional dyslexia

  • Mixing left and right commonly. They may stick ‘My left or your left?’ in every conversation to keep track.
  • Keep getting lost while walking in an unfamiliar place as you have no sense of direction back to the starting place.
  • Losing the track of starting place while reading, writing, or copying from the board.
  • Struggle in driving as you have to keep the focus on both the road and directions. Reading signboard and symbols just add to the burden.
  • Struggle in activities, such as tying a shoe or a necktie.
  • Having trouble reading and understanding maps and GPS.
  • I feel embarrassed about asking which is left and right as an adult.
  • Having anxiety when asked to follow a set of directions.

How to manage directional difficulties in dyslexia?

directional difficulties in dyslexia

First of all, there is no formal medical treatment for dyslexia and its symptoms. The earlier you get to know about it, the better you will get control over it. Coming down to directional difficulties, there are some strategies you could implement.

1. Point of Reference

The best way to avoid confusion between left and right is to take the reference. The index and thumb of our left hand can form an ‘L’ when held in front of the face. ‘Which hand can form the correct L?’ could be taken as a reference for the left direction.

For some, taking reference to the dominant hand is comparatively easier to remember. Another option is to use a watch or a bracelet. It’s less confusing and easier to be habitual to. Make sure to let the kid be aware of what side it is beforehand.

2. Write it down

If dealing with a long set of directions, it is best to write the instructions down. Your chances of getting lost in an unfamiliar place are less if you write down the steps to your destination and try to memorize them a couple of times. Make sure to write in a stepwise manner to have a clear idea of the directions you are following. While writing, try to walk the journey in your mind and visualize it in order to memorize it better.

3. Take the help of technology

Use technology wherever possible to help you out with directions. Use voice-enabled GPS to assist you on roads. You can use your watch as a point of orientation to get to the directions. Use a compass app on your smartphone or Apple watch to help you out.

4. Prepare Early

Always the one unprepared will get scared during the exam. Prepare yourself well for directions before going on any journey. Study the map to the destination thoroughly. Write the directions a day prior and try to memorize them. Use notes to keep reminding you about the directions. if possible, try to travel with someone accompanying you. You can ask for directions when you need them instead of relying on technology.


Feeling lost in directions and instructions is a reality for dyslexic people. However, it is not something entirely impossible to manage. We cannot change the cranial composition but certainly train other areas of the mind to take over or have alternatives in hand.

There are interventions available that help work the way around the directional knowledge deficit. Also, preparing in advance is the key to the successful completion of tasks that involve following instructions or knowing about left or right. Take the help of all the interventions available and overcome the challenges posed by Dyslexia.


  1. Protopapas, A., & Parrila, R. (2018). Is Dyslexia a Brain Disorder? Brain Sciences, 8(4).

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