I Need Help! My Five-Year-Old Writes Backward

Is it normal for a kid to write backward, especially when they're learning? Our expert weighs in on this grandmother's concern.
5-Year-Old Write Backward

When my five-year-old granddaughter writes, she usually starts on the right side of the paper rather that the left. About half the time she mixes her Bs and Ds and makes her S backward. She's been in a structured day care and is getting ready for kindergarten this fall. Should I be concerned about dyslexia?


There is no need for concern if your granddaughter is otherwise well. It's completely normal for children to write "backward" at this age. In addition to letter and number reversals, some children will truly write in mirror image: going from right to left with all the letters reversed.

The brain doesn't completely form the concept of left and right until somewhere between ages five and eight. That means almost all children will have persistent reversals when they first start writing.

Don't stop your granddaughter from writing this way, and don't make her correct it. If she asks if it's correct, you can point out the errors, but don't make a big deal of it. You don't want to limit your granddaughter's creativity by constantly pointing out what's wrong.

The more children write, the easier it becomes for them. When she learned to walk, you wouldn't have dreamed of telling her to stop because she couldn't do it properly, or of trying to correct her and give her lessons.

Similarly, with writing, children should be free to practice and make mistakes. By first grade, teachers will start asking children to correct their reversals, and by the end of second grade almost all children have stopped doing it completely.

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

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