Question:  A five year old in my kindergarten classroom writes everything backwards – in mirror image.  He always begins on the right side of the paper with the first letter of the word and then proceeds to perfectly invert everything.  Is this an early sign of dyslexia or common when kids start to write?

Myrna Shure:  Although writing backwards is not the way most children start to write, it may or may not be an early sign of dyslexia.  First, if the child is left-handed, it is not so unusual that he is writing this way, and he will likely eventually outgrow it.  I’m told that Leonardo DaVinci was left-handed and many of his diaries and notebooks were written in mirror writing.  If the child is not left-handed, is it possible that he is of a culture that reads from right to left, and if so, he may be imitating the way he sees his parents turn a book.  

Aside from the above possibilities, there are several other possible reasons a child might write backwards.  It could be a visual problem, or a cognitive processing difficulty.  Is the boy writing letters, and if so, does he write those backwards as well?  How about shapes?
If the problem persists, it might be worth discussing this with his parents so they can talk to their pediatrician to determine the next steps.

If the child is diagnosed with dyslexia, this can interfere with academic achievement, so it is best to seek professional treatment now.  Because dyslexia is not caused by lack of intelligence or motivation to do well in school, appropriate treatment early can help children perform well academically as they mature.

To help the child from developing feelings of low self-esteem or other anxieties, try to find something he is very good at, or really loves, and help him focus on those activities.   Many children with dyslexia can still do very well in school, and in life, if they feel self-confidence about themselves overall.