As a 3rd grade teacher, I heard it numerous times: parents panicking about dyslexia because their child writes letters backwards. There is so much confusion among parents (and even many teachers) about how dyslexia presents itself in young kids. Whether your child is a struggling first grader who is still struggling with CVC and sight words, or an older child who STILL writes letters backwards, this post can help you learn a bit more about dyslexia, in parent friendly language. 

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My 6 year old child writes letters backwards, even though we keep reteaching it. She’s dyslexic, right?

Experts believe that 20% of the population has some form of dyslexia, so it’s possible. However, if your child writes letters backwards, it’s just as likely to be a bad habit that formed early on. After all, remembering the shape of 26 different letters is pretty tricky, if you think about it. All it takes is writing a letter incorrectly a few times to form a bad habit. 

Certainly, if a child is approaching the middle elementary years and still struggling with transposing letters after lots of correction and practice, dyslexia could be something to consider, but not in isolation. If your child writes letters backward, rest assured it’s not at all the most important feature of dyslexia. 

African American 3rd grader smiling at camera with book in her lap

My child can’t be dyslexic because she’s really smart, or maybe even gifted in some areas!

Dyslexic kids are like any other student in terms of IQ. Some dyslexic kids really struggle across the board, while others are very bright or even gifted. Check out this wonderful list of dyslexia success stories!

Dyslexia is actually easier to diagnose in really bright children. That’s because dyslexia is identified as a reading problem that is unexpected when looking at all the child’s other abilities.

According to the Texas Education Code (Section 38.003), “These difficulties are unexpected for the student’s age, educational level, or cognitive abilities.” 

litte boy reading on his bed

My child can’t be dyslexic because he’s struggling in math, too.

There are many reasons that kids who are dyslexic can also struggle with math. It’s possible for a dyslexic child to also have dyscalculia. Here’s a bit more about dyscalculia

It’s also possible that your child understands math concepts well, but the dyslexia is making it difficult to approach written math problems. Obviously, word problems are especially problematic. 

Dyslexic kids also sometimes get really frustrated in school because the dyslexia is not being properly addressed, and that can lead to an understandable lack of motivation. However, never start with the assumption that your child is not performing well in school because of laziness or a lack of motivation; that’s NOT helpful for an unidentified dyslexic child who is frustrated!

The long and short of it? Researchers don’t have a full understanding of why dyscalculia and dyslexia often show up together. But they do. 

pin letters on a wooden background child writes letters backwards

My child can’t be dyslexic because her kindergarten and first grade teacher never mentioned it!

Teachers have a lot on their plates. Even a wonderful kindergarten or first grade teacher can easily miss a possible dyslexia diagnosis. 

Let’s take a look at a typical kindergarten class. Joey isn’t starting to read because he hasn’t been exposed to many books as a toddler and preschooler. Juan is bilingual, and while he will likely pass his peers in reading ability thanks to all the extra language exposure, he’s off to a slow start for now. Aaliyah is perfectly normal – just a late bloomer. And Katie will struggle with reading for years because, thanks to her excellent behavior, it will take a long time for someone to notice her problems focusing. 

Also, it’s worth mentioning that out of all the jobs I’ve ever worked, none required having so many balls in the air as teaching. It’s an incredibly detail-oriented career, and it’s very easy to simply not notice little clues about individual students. This is especially true about reading, in which there are so many reasons a student might get off to a slow start.

We read to our child every day when she was a baby, so she CAN’T be dyslexic. We did everything right!

That’s awesome! Reading to children for fun and on a regular basis has been proven over and over again to be really important for reading development. By doing so, you’ve probably helped your child with print awareness, vocabulary, reading comprehension skills and more. Not to mention, you’ve probably had some really wonderful bonding time.

However, lots of language exposure isn’t enough for a dyslexic child. They need a dyslexia therapist to help with some of the building blocks of language. 

mother and daughter reading an orange book on the couch together

If we practice “sounding it out” often enough, we can teach our dyslexic child to read at home. 

Oh, Mama. You mean well, but don’t do this to your sweet baby. We all make mistakes, but this one would be a doozy.

“Sound it out” isn’t gonna cut it. 

1) It’s simply insufficient and confusing for a dyslexic child to hear “sound it out” repeatedly. If they knew how to sound out and segment letter sounds, they’d be reading fluently by now. Reading is an incredibly complicated skill to learn, even if you don’t have any extra challenges. It’s time to call in the experts!

2) You’re going to take all the fun away from reading. That is NOT what you want to do. I feel really strongly that reading together as a family should be fun and have written about it before. 

3) If you want to work on reading at home, that’s wonderful. Just read to your child and enjoy stories together. Make sure you’re getting her into a quality dyslexia program with a trained specialist. 

I don’t want my child labeled “dyslexic” because other kids might make fun of him. 

I taught for four years total in 3rd and 7th grade. In each of those school years, I had students pulled from class to receive support services. Not ONCE in four years did I ever hear a student get teased for getting reading support. And 3rd graders tattle about EVERYTHING, so trust me, I would know about it.

What did break my heart was seeing kids who needed extra support and weren’t getting it because a parent was afraid of their child being “labeled.” To see a child who feels anxious and upset about not being able to complete school work, or not having the accommodations they need is so much worse. 

little boy trying to read while covering his ears to block sound

My dyslexic child will never learn to read well. I’m afraid she won’t be able to pursue her dreams. 

No way! Don’t let your mind go there, Mama! First of all, dyslexia is on a spectrum of very mild to very severe. Your child may just have to work harder to get comfortable with reading. But with the right supports in place, and lots of love from you, she will absolutely learn to read. 

Also, in case you haven’t read the whole post, I’ll refer again to this list of incredibly successful dyslexic people for your encouragement. And if you listen to Dax Shepard’s podcast called Armchair Expert, you’ll occasionally hear him talk about his experience with dyslexia. He’s brilliant and successful! 

My child will grow out of dyslexia over time.

No, you can’t outgrow dyslexia. Dyslexia will always be there. Kids DO learn to read with dyslexia, though! 

little girl reading a book in her bedroom

It seems like everyone has dyslexia nowadays. I think they’re overdiagnosing it at our school.

It’s more likely that it was previously under-identified in our schools. Now, experts estimate that roughly 15-20% of the population has dyslexia. That’s true across all cultures around the world and not unique to the English language. 

If you’ve ever wondered to yourself, “Maybe I was dyslexic.” Well, there’s a decent chance you were (and still are).

This is probably the right spot to mention that dyslexia does run in families. If a parent has dyslexia, there’s a strong chance a child will have dyslexia, too. 

Dyslexia is just a fancy word for “can’t read.”

No, it’s a specific nuerological difference that affects the way the brain processes language. It can also affect speaking and listening. 

There are many reasons that kids struggle to read and dyslexia is only one of them. 

Other possibilities include short-term and long-term memory weaknesses, slower processing speed across all tasks, attention deficit disorders that aren’t treated during the early years when a child is learning to read, lack of exposure to language and books, and even just being a late bloomer. 

Dyslexia is unique and should be treated accordingly.

redheaded girl with tortoise shell glasses reading a book and smiling

I can cure my child’s dyslexia if I can get him into the best reading teacher’s class.

Having the best reading teacher in the school, or attending the best school in town sure can’t hurt anything. Every single child benefits from high quality phonics instruction. 

However, dyslexia requires a lot more than that. Kids with dyslexia need a specific curriculum geared toward their unique challenges. It’s not something that can or should be handled in a regular classroom because not every child requires practice time and intensive instruction in those skills. 

Regular teachers are not trained to teach dyslexic students, unfortunately. A child with dyslexia needs either a high quality dyslexia computer program or a dyslexia therapist. 

There are no accommodations and modifications in life, so I better not let my dyslexic child rely on them in school, either.

Ooof, I strongly disagree. There’s plenty of time to learn about bootstrapping it and hard work as a teenager and adult. It’s true that we all have challenges we must overcome. However, when it comes to reading challenges, every child needs to receive whatever supports are necessary to help them succeed. Reading is too important to a child’s self esteem to let them flounder for any reason. 

Be your baby’s advocate! No one is better equipped for that job than you.

child writes letters backwards dyslexia myth pin

If your child writes letters backwards, don’t sweat it! 

If your child writes letters backwards, and you were worried about dyslexia, I hope you found the encouragement you needed. Just remember that writing letters backwards isn’t a meaningful sign of dyslexia. And if your child DOES have dyslexia, there are so many wonderful resources that can help along the journey. Everything is going to be okay, Mama!