I'm writing about my 3-year-old daughter. I'm working with her at home to get her ready for school next year and I have noticed that she is writing upside down and backwards. As I live in Canada, I was wondering if there is a place around my area that I could take her to get looked at. I’m very concerned about her writing and I really need help, my family just to the area not that long ago and we are having problems finding help for her. Please help us, we are very concerned about our little girl.


Dr. Pierson's Response: 

First of all, a 3-year-old writing upside down and backwards is nothing to worry about! She is just learning all the nuances of writing and many, many kids at her age write letters all over the page. Children in first grade can still write some letters backwards and we don't worry about them. We would, of course, want to rule out any difficulties with vision, but that is not the root cause of dyslexia.

At her age, what we look at is oral language—how well she can follow directions, interact with people, and how many words she has and whether she is combining those words into sentences. A rule of thumb is that she should average 3 words/sentence at 3 years of age (4 words at 4 years, 5 words at 5 years); also, whether she is interested in books, has a favorite story or two, and likes to listen to stories. I think it is a good sign that she is interested in writing.

We have a list of developmental milestones on the website. You can print this off and then check off what she is doing. You'll want her to be doing the things below the age of 3 and then start to be doing the things at the 3-year level. If you still have concerns, you could share the checklist with her pediatrician. Given that I am in the US, I am not familiar with resources in Canada, but her pediatrician should be able to point you to someone if you continue to have concerns.

Just so you know, we would not diagnose dyslexia until she gets to school and has difficulty learning to read, spell, and write (although we do diagnose language disorders in the preschool years). Other things to consider as she gets older and you are watching her develop is whether there is a history of dyslexia in the family, she has recurrent ear infections, or if her play skills are very limited.

If all she is doing is writing letters backwards at this point, I don't think you have anything to worry about. If you find that many skills below her age level are not checked off on the language development checklist, then talk with her pediatrician.