Evaluation of 5-Year Old Child


How can you tell if a 5-year-old is dyslexic?


It is very normal for a young children to reverse letters when learning to write. By itself, this is no cause for concern. Because dyslexia is a label attached when children lag behind in reading development, it is difficult to reliably assess a preschool or kindergarten age child for dyslexia; many children that age simply haven’t reached the developmental milestones that allow them to accurately copy letters.

However, it does make sense to be alert to early signs of difficulty, and can also help to look at a child’s strengths as well as weaknesses. That will provide insight into the child’s overall learning style, as well as helping to determine whether the child’s pattern of development seems consistent with dyslexia.  

It is possible for young children to be screened, and some states do have laws requiring such screening at the kindergarten level. 

Understanding a child’s learning profile will help to make better decisions early on as to school selection and placement, to make certain that the child’s school environment is a good match for her learning style.

Even if a child is deemed to be too young for formal diagnosis, the child can be introduced to the same tools used for helping older children with dyslexia, such as using clay to model the alphabet. These hands-on techniques are appropriate for all young children, and can be extremely helpful for those with dyslexic tendencies.

(Answer by Abigail Marshall)

For more information, see:

Davis Young Learner Kit

Help your 5-year-old become a reader!

Davis Young Learner's Kit for Home Use: A gentle, fun, and age-appropriate for alphabet knowledge and sight word mastery.  


  • Janice

    My 6year old girl will be 7 in august is really behind in everything at school and I really feel for her. I don’t know how to help her . The teacher and I had an interview and the teacher said she can copy letters numbers and words fine but the moment those are gone she’s forgotten within seconds how to write them she writes B, D ,E , G , ,J , M, N ,P, Q ,S all backwards and can’t sound words out to make words when writing she struggles to read doesn’t remember anything she has read just previously with spelling the teacher said they practice the same words for a week but by the end of the week when they do the test she’s already forgotten how to spell them they think something is wrong with her memory but don’t think it’s dyslexia she also gets some numbers backwards 5, 7 and 9 she wasn’t behind with walking talking etc the teacher seems to think her teacher aides are doing to much for her like helping her with her work instead of making her do it herself (she has teacher aides for type 1 diabetes)

    • Janice Cuckow

      She also struggles to count to 20 and asking her which numbers go before or after the other she completely forgets even when they’re numbers below 10

  • Kassidy

    My son is 5 years old. He can not sing his abcs. If asked to write his name he starts writing with his left hand then switches to his right half way through a letter. He can not push hard enough for his pencil markings to be seen. If you ask him what the letter A looks like he will not know and gets very upset. His teacher asked him to write the letter J on his paper he got so upset totally shut down and said he can’t do it. He doesn’t know his letters. We work with him with the alphabet every day and he can not remember the letters or sounds. Any advice?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Unfortunately these days, there is often a mismatch between what schools expect of small children and what the children are developmentally ready to learn. We do have a kit geared to kids that will give a 5-year-old the ability to master the alphabet — but it is also important that the learning take place in a calm, relaxed way at a pace that is consistent with the child’s level of readiness to learn. If you are interested in this kit, you will find it here: https://shop.dyslexia.com/dylkit — Davis Facilitators can also provide support and guidance with a Davis Reading Program for Young Learners .

      I hope you will also be able to work with your son’s teacher to make adjustments and accommodations for him — every time your son gets upset it will only make things worse.

  • Maria S.

    My 5.5-year-old daughter copies some times the letters of her name in the wrong order, having traced the name at class every day and having an example of the name well written in front of her; she says that tracing makes her tired, does not want to go school and her teacher says that she refuses to copy a letter when she puts it on the board and that the youngest kids in her class write the letters so much better than her that is the oldest in her pre-K class. My husband has dyslexia, and I am not sure if these are signs of dyslexia or only signs of not good fine motor skills. I myself write very ugly but do not have dyslexia. She does not confuse the letters and identifies the sounds of the letters well.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Maria, with a young child it can be hard to tell what problems are tied to developmental readiness, and what are early signs of dyslexia. However, I always look for signs of frustration, and your daughter certainly is showing that when she says she is tired and does not want to go to school. Since she does not have difficulty recognizing the letters, you might just want to try having her model the letters of the alphabet in clay, as described in the book The Gift of Dyslexia. Working with clay can definitely help develop with small motor skill development, even if the child is not dyslexic. She should not be required to trace or copy letters right now – it is counterproductive to push a small child to do something that is tiring or difficult.

  • Kris T. E.

    My daughter is 5 yrs, 6 mos, and has some patterns that I think are concerning.
    She could identify all letters of the alphabet before age 2 (uppercase and lowercase) and was obsessed with them.
    She did not talk at all until after she was 2, but progressed to full sentences within weeks.
    She knows the letter sounds if questioned aurally, but gets very confused when trying to sound out words.
    She is very inconsistent with her sight words. Sometimes she seems to know them, other times, she hesitates and guesses another word that has the same number of syllables and a common letter. For example, if the word is “now”, she may guess “one”, “what”, “not”, “out” or “why”.
    When sounding out words she doesn’t know, she frequently misses the first sound or begins with another sound that is in the word.
    She may misread a word she knows. For example, she knows the word, “goes”, but recently read it as “se-go” (seagull), explaining that she read “SE” then “GO” as she pointed out her two syllables.
    She says she hates reading, it’s not fun, and it’s yucky.
    She often writes her name backwards (she’s also a lefty). Not only does she write it right to left, but she also writes all of the individual letters backwards, sometimes.
    She sometimes flips individual letters upside down. For example, she’ll write her name in all caps but the first “A” will be written as a “V” with a line across it. The second “A” may be written normally.
    She frequently forgets that we read from left to right.
    Sometimes, she’ll say that she “doesn’t know how” or “can’t remember how” to make a particular letter. Other times, she writes the same letter without a problem.
    She is really struggling with how to hold a writing utensil, and usually holds it with an awkward fist. When corrected, she quickly switches back to her preferred grasp.
    Also, her 3 yo brother is much better at reading than she is and shows significantly more interest. I know kids are all different, but he seems to have great phonetic awareness in far less time, simply by watching us attempt to teach his sister to read.
    Should I be concerned?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kris, I think your expectations for a 5-year-old might be unrealistic. She needs to have the foundation in place before she will be ready to read words. I recommend a Davis Young Learner’s kit because it will give you materials that you can use to help your daughter learn to focus her attention for reading, fully master all the letters of the alphabet, and master all parts of each sight word together (the letter sequences, the word meanings, and the sounds of the word). When she appears confused or when she tells you that she hates reading — that is a signal that you need to stop whatever you are doing and take a step back. At age 5, she will learn best through activities that seem like fun. So if you want to guide her into becoming a reader, then you will need to find ways to make the pre-reading and early-reading activities fun for her. It’s great that her younger brother is doing well, but the children should not be compared — they each think and learn differently. However, if the 3-year-old is showing early interest, all of the activities that are part of the Davis kit can be done with him as well. The kit is geared for ages 5-7 — so it would not be appropriate for most younger children, but I think that as long as you simply allow the 3-year-old to participate, or not, as he chooses, it would be fine to include him if you choose to work through the kit with your daughter.

  • Cotton S

    my five year old grandson has a problem remembering what numbers look like, especially which number is 7 and which one is nine. I am very repeatative in teaching this and yet it doesn’t seem to help. Is this normal or a problem

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      At age 5, this confusion would be quite normal developmentally. Children that age are just learning, and it is hard to keep the symbols straight. It’s helpful to use techniques such as molding the symbols in clay and also, with numbers, to make sure that the child understands what each symbol represents — for example, by molding the 7 with an array of 7 clay balls; the 9 with a group of 9 balls.

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