Test for Dyslexia: 37 Common Traits


Most dyslexics will exhibit about 10 of the following traits and behaviors. These characteristics can vary from day-to-day or minute-to-minute. The most consistent thing about dyslexics is their inconsistency.


Dyslexic children and adults can become avid and enthusiastic readers when given learning tools that fit their creative learning style.

  • Appears bright, highly intelligent, and articulate but unable to read, write, or spell at grade level.
  • Labelled lazy, dumb, careless, immature, “not trying hard enough,” or “behavior problem.”
  • Isn’t “behind enough” or “bad enough” to be helped in the school setting.
  • High in IQ, yet may not test well academically; tests well orally, but not written.
  • Feels dumb; has poor self-esteem; hides or covers up weaknesses with ingenious compensatory strategies; easily frustrated and emotional about school reading or testing.
  • Talented in art, drama, music, sports, mechanics, story-telling, sales, business, designing, building, or engineering.
  • Seems to “Zone out” or daydream often; gets lost easily or loses track of time.
  • Difficulty sustaining attention; seems “hyper” or “daydreamer.”
  • Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids.

Vision, Reading, and Spelling

  • Complains of dizziness, headaches or stomach aches while reading.
  • Confused by letters, numbers, words, sequences, or verbal explanations.
  • Reading or writing shows repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions, and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words.
  • Complains of feeling or seeing non-existent movement while reading, writing, or copying.
  • Seems to have difficulty with vision, yet eye exams don’t reveal a problem.
  • Extremely keen sighted and observant, or lacks depth perception and peripheral vision.
  • Reads and rereads with little comprehension.
  • Spells phonetically and inconsistently.

Hearing and Speech

  • Has extended hearing; hears things not said or apparent to others; easily distracted by sounds.
  • Difficulty putting thoughts into words; speaks in halting phrases; leaves sentences incomplete; stutters under stress; mispronounces long words, or transposes phrases, words, and syllables when speaking.

Writing and Motor Skills

  • Trouble with writing or copying; pencil grip is unusual; handwriting varies or is illegible.
  • Clumsy, uncoordinated, poor at ball or team sports; difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills and tasks; prone to motion-sickness.
  • Can be ambidextrous, and often confuses left/right, over/under.

Math and Time Management

  • Has difficulty telling time, managing time, learning sequenced information or tasks, or being on time.
  • Computing math shows dependence on finger counting and other tricks; knows answers, but can’t do it on paper.
  • Can count, but has difficulty counting objects and dealing with money.
  • Can do arithmetic, but fails word problems; cannot grasp algebra or higher math.

Memory and Cognition

  • Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, and faces.
  • Poor memory for sequences, facts and information that has not been experienced.
  • Thinks primarily with images and feeling, not sounds or words (little internal dialogue).

Behavior, Health, Development and Personality

  • Extremely disorderly or compulsively orderly.
  • Can be class clown, trouble-maker, or too quiet.
  • Had unusually early or late developmental stages (talking, crawling, walking, tying shoes).
  • Prone to ear infections; sensitive to foods, additives, and chemical products.
  • Can be an extra deep or light sleeper; bedwetting beyond appropriate age.
  • Unusually high or low tolerance for pain.
  • Strong sense of justice; emotionally sensitive; strives for perfection.
  • Mistakes and symptoms increase dramatically with confusion, time pressure, emotional stress, or poor health.
Citation Information

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  • Linda newton

    What is the best way to relate to a child with dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Reading the book The Gift of Dyslexia is a good start toward understanding how dyslexics think and experience their world. The first part of the book can also be a good launching point for discussion with a child. I remember sitting beside my son at 11 years old, reading pages aloud to him. Again and again he said – “Mom, that’s me! That’s exactly how I think.” It was was revealing to me and certainly gave me the kind of insight that enabled me to build a stronger relationship with him.

  • Geronima mercado

    Hi, i dont know if my child is dyslixics but some of the sypmtoms are sometimes with her, she is now 9 years old, sometimes she is in hard time in reading and coping with the math problem, but she is ver artistic in nature. Please help me what im going to do to diagnose my daughter. Ty

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You can find more information about formal testing for dyslexia in our FAQ section (check the links in the “More Information” box above.)

      A formal diagnosis is not needed to get help. If you would like to talk to a Davis Facilitator about helping your daughter, you can visit the Davis Provider Directory at http://www.davismethod.org to find someone near you.

  • Rosa puga

    I have a 17 yr old and have gotten her evaluated with a doctor he states she is adhd. After reading this she is dyslexic
    How can i get her treated?

  • Donna Hunt

    Just found your site. Our daughter is 11 yrs old and has down syndrome. She is high functioning but still can’t read, do math, or spell simple words. She writes certain letters and numbers backwards. She also is still wetting the bed at night. She has no problems going to bathroom on her own during the day. Could she possibly be dyslexic too?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      It is very possible that your daughter has some of the same barriers to learning to read as dyslexic children typically experience. We do have anecdotal reports of children with Down Syndrome doing well with Davis methods. You could try implementing the methods on your own using a Davis kit. Depending on your daughter’s level of motivation and functioning, a Davis Facilitator may also be able to work with her, especially if there is a facilitator nearby to you.

  • Sharon dunne

    Hi just found this site . My daughter was diagnosed at 10 with dyslexia she struggles with grammar compensation foreign language maths spelling . We recently got her re tested again as she needs it for school but was told she not dyslexic but has disprixa . His reasiming for this is she can read . She is 17 and on her last year in school before college . Is this possible can you read with dyslexia as we always encouraged her to read .

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      We have a broad view of dyslexia. Individual symptoms are variable because each person’s developmental path is unique — but the different symptoms with their different labels often stem from the same cause. Your daughter’s symptoms are all commonly associated with dyslexia, and her diagnosis at age confirms that. Her pattern of symptoms just illustrates that she was successfully able to overcome some, but not all, of the barriers associated with her thinking style. Here’s a short article from our FAQs that you might find helpful:
      FAQ: Dyslexia without Reading Problems

  • Sheila

    I have a daughter that is 14 years old. She is a slow reader and has trouble seeing the words right in front of her… She sometimes doesn’t see an entire word and won’t know unless she goes back over it or someone else tells her. She does expirerence many of the symptoms listed above. Is she dyslexic?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Your daughter’s symptoms are common signs of dyslexia. The symptoms you describe would be directly addressed in a Davis Dyslexia Correction program.

  • Anis benlarbi

    Hi. Can we have dyslexia in a language and not in the other ? My son (8 years) can read French easier (second language) than his maternal language (Arabic). Thank you very much.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Anis, it is actually fairly common that a multi-lingual person will have symptoms of dyslexia manifest in one language and not another. The symptoms of dyslexia are caused by confusion over the symbols of the language, usually at the level of letters or small words. Since Arabic and French are written with different alphabetic symbols, it is quite possible that there are symbols in Arabic that trigger confusion for him. Perhaps because French is his second language, he learned to read in French at a time when he was more mature and a pace that allowed him to learn all the letters and symbols without triggering confusion and disorientation.

  • I’m 15 and I was talking to my friend and he told me I might be dyslexic and I have all those symptoms except maybe like 5 does that mean I’m dyslexic? And I feel like it effects my school work how can I make it stop. And should I get tested to know I actually am.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      If a person has ten or more of the symptoms listed on this page, that is a good sign that the person should get testing for dyslexia. It would be best for you to discuss your concerns with your parents or with a counselor at your school, as testing may be available through your school. If you would like the school to provide support or accommodations, then a formal diagnosis would be needed.

  • Tania

    My imaginative, creative and sensitive little girl just turned 7. She shows many of the signs of dyslexia that you mention but has, in the past year, become an able (and avid) reader, reading at or beyond the expected level. (We are in the UK so she began full time compulsory schooling at 4 so learning to read at 6 was considered late.) Is it possible to be a dyslexic who reads fluently?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Many of the symptoms of dyslexia that are related to reading, writing, spelling and math would also be very normal traits in very young children. Those symptoms become significant when they persist past the time that most children are able to read. For example, a 3 year old who writes letters and numbers backward is typical – in fact, that child is doing better than average simply because many 3 year old’s can’t write at all. But a 9 year old who writes letters and symbols backwards is probably dyslexic.

      The appropriate question to ask is whether your daughter has a problem. If she is now reading fluently and avidly, the question would be whether there are other areas of difficulty.

      As your question suggests, I think that it is likely that your daughter was a victim of unrealistic expectations in the school system. Early instruction in reading can’t speed up the individual developmental time clock, though it can lead to unnecessary fretting from parents and children. Just as some children learn to walk or talk sooner than others, some are ready to read at age 4, and some are no able to become readers until age 7 or 8.

      Your daughter’s positive traits of imagination, creativity, and sensitivity could indicate that she has the mental gifts that are often a sign of dyslexia, but that doesn’t mean that that she will experience learning problems. Unless she shows signs of frustration in other areas, she is probably just a child who is successfully following her own developmental path.

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