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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  • Diana J.

    I am a divorced mother of 2 boys, one a sophomore and one in 8th grade. My oldest was diagnosed with ADD in 3rd grade and my younger with ADHD in 2nd grade, and both have been on medication ever since. Both have struggled tremendously in school, especially in math and English. My oldest has struggled the most, but both have with spelling, handwriting, math steps, coordination and organization. My oldest want to play basketball and football so much, but he feels bad that he has never been that good at either. Plus, now that he is old enough to get a part-time job, I fear that it will be hard for him to retain a job due to not being able to catch on to things that quickly. Since I have been reading more on Dyslexia, it looks like they have had it all along.
    As a mother, I feel like I should have done more research to find all the resources available, as well as a possible misdiagnosis. Plus, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt; I have always told them to try harder, not realizing that they have been telling me the truth when they would tell me they are trying. From what I have read from your site, I see that they can be tested for Dyslexia at their schools. Is there anything else I could be doing in the meantime?
    Thank you and Thank you for your Understood site.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Diana, I think you should talk with your sons about what they would like, beyond testing through the school and possible accommodations. A Davis program can help teenagers — and you don’t have to wait for formal diagnostic test results to talk to get a program-specific assessment from a facilitator. A nice extra benefit of a Davis program is that because or our orientation training tools, students often report improvement in athletic skills as well, particularly where the person feels that they are clumsy or uncoordinated. So while it’s not a promise, a Davis program could improve your older son’s ability at sports.

      However, Davis is a drug-free program and facilitators usually will not work with a child who is on medication for ADHD. That’s because the effect of the medication prevents the person from learning to properly use the mental techniques we are using. So if either of your sons decided he wanted a Davis program, then he and you would have to decide whether he wants to taper off or forego the medications — and of course that is something that would also need to be discussed with his doctor.

      Because your sons are older it really is important to involve them in the decision process, especially for the son who is already in high school. A Davis program does require follow up at home, and so it is important that the boys want a program and feel motivated to follow through.

  • Estefanie Avila

    Hi, I have a 8 yr old that struggles with reading ,writing and spelling.. I just had a parent teacher conference and the teacher said she tries really hard and pays attention and is a very good student but is, really struggling. She scored normal in her IQ but the teacher questions it since she’s doesn’t do so well in her work. I really have a feeling that she’s dyslexic the symptoms match with what is going on with her..The school is going to do a study on her to see what they can do for her. How can I help her at home?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Estefanie, IQ is not related to dyslexia. Most dyslexics have normal or above-normal IQ scores — often with scores in the gifted or highly gifted range.

      If your child is in public school in the US, you have a right to have your child tested for learning disabilities, at no cost to you. You can begin the process with a written request to the school principal. Even if your child is in private school, you would still have the same right to evaluation from the school district where you live.

      To help your child at home, you can use the methods outlined in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia.. I would recommend buying the home kit if you decide to follow the program at home, but it’s a good idea to read the book first to get a sense of whether you feel the method is something that you feel you can undertake on your own, before investing the extra money in the kit.

  • Diane Betts

    My daughter is 5 years old, born July of 2011. She just began Kindergarten here in VA and is struggling greatly in school. Her handwriting is not readable and she has a hard time tracing her letters, it wasn’t until tonight when I had her write free hand that I noticed she was writing her “S” backwards and her “U” upside down. Which she’s constantly crying and complaining, “I can’t do it,” and loses patience very quickly.

    I have always noticed her fine motor skills were a little impaired but didn’t really notice how impaired until Kindergarten (she was in preschool/day care for only 5 months). Her teachers are constantly calling and e-mailing me with concerns about her fine motor skills (which are slowly improving since September) & her lack of focus.

    I also noticed she can count verbally to 18 but even with tons of repetition she doesn’t recognize her numbers and has trouble counting objects, she’ll jump around. Her memory about places,people, and past events is impeccable! She also memorizes songs she hears very quickly with one to times of hearing them. She uses both of her hands with writing, throwing a ball, eating, etc.

    Dyslexia does not run on my maternal side (don’t know my biological father) nor her fathers side of the family, so I’m trying to figure out if she’s dyslexic or ADHD. I marked 21 items out of the 37 listed. Just need to be pointed in the right direction so I can help my daughter be successful in life & be supportive whether it’s ADHD or dyslexia. Thanks. Sincerely, A Concerned Mom

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Diane, as the teachers are expressing concern, you may want to request testing through the school, or ask whether the school can provide occupational therapy to help with the small motor problems.

      There is tremendous overlap between ADHD and dyslexia, and I think it is a mistake to consider symptoms in a 5 year old as if those are two separate conditions. In our view, the root cause is often the same.

      If you are able to work with your daughter at home, even for a few hours a week, please consider investing in a Davis Young Learner’s Kit because it will help directly with all of the issues you describe. The kit manual gives you specific, easy tools you can teach your daughter to improve hear ability to focus attention; the hands-on work with clay will build up strength in her hands to improve small motor skills; and making her letter in clay will also help her learn the proper orientation of all the letters. When she is ready to begin reading, the Davis strategies are also geared to her very strong memory for real-world things and events, and will help her tie that in to memory of symbols (numerals and letters).

    • Nina Lormand

      Diane, your story sounds very familiar. I suggest you start by getting referred to OT and get her evaluated because my 5yr old also has fine motor skill issues and struggles in school now but he is very bright…he was just diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder.

  • daria

    I am am a junior in high school and I feel like I have dyslexia, but nobody will listen to me because i have been able to manage my way through school so far. I have always hated reading because I can never comprehend what is actually happening in the plot and I always stutter on my words when I try to read aloud. It is also extremely hard for me to write because I can never form my ideas into words. I feel like my brain is in a million different places and I just can’t focus on what I want to say. I am terrible at memorization and memory retention (especially in math).

    I don’t think I am stupid, but I never score well on standardized tests and considering I have to apply to colleges soon, I am extremely anxious b/c my testing scores are never that good and it is extremely hard for me two write and ironically those are the two things that I need to be good at in order to get into college. It is so frustrating and nobody will ever listen. From 3rd grade until 9th grade I feel like I was able to do fine because my life was extremely structured since I did ballet very seriously, but as of 10th grade I unfortunately haven’t been dancing and I now have absolutely no structure and everything just seems to be falling apart in term of my school life.

    I don’t know what to do because the school county would never consider testing me for a learning disability since I have no prior evidence of bad grade. Around how much would it cost if I were to seek out testing on my own? Thank you and sorry for all the grammar mistakes.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Daria, although you may be right about the school, I think you should explore the option of getting testing through the school. I would suggest that you meet with a counselor and explain everything you have posted here, and explain how difficult it is for you to keep up your grades. If you can get testing, you may qualify for accommodations such as extra time on standardized tests.

      The costs for private testing is variable, but it can be quite high — and definitely something you would need to discuss with your parents, as it is rarely covered by insurance.

      I would note that all of the symptoms you describe are very consistent with dyslexia — and I would suggest that you read the book The Gift of Dyslexia to get a better understanding of what is going on in your brain. You are smart, but you also think in a different way and need to have learning strategies geared to your learning style and your strengths. There is a good chance that you will be able to find this book in your school library, or in a local public library.

      I’d also add that if your goal is to overcome these problems, then you do not need a formal diagnosis to get help. That is one more benefit of reading the book — it explains what we do to address the problems you’ve listed, and describes our basic tools in detail.

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