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.


two small children with books

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
Davis, Ronald Dell. (1992)  37 Common Characteristics of Dyslexia. Retrieved December 2, 2023 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  https://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • SIMON Demaline

    I am Dyslexic struggled at school then went to a Dyslexic school paid for by council. , Left / Right. Usual poor hand writing hopeless at maths , I look normal don’t look handicapped but , at school we had a spelling test on a Friday , then the teacher read the Results out to class ,, hated Fridays

  • Concetta

    I am 50 years old. Reading this upset me greatly. I am actually in tears. These common traits described my entire life. I have been successful in life but it has always been a struggle. Growing up I was placed in LD classes around middle school age. I was very shy and withdrawn feeling dumb and unable to learn until age 17-18 when I discovered that I was very good at typing and grasping technology with little effort. I have experienced many challenges throughout my life that absolutely seem to tie back to this. What do I do now? Where do I go from here?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Concetta, Davis Facilitators can work with individuals of any age. In fact, older individuals often get the most benefits and rewards because they are highly motivated and have a very clear idea of their goals. Here’s an article written a couple of years ago from a woman about your age when she went through a Davis program.

      Another advantage of the Davis program is that a Facilitator typically works one-on-one with their client for about a week (5 days) — and during that time the client learns the tools needed to continue on their own. So you get the tools you need right up front without having to commit to a long-term schedule of classes or sessions. Of course, you still can arrange for follow-up sessions with the Facilitator after the program if you need help or additional support- – but that’s not required.

      Here’s a link to the directory of all licensed Davis Facilitators:

  • Gord Richardson

    I’m assuming that by ‘symbols used in occasions’ you mean ‘symbols used in EQUATIONS’? Is that simply an example of dyslexia at work?

  • igiveup

    The fact that I just got 34 of these yet after wasting 10 months and $3500 on testing with a psychologist who refused to allow me to talk about my symptoms i have nothing ‍☠️

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Unfortunately, there is a lack of consensus or agreement among psychologists on diagnostic criteria for dyslexia, and typically they dyslexia through a narrow lens of a disability tied to reading, rather than considering the broader pattern of neurodiversity. We are looking at the bigger picture, including the overall pattern of strengths and weaknesses — but that includes many people who struggle but don’t score badly enough on tests of basic skills to qualify for an official diagnosis. Basically, our philosophy is to listen to our clients: if they say they have a problem and are struggling, and that they want our help – then we believe them.

    • Doc

      Screw me. I match the 37 and more. Was born ambidextrous and dyslexic. Dumb and dumber. Was deemed retarded by the normies. Struggled to learn per their standards. Managed to develop filters to read. During the summer between 3rd and 4th grade, the filters instantiated. I went to bed barely able to read, I woke unable to stop reading. Miracle. Never did well in school but excelled as an engineer. Engineers apply mathematics and science to make things go. I excelled at making things go…

  • Michelle

    Hello! I’m going through the program with my dyslexic children. One of them says she feels pain.. that it hurts to move her mind’s eye to stop disorientation. Is this common? How to advise or help her?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Read the section on “Holding” in Chapter 28 (“Release and Orientation Review”) of The Gift of Dyslexia.

      If this came up during the Perceptual Ability Assessment, your daughter might do better with Alignment. (Chapter 30) – but please note the cautionary statement at the end of the chapter if you have already taken your daughter through the full Orientation procedure.

      • Doc

        I don’t understand this modern notion of dyslexia. I was born ambidextrous and dyslexic. In my day we were simply retarded. I received a bit of tutoring from my 3rd grade teacher. But I was retarded and on my own. I struggled. At age 70, I still dream about the morning when I woke and could read. I struggled to develop and instantiate the filters. Had a 30+ year career as an engineer. Much of my time was devoted to solving difficult problems that others couldn’t solve and to mentoring.

    • Doc

      I remember feeling pain in my battle to learn to read and write. I struggled. There was no help in the 50’s and 60’s. We were retarded. Words were an undecipherable mass. I struggled for years. My brain developed filters in the process that now allow me to read. Those filters instantiated on a summer’s night. I went to sleep barely able to read, I then woke and could read everything. Miracle. Perhaps my first “Eureka” moment. Couldn’t stop reading.

      I don’t know how to teach dyslexics to read and write. I was simply stubborn. My thirst for knowledge was relentless…

  • Rosie Leaverton

    I’ve never been diagnosed dyslexic, but I’ve suspected it for quite some time now. Going through this, I counted up how many traits I had. I got 25/37…

  • Marilyn

    The list above does not apply to all dyslexics. I am dyslexic and was not a class clown or trouble maker. I also played softball, basketball and did track in high school and went to state track finals. Do not brand all dyslexics with the list above.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      “Most dyslexics will exhibit ***about 10*** of the following traits and behaviors.”

      There are 37 traits listed. So “about 10” would mean that most dyslexics would identify with something less than a third of the traits.

      • Dr Angel Paxton

        Correct. It says “most” not “all”. Clearly stated. There is no ALL with any learning disorder. Thank you for this article. Great information.

  • kiana-roselee

    Hi, my name is Kiana-Roselee and im not sure if i have dyslexia or not. maybe mild dyslxia. but in school i have been getting really low test results and i tend to zone out a lot in school. my last test i tried really hard but i just couldnt do it. i ended up getting an 18% and my teacher wasnt very happy. most of the 37 signs relate to me. but im still now sure if i have mild dyslexia or dyselxia or something like that.

    • Tessa Halliwell

      Sounds like you could identify as dyslexic. You have two choices. One go find a psychologist who can give you a formal assessment or two contact a Davis facilitator who will assess you for the perceptual gift that dyslexics have and will then explain how you can use that gift to overcome the difficulties you have in school.

    • Dr Angelita Paxton

      I am not sure of your age but if you are in school up to 12th grade, your school can also assess you. There are screeners and dyslexia assessments they can use. Ask a teacher for a testing referral or have your parent request it. If you are in college visit the student support services.

  • Chris

    Maya, I believe you. You’re not faking it. It sounds like you do have a lot of dyslexia symptoms, and also have an abusive family. Many of us have similar experiences – please don’t take the abuse or the dyslexia personally. You are still you – someone who deserves to be here and to be loved, respected, and given a chance.

    Your letter shows that you are intelligent, honest, creative, and proactive. Not many 14 year olds would be reaching out as you have done here. I believe you will do well in life, and wish the best for you.

    For the family:
    Please remember that abusive people are kind until you trust them again, then they are mean again. With people like that, it is important to do these things:
    1. Don’t share your hopes, fears, or secrets with them OR with anyone they talk to – they will use it against you.
    2. Don’t believe what they say about you or your options in life – they are probably incorrect.
    3. Be respectful and kind to them. Occasionally do some small nice thing for them in a casual way.
    4. Avoid pointing out their issues or mistakes – at least until you move out of the house.
    5. Don’t let them use you for emotional entertainment – act like a slightly boring person around them. If they focus on you, put you down, or try to pick a fight, don’t act upset. Avoid responding directly to any rude statements – just redirect the discussion to something else that they are interested in. Not in a rude way – just mention the other thing as if you just thought of it.

    For the dyslexia: Avoid discussing it with anyone in your family or their friends, at least until after you are tested, if possible.
    1. Ask your school counselor for help getting tested. Ask them to keep your request confidential if possible until after you are tested.
    2. Visit this site to see other resources for free testing: https://www.understood.org/articles/en/how-to-get-free-low-cost-evaluation-for-child
    Below are what seem like the best options in the list at that site:
    3. Ask for free testing at https://ldaamerica.org/contact/
    4. Find testing near you: https://www.childrensdyslexiacenters.org/
    5. Find the resource center for your state: https://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/
    6. Find out if there is a “teaching hospital” near you, if so call to see if they will test you for free. https://fortune.com/2021/04/27/top-teaching-hospitals-2021-ibm-watson-health/
    7. Find free health care options near you: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/
    8. Find resources in general: https://www.211.org/

    Best of luck.