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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  • Eli

    I love and thoroughly enjoy reading, but when i read, I get dizzy, have headaches, the letters appear to move, i mix up letters, and my vision goes really weird. I am currently in tenth grade and haven’t really had trouble with this until last year. I have many of the signs listed, but have never had trouble with math or spelling or anything like that. I mix up the letters p and b when writing physically and mix up my sentences when speaking (ex: I cat the pet). So I am wondering if there is anything I can do about this, because it seems to be getting worse and worse.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Eli, you are describing symptoms of disorientation. Disorientation is the root cause of all the perceptual confusion and errors associated with dyslexia, and your description (headaches, dizziness, mixed up letters) suggests severe disorientation. The disorientation is a mental response to confusion, typically triggered by something you ran across while reading that you didn’t understand. Dyslexics typically will disorient on “trigger words” – small function words of language like “if” or “as” which have an abstract or ambiguous meaning; but sometimes particular letters of the alphabet or punctuation marks can be triggers as well.

      And yes, there is something that can be done about it — and it’s actually a very easy and direct solution. The Davis orientation tools would give you the ability to recognize and control the disorientation, immediately reorienting yourself and resolving all of the problems you describe. These are very easy to learn — it took me about 20 minutes to teach my son straight from the instructions in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia, when he was 11 years old, and the difference was remarkable and immediately apparent. Of course there is more to it than that — it takes practice to learn to use the Orientation tools regularly and habitually.

      Once the orientation tools are learned, it is important to also find and address the triggers for disorientation. It is one thing to know how to stop the disorientation, quite another to be able to avoid getting disoriented in the first place. We do that through a process of molding the alphabet in clay to find and resolve letter triggers (p and b might be triggers for you, since you regularly mix them up) — and then we follow through with a clay modeling process to master all of the common small trigger words, so that you have a clear understanding and mental picture for each.

  • My daughter is in 9th grade and is great at reading but she hates it. She conplains about headaches when she reads. Whenever she has to read aloud she often skips words and needs to use her finger to point to her spot. She also struggles when words are in small print or really close to eachother. She is great at speaking and presenting but struggles when she has to read. She is also terrible at spelling . She shows a lot of the signs listed above. I’m thinking she’s dyslexic, should I have her check out by a doctor or who ever and get it in her school record. Or should I just let it be because she’s always complained about these things since 1st grade but I’ve always just kind of ignored her and told her to learn to live with it, but now with her in high school and having to use a finger to read, i dont know what to do.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Marilyn, your daughter has very clear signs of dyslexia. You don’t need to have a formal diagnosis to get help. If you live near a Davis Facilitator I would encourage you to arrange a consultation. A Davis program would directly address the symptoms you describe — headaches, skipping words, difficulty with small print. These are all signs that she is becoming disoriented when reading and has to struggle to maintain focus.

  • Gayatri

    I am a bit concerned for my daughter who is in second grade. She is good at gujarati language ( mother tongue and medim of education ), dance, story telling, acting etc.
    However, she had difficulty with
    1) remembering math tables, also 32, 42, 72 is kind of same and she really gets confused between such numbers.. I also get confused at her confusion. She scores well at most of her math tests though..
    2) she has difficulty in remembering english alphabets.. gets confused remembering M, N, T, J ètc..
    Could you help and guide?

  • Melissa Montoya

    My daughter is in 2nd grade she writes numbers and letter backwards sometimes. She is not at her reading level. She writes but it all together and does not make sense it like on long word I ask her to read it to me and she is unable to.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Melissa, your daughter’s difficulties are very common signs of dyslexia. As she is only in 2nd grade, it could also simply be developmental, but it would be a good idea for you to raise this concern with her school and ask that she be tested for learning disabilities and provided with support services. If you want materials to try helping her at home, if she is age 7 or younger, we would recommend the Young Learner’s kit — see https://shop.dyslexia.com/dylkit for more information.

  • Sunita

    My 5 year old daughter facing problem in school… She write most of the letters in opposite direction like where we stop writing the letter she starts from that point, n most numbers writing in mirror image like instead of 13 she write 31.. She is confuse to write before n after numbers, letters… Please help me how can I help my daughter to overcome from these problems…

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sunita, here is what we recommend: have your daughter model each of her letters in clay. Find a reusable modeling clay that is soft enough for her small hands to work with, but firm enough to hold its shape. Then help her learn to role out long clay ropes, and use those ropes to fashion each letter, one by one. As she is so young, keep things playful and take it things slowly. If she seems to be upset or frustrated, take a break –and it is fine if she wants to play with the clay to make other things as well. (That will help keep her motivated).

      Making the letters in clay will help her learn the direction of each letter because she will be working with a three-dimensional, tactile material.

      Keep in mind that at age 5, confusion about letters is very normal. It is not necessarily a sign of dyslexia. But the clay modeling will work for all children.

  • Eva

    My oldest is in second grade and all her classes she is getting A’s except language arts she is failing. Her spelling test, she is failing every week even with practicing the words all week long. She tries so hard but is starting to give up and past frustrated. I have spoken with her school and they don’t seem to be as concerned. I feel helpless on what I can do for her.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Eva, extreme difficulty with spelling is a very common trait of dyslexia. In addition to continuing to seek testing via the school, I would encourage you to work with the teacher to modify her spelling assignments so that expectations are in line with her abilities. This might begin with a shorter word list — if there are 10 new words to learn each week, and 10 is impossible, perhaps she would be able to manage a list of 4 or 5 words.

      As to getting help: dyslexic children often do not perceive the letters and letter order of words consistently. I think the Davis tools of spell-reading and symbol mastery with words are the most helpful for spelling. The spell-reading helps train the brain to scan the letters in a word separately and individually from left to right. They symbol mastery involves using clay to spell the word as well as to model the meaning, and the Davis procedures help the child build a strong visual memory of the words appearance and letter order. These techniques are explained in detail in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia.

  • Catalina Bell

    Thank you! As an adult, when I read aloud a number or word, I say the wrong word or number! For instance: I see the number 139, but, say 109! And, stumble on a word Zechariah, and vocalize the WORD Zakaree!

  • Kathy Peterson

    My now 19 year old daughter has struggled with nearly all of these indicators over time and to this day. Due to some significant trauma she began to be homeschooled at about 13. It was at this time I began to notice issues. We spent the next six years trying to find emotional stability. I am again/still seeing signs as she is looking ahead for further schooling. I guess I’m wondering what can be done as an adult? When who was never officially diagnosed.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kathy, the Davis program was originally developed for adults and Davis Facilitators work with clients of all ages, including many who are much older than your college-age daughter. A formal diagnosis of dyslexia is not necessary for the program – all that matters is that the person has the sorts of problems that a program can address and that she is motivated to do the program. Beyond that, Davis facilitators are using program-specific screening, geared to determine whether the person is a good candidate for the Davis program, rather than diagnostic screening or testing.

  • Mark

    I’m a 65 year old male, finished some post-grad work to get my Social Work Lic when I was in my early 40s. I had to change my major when I was halfway through my undergraduate work from Business to Mental Health and Human Services because testing by psychologist discovered what they call dyslexia and dyscalculia. Now I have concentration problems with studying and contemplation and some short term memory issues. I don’t think it’s Alzheimer’s. Suggestions or am I expecting too much at this age?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Mark, Davis Facilitators can work with adults of any age, even into the 80’s or 90’s. However, you brought up some other health concerns in your post (I edited some of the specific details out to protect you privacy) — and the older we get, the greater the possibility that other issues can contribute to feelings of confusion, memory loss, or other types of cognitive decline. So I think your best approach would be to begin with a visit to your doctor to explore possible health issues. Pay attention to any prescription medications you might be taking as well, especially if you are taking a combination of medications for different conditions. If the concentration and memory problems seem to have only recently gotten markedly worse, then medical causes are more likely.

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