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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  • Kamlesh B

    Recently my son diagnosed with dyslexia. He is in 6th standard. His IQ is 92.5. How to make him better in studies. Is there any tutor or special classes in Chandigarh

  • Anna

    Hi, I’m 19 and a university student. I’ve not been diagnosed with dyslexia but I matched with 17 of the above statements. When I was 17 I had a dyslexia test to see if I’d qualify for extra time in exams after I got way below my target grades because I was unable to finish a single paper in the time given (not because I didn’t know the answers but because I didn’t have time to process the question). I scored within the dyslexia range for writing, spelling, phonetics and processing but not in reading and therefore did not qualify for any assistance. I feel that doing tests this late doesn’t help as much because people learn to compensate. As soon as I learnt to read, which was later than most people in my class, I read everything I possibly could until it became a habit. So my reading ability is now way better. I still struggle, especially in exams when I have to work fast and I know I perform worse than I am capable of but I don’t know what I can do about it except try harder to find other coping strategies. On the bright side I no longer have to put up with spelling tests.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Anna, you highlight a problem with the current system of diagnosis for dyslexia. Dyslexia doesn’t mean that a person can’t read, it just means that it usually is much more difficult for the person to learn to read. So you are right: in clinical terms you might be referred to as a “compensated” dyslexic, but obviously you still are having problems in all of the other areas you mentioned.

      I think that you deserve appropriate accommodations, geared to your specific profile. You don’t need a reader to help you with exams, but you certainly would benefit from extended time on exams, so that you could write your answers at a pace that is comfortable for you. Is there any process by which you could appeal the determination that you don’t qualify for accommodations? I understand that each university has their own interpretation and policies, but I do think that your scores for writing and processing demonstrate why additional time is needed.

      A Davis Dyslexia Correction program would help with the problems you describe and give you specific strategies for exams, so you might explore that possibility.

  • Emily

    Hey, I’m a seventeen year old student and these are what I have experienced from this list: I have terrible time management, Computing math shows dependence on finger counting and other tricks; cannot grasp algebra or higher math.Clumsy, Can be ambidextrous, and often confuses left/right. I study history and have trouble with comprehension especially when it comes to source questions.
    Spells phonetically and inconsistently. I have a great memory for faces and things that I have experienced and remember pictures better than words. I also find it hard to take notes in class because I can’t write notes and listen at the same time so I usually choose to listen and end up with no notes. Also I get frustrated when taking notes as teachers move on faster than I can copy down. I have been asked if I am dyslexic by a violin teacher when I confused the alphabet one time but apart from that no one at school has said anything. Despite not being great at math it was never bad enough for them to intervene, i got a tutor in the end and passed. Anyway do these things mean anything? It’s not like I’m not smart, I got one of the highest grades in my English class, but obviously school isn’t easy for anyone. Thanks

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Emily, it sounds like you have a dyslexic learning style but also have been able to cope well most of the time. If you are planning to pursue a university education, it might be worthwhile to seek a formal evaluation, in order to qualify for possible accommodations and support. But if you read my response to Anna (above) you will see a good example of the difficulties you might face getting a diagnosis when you have become a good reader, but still have a range of collateral difficulties, like spelling, note-taking, etc.

      I always recommend reading the book The Gift of Dyslexia because it can give you more insight as to why your mind works the way it does, and sometimes that can lead to improvement even before the person goes on to try the specific methods explained in the book.

  • Jamie

    My son is having trouble in school being the last to turn in work. We thought it was an attention problem and he’s been on low-dose ADHD medicine, but it doesn’t seem to help. He reads wonderfully, so even though dyslexia has crossed my mind many times, I figured it couldn’t be the problem. But seeing the symptoms above makes me wonder. He’s always been the quiet kid in class, not a terrible student so no ones really trying to step in, struggles with math. So, long story short, if he has most of these symptoms but has zero trouble reading, can it still be dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Jamie, I think the answer to your question depends on how dyslexia is defined. In our view, it can definitely be dyslexia, because we look at dyslexia broadly, focusing on the cause rather than the symptoms. Some people might not call it dyslexia, and instead attach a label such as dyscalculia. However, we often find that children like your son who seem to be good readers may also have hidden problems with reading, typically with reading comprehension.

      A Davis Facilitator could evaluate your son and determine whether a Davis program will help, as well as determining which of several Davis programs would best meet his needs. This evaluation would not be a formal diagnosis of dyslexia or any other learning condition — the goal is to figure out how to best help the person, not to attach a label.

      A Davis provider would probably not work with your son while he is on ADHD medications, because those medications can interfere with the success of the program. However, the medications do not stand in the way of an assessment — so you do not have to make any changes in order to consult with a facilitator. Just be sure to disclose any and all medications to the facilitator, so that can be taken into account when the facilitator assesses your child.

  • Lesego

    Hi! As l was reading your article l was partly seeing my son.
    My 11yr old son is forgetful. At the end of the day after pick up he would not remember what he did in classs however would remember what happened at the playground and who said what. He reads slow. After long holidays, he would mix b & d. Struggling with Math concepts….. l take he is forgetful because l would reiterate what he learned in class however woild still battle. Still does multiple by using fingers to count. It is so frustrating because his dad & l are good in Math.

  • Jade

    Hi, I am 21 years old and at university. The uni suspects I have dyslexia. This has come as a huge shock! Is this not something my schools should have picked up on years ago?
    Words dance on the page when I am reading. I sometimes get b and d mixed up and i and e, and i really do not understand the saying my school used “i before e except after c”. My writing is big and punctuation and grammar is poor but my spelling is not bad. I have never learned my times tables and I still do not know them now. and when I speak, what I have to say in my head makes sense but when it comes out of my mouth I have realised it did not make any sense to the person I was speaking to.
    Am I dyslexic?
    Thank you.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Jade, you have classic symptoms of dyslexia. The problems you describe can be corrected with a Davis program. And unfortunately it is very common that dyslexia is not recognized when children are younger, particularly if the child is bright and managing to keep up despite the difficulties caused by dyslexia. Most teachers do not know very much about signs of dyslexia, so it is common that only the children with the most severe difficulties are referred for additional support, and even then those children are often mislabeled as having some problem other than dyslexia.

  • syah

    Hi, im 15 years old student. I don’t have problems with spelling or reading. But sometimes I have to read and reread some sentence until I can get what the meaning are. And I always have a trouble to write an ‘a’ alphabet. Especially when I’m doing an essay. I have to struggle woth myself and wait for 2-3 seconds until I am able to write the ‘a’ alphabet.

    So is this make me has a dyslexia?

    ^sorry for my bad english

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Syah, these are problems that often accompany dyslexia. We find that dyslexics often think mainly in pictures and will ignore small words and punctuation in sentences because they don’t know what those words and symbols mean –the small words are just empty sounds. Then the person ends up not understanding what they have read, because the small words are needed to make sense of the sentence. Our methods focus on fully mastering the meanings of the most common small words.

  • MissCatnip

    Hey,I,m an highschool student,and I can say that I either have identified with these when I was younger,or I still do.
    I had to have my mom and teachers help me a lot to be where I am today..I got out of speech,and this help me to write class and stuff like that..However I am still in a math supplementary class.
    I can say that yes I’m improved and things are better and they will get better..
    But on a different note its still very hard..I’ve always had issues in school but it got awful in middle school.I started to realize things and see the world more realistically,as well as the work and teachers were more strict.One of them gave me an extremely hard time I felt..And in Alegebra,something i still dont get that well at all..She always was loud and such..She embrassed me here and there and made my performance worse..That I think was my worst year because I kept my head low and felt exhausted.

    Now there’s this teacher who I believe means well if you talk to her personally,maybe..But shes ways yelling at the kids to stop acting this or that way. This is also an Algebra class.She also always says things upon the lines of in all my years of teaching,I’ve never seen grades like these.And in my past classes they all were passing and making good grades.She expects us to make state high grades..While I understand she expects the best of us,she’s having unrealistic expectations and making it worse.

    Honestly there’s been times I’ve tried so hard in school and got nowhere..And so I just resorted to not trying because I didn’t want to seem stupid.Now I do somewhere in between..I don’t want to think this but sometimes it just doesn’t work-I seem to think that I am stupid and I won’t be able to understand my work. I’ve questioned if it was more than dyslexia at times-But after reading this I think its safe to say its just dyslexia..So thank you,this really does help and mean a lot to me.
    But anyways I just wanted to get this out there to make others feel better and say thank you.
    Just because you don’t understand things in certain subjects,doesn’t mean you can’t understand other subjects.You’re not unintelligent,you’re a genius in your own way..No matter how cliche that sounds.

  • Sam

    I am 34 yrs woman, don’t have issues with reading but I do have problems with spelling. I have to be able to picture the word in my minds for spellings, in kindergarten my family was told that I was not able to sound out words . It was always a hurdle for me. I still struggle with being able to read cursive and it was harder for me to learn write in cursive as a child. I do not struggle with reading printed words. I was never diagnosed with anything with ADHD or dyslexia. I guess I’m wondering do people with dyslexia generally have problems with cursive? Or have problems with the spelling if they can’t see it in there head or have it memorized? Or something? Given my age is there any point in having myself tested for dyslexia?
    I’m just wondering and looking for answers.
    Thank you for your help and your time.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sam, both the problems you describe with spelling and the difficulty reading and writing cursive are common symptoms of dyslexia — as well as the need to be able to picture the word in your mind. The problem is often that you have too many overlapping and inconsistent mental pictures, and cursive is confusing precisely because a word written in cursive usually looks very different from the same word written in print. Even variations in print styles can be confusing.

      It is not too late at all to get help for these problems — the methods we use with Davis programs work at any age. However, it would take time and effort to put the Davis tools into practice. English spelling is inconsistent, so even with effective tools to improve your ability to recall correct spellings and recognize misspelled words in print, you would still have to separately learn irregular words and various spelling patterns. These days almost everyone communicates with typed words in emails and texts, and it is common for computers and smartphones to have built in spell checkers. So I think you would need to decide for yourself whether the problems you still experience are serious enough to warrant seeking specialized help.

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