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 September 27, 2020 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Mischelle S

    Interesting. I have always been a different type of thinker compared to my peers. I have to visualize the problem in order to comprehend it. My reading and spelling have always been excellent, but I am a phonetic speller. I spell things as it is sounded out. In order to memorize the spelling I must say the word in my head as it is spelled phonetically. My whole life i have had trouble explaining my thought process even though I can give you the answer. I never could understand why nobody understood my thought process, as it makes complete sense to me. I have to ask many questions during lectures to grasp the context and understanding of what is being taught to me. I’m excellent in math and science, yet I’m also very creative and excel in theatre, arts, and sports. I’m good in English and history, however they have never been my strongest subjects. Engineering has always been my career path, but everyone has told me that I’m not the typical engineer because I’m “too extraverted and creative”. My 7 yr old son recently was diagnosed with dyslexia, and I was shocked. He thinks just like I did when I was his age, however he has a more difficult time with reading and writing. I think it would be interested to know if I am dyslexic as well. Is there a test or a brain scan that could verify this?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Hi — an adult diagnosis would be typically be done by a psychologist who would administer a battery of tests, but if your reading and spelling is excellent it is unlikely that you would be given a formal diagnosis. A brain scan cannot diagnose dyslexia — brain scans are used for research purposes, but not enough is known yet for diagnosis. You might find it helpful to read The Gift of Dyslexia — as the book provides a detailed description of the dyslexic thought process in the first several chapters.

      One problem when it comes to diagnosis is that educators and researchers tend to look at dyslexia only through the narrow lens of deficits tied to reading and spelling; they do not look at the creative strengths that typically accompany dyslexia. You might think of this in terms of having a “dyslexic thinking style.” Here’s another article on our website, from a researcher who studied giftedness and observed common patterns: The Visual Spatial Learner.

  • mallorieblair

    Oh man… I think I really have been dyslexic my whole life, and I was saying it jokingly all along. But, I think I really am. Btw… Einstein was dyslexic. When he when to take a physics class, someone told him to consider a different path, something other than math and science… just imagine if he would have. Never doubt yourself or give up on your dreams. If you can imagine it, you can make it real.

  • Justine P

    Are there any workshops for Australia?

  • Karen

    Hi there

    My 8 year old son at 5 -6 years old was above the required level for his age for reading and writing and seems to have slipped quite a bit. His reading has become hard to read, spelling often makes no sense yet if I ask him he can verbalise it perfectly. He is above his age for maths. We had put id down to being a boy and being a “lazy learner” but I am now wondering more and more on it. Could Dyslexia be the solution here at all? We are in New Zealand and English is the only language we speak.


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