Test for Dyslexia: 37 Common Traits

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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.

General:

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 January 21, 2021 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  https://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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194 comments

  • Valerie M

    I thank you for this article! I just want as much information as possible!!! This is a blessing abs now that I know what’s wrong I can help my poor girl who has been struggling!

  • Linda K

    I found this article very informative and like others recognised myself in many of the descriptions. We have 4 children who all have various degrees of learning difficulties from our eldest being most affected by dyslexia to the other 3 all having some difficulties associated with dyslexia – they are all different in the way they are affected. Now it appears some of the grandchildren are also displaying signs of dyslexia. I find it quite heart-breaking that they too will have struggles that will affect their school life however it is encouraging that things have come on since I was in school.

    I only realised what was wrong with me and learning when our first child was dx with dyslexia at 6 yrs old. That was only at the beginning of schools recognising the differing needs of dyslexic pupils – some did it well while others were very poor. Now entire schools have been set up to assist this group of pupils and teachers all participate in at least some training with regard to the needs of pupils with dyslexia.

    For me, I still don’t have brilliant memories of learning as a child, school was hard and I did feel stupid – not helped by having a very bright, hard working younger sister who did grade 2 & 3 in one year and then remained at the top or very close to it every year from then on. I made up for it tho’, my younger sister who should have gone to uni didn’t, got married instead – I got married, had children and in my late 30’s went to university gained a first degree and then an MBA! I have learned that I can do whatever I set my mind to achieve – my success at whatever I want to do is within my own ability to do it.

    I see my ‘job’ now is to support my children and grandchildren and ensure they find their ‘gift’ and value themselves and their gifts – we are all special in our own way.

  • Timothy Dove

    Hello, I am a dyslexic and have been for 54 years now. It is true that dyslexia is a gift, native Americans call this disorder Heyoka (Lakȟótiyapi, Lakota language, sounds like hey-yoh-kah). We are a very special people, some of us are dreamers of the thunder beings (gods) and although we are often called clowns because we do things backwards we are held in high regard by the members of our tribes (Oyáte).
    I just wanted to say to the readers of this article, don’t be ashamed of your gift but embrace it. Sure people will make fun of us but it is not because we are wrong, it’s because we are different and the “normal” people just don’t understand. When I was in school little was known about dyslexia and I had to suffer through Learning Disability (LD) classes. I have a 147 IQ and they called it a disability, nowadays it is better understood than it was when I was a child. I think that if you have dyslexia to embrace it, if you are ambidextrous use it to your advantage don’t let people discourage you, you have a gift not a disability. One thing that has always stuck with me is that I am a unique individual, an individual who is independent and does not want to conform to normalcy. So in closing may blessings be with you all.

    • Boru D

      I have just read your article about dyslexia and recognise, symptoms and results which occurred in my childhood. I am 78and still have problems reading and spelling. I was a very slow reader and would go to extreme lengths to avoid being selected to read in class. I would hide or be I’ll. I found that I could make my nose bleed by tapping it with my fist and that always enabled me to avoid reading and spelling classes.i was also I’ll with common complaints, hooping cough, mumps, chicken pox, scarlet fever, measles which meant from age 8 till 10 I was absent from school for at least half each term. I was sent to boarding school and there was no discussion about dyslexia. Just my school reports which were always the same comments. Slow learner, poor spelling, bad grammar, poor construction unwilling or unable to partake in class activities. I made up for this by being exceptionally good at all ball games. Football ampidextrose, cricket left hand and left arm rugby and hockey. I am still finding it very difficult to read and understand instruction manuals. Instead I try to work it out. Thank you for writing what you did. This is the first time in 70 years that I have recognised my self. Good luck to you.

    • Aretta G

      Thank you for sharing!! I think my children are both dyslexic. I have been watching them and my 6 year old was made fun of during remote learning yesterday because she put bab instead of dad. We have noticed this struggle for a little bit. She is also extremely clumsy, but it all makes sense! My mom is a lefty and dyslexic. My husband is also dyslexic.

    • A COOPER

      Thank you
      I am 64 I’ve just read your article I have struggled all my life with dyslexia but have never been tested because I feel ashamed, i have always turn down anything that has to do with the written word and consequently my career suffered . At school i was always at the bottom the only saving grace was that I was good at all sports and always selected ahead of anyone else. Writing this small comment is a struggle thank goodness for spellchecker,

    • Heather N

      Thank you for saying all of this Timothy Dove. It makes me feel better.

  • Random Girl

    Personally I have a lot of these symptoms, but I feel like my parenst are going to not believe me if I say I wanna get tested.

  • Tshokey L

    Hello,
    Now I am turning 23 this January but I am still having trouble with spelling. I kind of know what are the letters that will go to spell the word but don’t know the sequence. According to my mother I had ear pain when I was baby and walk and talk earlier as compare to my sibling. I am deep sleeper and wet my bed until I was in my 4th or 5th grade. My eye sight is also bad. And I am left handed turned right handed for writing. I used to struggle with gap between words. In national language I am not a good reader. In English it is difficult for me to read New words which my friends could easily read. And my hand writing is horrible. I am intervort who doesn’t talk much but loves to listen to short stories and collect quotes. I enjoy my company with kids more than any other. Most of the time I would be sleeping or watching television. As portrait in movies letters does not jumps or dance before my eyes.I just wanted to know am I okay.
    If not what should I do.
    Thank you for the article and making me know better about myself.

    • Tshokey L

      I am sorry i left some of the points.
      I have motion sickness if speed of car is more than 30 or 40 per km.
      I believe I have long term memory because I tends to know more about the movies that we watch during childhood or long time ago.
      Sometimes I can easily memorize numbers and date but some are very confusing despite several try. I had to make link to remember one date or number with other.

  • rodtoste

    I AM A 63 YR OLD MAN AND I WOULD LIKE TO SEE ,WITH YOUR HELP HOW I CAN FIX MY DYSLEXIA

  • Be

    Hi I’m 14 years old and I have problems with spelling, writing and pronunciations of words, but I’m doing really good in school. When I was younger I was but into a special class for a few years to help with my reading and maybe writing. I do exhibit quite a bit of symptoms like I have motion sickness, I confuse my left from my right, I have problems pronouncing words I’ve never heard and I’m not that good at spelling, etc, but i think I’m a good reader I own many books more comics than novel but I still own a lot. I don’t know if I should talk to someone about it because it’s not exactly affecting my school work (not that I know of). I just wanted to ask for some advice.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Do you want help with the problems you listed (spelling, writing, word pronunciations)? Then you might talk to your parents. Since you enjoy reading, you might want to read the book The Gift of Dyslexia –you might be able to find it in a local library – that might give you a better understanding of how you think and learn.

  • Oma Mrs.

    I have an adopted daughter who I’m really concerned about. Thankfully, i recently came across dyslexia.
    She is 14years, fails most subjects in school, can’t cope with analogue clock, multiplication tables, hearing things not said, doesn’t know her left from right, daydreams and misses a lot of information even within a very short period
    What courses/career path suits?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      It’s not too late for your daughter to get help with her problems. Have you considered consulting with a Davis Facilitator? That’s the first step toward gaining better understanding and control.

  • Sarah

    I know a young lady who just turned 18 earlier this year, known her all her life. When she was school, she struggled in school , got held back. And she had not enrolled in school for senior year came up any excuses of why she had not applied for job or to enroll in school this year she had just told me she is dyslexic. I did t know this her mother never told me of this, it makes me wonder if the mother herself might be dyslexic or someone he daughter’ s other family member like her bio father may be the one passed down to her.

  • Anjali .N

    I’m only 13 years old and I see a decent amount of the symptoms are close to what I have been experiencing but I’m not sure if I should look into it more

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Anjali, if you feel that your symptoms are making things harder for you in school, then you should discuss your concerns with a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult in your life. That’s the first step to getting help.

  • Naomi A

    I am 17 Almost 18 and going to university next year. Dyslexia runs in my moms side of the family with 2 extreme cases. I’ve had suspisions for as long as i can remember. When i was younger i was putting into the special reading group for 3 years because i could barley read and write (elemetary school). but even in highscchool these problems havent gone away. i cannot read outloud, it sometimes takes me 4 times just to get a short sentace right. i always get my b,d,p and qs mixed up, even if i know its a b i will still write p,q or d. I’ve aslo noticed when someone asks me to recap what they’ve just said i cannot remember anything. I also have trouble fining the words i need when talking. Another struggle i have is writting down blanks from powerpoints, the class always moves on before i finish it. Ihave asked my school guidance about it but because my grades are too good they wont do anything. When i was younger i would frequently cry and freakout because of reading and other homework, i still get that feeling but dont lash out as much. Other people have mentioned chance of autism due to my sensory issues, like being touched (hugs, feet, neck) and ear and sound issues(not being able to wear headphones or ill freak out), also my special intersets with animals and plants. another thing is key words that can be triggered by other people saying something. I am honestly just asking for someones opinion becasue i know there is something different with me, but no one will do anything because my grades are good. keep in mind that my twin sister(ferternal) got diagnosied less than a year ago with adhd.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Naomi, everything that you describe is consistent with dyslexia. If you are doing well in school, you might not qualify for extra services — but if you feel that it is a struggle for you and you would like help, then that is available. If you are able to read well now, you can learn more about what we do from the book, The Gift of Dyslexia. The book is also available in audio format if you prefer to listen rather than read.

  • Melody H

    My 13 year old has struggled for years. He exhibits a great many of these traits. Everytime the school screens him and evaluates for Sp. Ed he barely tests out, and I am told his screeners for dyslexia do not show anything. However, I know that the screeners do not screen for all forms of dyslexia. How do I go about having him tested independently?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You can find information about private testing here:

      What kind of professional is qualified to diagnose dyslexia?? https://www.dyslexia.com/question/who-can-diagnose/
      When is a formal diagnosis necessary? https://www.dyslexia.com/question/when-is-diagnosis-necessary/

      However, keep in mind that a formal diagnosis does not mean that the school will provide effective help.

      Dyslexia is a difference in thinking and learning that occurs along a spectrum, and if your son “barely tests out” it means that he is probably dyslexic, but not behind enough to qualify for services. You might find it helpful to talk with a Davis Facilitator about your son’s struggles — a formal diagnosis is not required, and Facilitators can help the vast majority of individuals who come to them. You will find full listings of Davis Facilitators here: https://www.davismethod.org/

    • Tatia B

      Hi Melody,
      My son is 13 and we had him assessed by a psychologist that specifically does all battery of testing. It was 2 sessions of about 3 hours each. It was crazy all the results and FOR SURE diagnosis of Dyslexia. We are so grateful we did it. It’s expensive but now we have the answers we need to get him the support he needs. Good Luck.

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