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 October 29, 2020 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Rebecca L

    I always struggled in school with reading, writing, and math. I needed special classes to hold my pencil correctly and lots of Phonics in grade school. Copying information on the chalkboard was difficult and writing straight on the chalkboard was even harder. In high school, I had difficulty seeing the board and got an eye exam. The ophthalmologist examined my eyes and told me I was dyslexic. He told me I had midline dyslexia and that one side of my brain took a little longer than usual to communicate to the other side of my brain when I looked at things. He said it was subtle but I told him I had a hard time reading, it made me sleepy and I would jump down to the next sentence in the middle of the page. Which could explain why I would follow my finger under the sentences slowly, sometimes I had to reread the paragraph over to understand what I just read. I also had difficulty cutting paper in a straight line even with a ruler, finding the center is always difficult for me. I struggle with spreadsheets and need to high light a lot. After 23 years of working, I quit my job in 2018 and went back to school to get my degree. I have 2 more years left and I will have my master’s degree. College has been difficult but audiobooks, highlighting, and lots of reading, I have been able to maintain a 3.8 GPA. I would like to get a more in-depth assessment and find out what kind of dyslexia I have and how I can be the best me.

  • Marcus L

    I have so many of them I’m 44 and can’t grasp left and right ! I know obviously what they are but I still have to look at my hands to be 100% , spelling, reading ,math punctuation is non existent and the best one is B and D always have to do capital letters regardless of there position in the word I just can’t think at the time which way around they go !! At least I now know I’m not stupid and I do have a problem

  • Daphne B

    I am 69 yrs old and counted 27 traits u have printed out. Im in a nursing home and had dyslexia as a child.. It didnt have a name then. I now am struggling again worse than ever! I cant ever write a address down without getting it wrong. Im so amazed at what u have found here! Is there a chance for help at my age?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      There is no upper age limit for getting help — Davis Facilitators have worked successfully with individuals in their 70s and 80s, even a few in their 90s. However, there could be logistical problems that would make it harder for you because of being in a nursing home, especially if there are extra restrictions on visitation due to concerns about Covid. A good starting point might be to call a Davis Facilitator to discuss your goals — http://www.davismethod.org

  • MarcyWorch

    So many of these traits point to an ADD diagnosis… how does one tell the difference? My ninth grade son was diagnosed with ADD and Oppositional Defiance. His reading has always been strong, but his writing and spelling are two grade levels lower than his age, which I chalked up to the ADD lack of attention to detail in areas outside of the chosen focus. He is so much like my dad, who was dyslexic as a child (trouble reading, writing, and spelling).

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      There is tremendous overlap between ADHD and dyslexia, as both are labels for behaviors that are tied to the same underlying differences in the person’s thought process and mental processing. That is why EVERY Davis program starts with providing tools for self-awareness and self-regulation of attention focus and energy level. From there, the difference between our program for dyslexia and attention mastery depends on client goals. Many individuals find it helpful to complete both programs.

      The Oppositional Defiance is often a description that is attached to a child whose behavior is deemed inappropriate or unacceptable when the reality is that the child is frustrated by difficulties with perceiving and understanding the communications and expectations of others. So rather than getting to the root of the problem, the child is given an unfair label. A child cannot exercise responsibility over their own behavior unless and until they are perceiving their environment accurately and have the skills needed to self-regulate.

  • 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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