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 January 16, 2021 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  https://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • 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.

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