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 June 20, 2021 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  https://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • David W

    Just want to give a heads up to any and all whom might read the “warning signs” that are listed. As an adult with NASTY dyslexia, and I mean that in the worst way, I can relate to just a few of the things listed. I get the vibe that the website, as helpful as it might be to many, broadly categorizes and attributes many, many psychological traits as dyslexic/dyslexia. I went undiagnosed until I was 22 and I’ll be the first person to tell you that that sucked, pardon my language. Once diagnosed, and given the proper assistance needed to advance myself educationally, I graduated college. I now teach special education and am able to use my, unfortunate (but I see it as a blessing) previous circumstances to mention for one, past learning environments to make my classroom the most optimal learning platform. Have your child professionally tested. DO NOT read heavily into all of these “warning signs” posted by the site, as many many many many of them are overcategorizing typical norms for children.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Davis, this list of common signs was never intended to replace formal testing or evaluation – it is meant to help parents & educators better understand the scope and pattern of dyslexic traits, to get a sense of where to go next. That’s why it says that most dyslexics will have 10 or more traits, and that each person is different.

      I am the parent of a very dyslexic son who had the trait of not being “behind enough” to get help at school, and being labeled lazy, careless, immature, “not trying hard enough,” etc. Along with the poor self-esteem and frustration. Most schools set the bar very low for intervention or support — if the child isn’t failing, or reading isn’t in the bottom 20th percentile — the child doesn’t get help. The brighter the child, the more likely it is that they are able to perform above whatever cutoff the school requires, and at the same time, the higher the frustration level. Many kids like this won’t even qualify for a formal diagnosis of dyslexia — again because they are able to compensate well enough to perform above cutoffs even though they have to struggle to do so.

      When I saw the big picture, I was able to help my son — and things turned around very quickly. One day he was a 6th grader struggling to read at a 3rd-grade level, and within a very short time, he was a confident reader, reaching and exceeding grade level over a period of months. So the knowledge that my son’s pattern of learning difficulties was consistent with dyslexia, and not a matter of laziness, lack of motivation, or a need to try harder made all the difference in the world. But my son’s life would have been a lot better if I could have had this understanding sooner — his struggles started in first grade, and only got worse from there.

  • angry

    I think this a great list but you’ve made a huge error with this one:

    “Can do arithmetic, but fails word problems; cannot grasp algebra or higher math.”

    Cannot grasp algebra or high math? This is extremely incorrect and harmful. I have done quite well in calculus, physics, and higher levels of math. I very much question if Albert Einstein, who was dyslexic, could not grasp algebra or higher math.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Some dyslexics are quite good with math, but others have great difficulties. Algebra & higher math can be hard because of the symbols used in occasions, and the sequential method of problem-solving. My dyslexic son was quite capable with mental math –but was frustrated in high school when asked to show his work. He used to do his algebra problems by writing down the problem, then leaving some space on the paper and writing down the answer — and then working backwards up the page from the answer to insert all the “steps” to problem solving in-between. Of course, those weren’t the steps he had taken to get the answer — he didn’t need them, as the answer was intuitive to him.

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