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 December 15, 2019 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Steven R

    Post this encouragement if it fits.
    I loved reading this article, keep up the great work.

    I was a part of a elementary school program in Maryland in the late sixty’s, put with a bunch of other dyslexic kids that stayed together through high school. The teachers hated us but got us through. My hand writing is still illegible. I always thought I was dumb and easily overlooked accomplishments while being a kid because I was different. I was a morning paperboy and bought a VW bug in the 6th grade and turned it into a racing dune buggy (my parents were great). I built complicated wood flying model planes. (Spell check has gotten me 15 times so far writing this) I left school with a c average taking as much art and shop as I could to keep my average up. An aircraft mechanic trade school recruited me, it was so easy, I couldn’t figure out why people were struggling. I now have multiple licences, pilot, mechanic, HVAC, welding… Education is impossible for us but training is great. It turned out my dyslexia was an amazing gift. I spent my career as a designer for experimental aircraft with multiple patent disclosures and now have my own company. Dyslexia is very very difficult but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Parents be patient and encourage them. If you have it, tell yourself constantly that your are smart (you are) especially when it doesn’t feel that way. Cash in on it, literally a high percentage of us are entrepreneurs. Most important… keep a sketch pad by your bed for when you wake up, your best work will come 3 to 4 AM while sleeping.

    • Stacey V

      Amazing. Thank you. I’m starting to suspect my 12 year old has this. He’s above avg/average student but really struggles with writing and reading. He taught himself how to write a bike at 3.9 yrs and fixed my Roomba vacuum when he was 4.

    • Ilene

      It’s easy for you to get all that training for free ….. some of us …it’s not that easy ..there are programs that will fund for your schooling and additional perks for being a slow reader, and processing info…you get extra time to complete assignments, and privileges being late or forgetting homework or test dates

  • Haleigh

    I am only now starting to realize that i might have dyslexia.
    I have been shy my whole life
    I was a bed wetter
    I have bad eye sight
    My brain is always scattered and scramble around not paying attention to what is happening
    I have trouble reading, I might wind up re-reading the same sentence/paragraph because I lost my train of thought or I didn’t understand what I just read.
    Sometimes I might see a word on a page that isn’t actually there.
    I am a light sleeper
    I have a high tolerance to pain
    I had my appendix removed when I was 7(don’t know if this is a symptom of dyslexia but it happened)
    I struggle in every math class that i have been put in. And I do much better in my art class rather geometry.
    I am known to be clumsy.
    I have had an IEP for near half of my life because of my ability to not focus or stay still long enough to, being emotionally sensitive, not being able to read or write at the same grade level as my classmates, and some more reasons.
    8 year old me got math homework everyday with a word problem that i would try so hard to get right every time but I kept getting them wrong
    I am 15 now and still struggles in mostly math classes but english classes too.
    I have told the truth about all of this. Does anyone know if I have dyslexia or not?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Haleigh, you would need to have some sort of diagnosis to have qualified for an IEP, but sometimes schools use different names or phrases to describe the same thing as dyslexia. But the symptoms you describe related to trouble with reading, maintaining focus, and understanding math word problems are all consistent with dyslexia and these are things that are covered within the Davis program for dyslexia.

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