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 21, 2018 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Wanda H

    My 8 year old granddaughter is having problems reading numbers. We went to purchase a item for $9.88. She told me we could not afford the item because it cost to much. She saw $88.9 She said eighty eight dollars and nine cents. How can I help her?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Here are the tools we would use to address these problems using Davis techniques: Orientation or Alignment, to assure that child’s perceptions are correct; symbol mastery with clay (making clay models of all the numerals and de-triggering), to eliminate confusion about numbers and symbols such as the dollar sign; Davis Spell-Reading to build the skill and habit of reading the numbers in order, from left-to-right.

      Each of these techniques is explained in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia.

  • Kaileigh

    I am 16 and for the past few years have had a lot of problems writing. I write words and letters in the wrong order and have to keep erasing almost every word I write. But I notice my mistakes immediately after or even while I’m writing them. I also was in a special reading class when I was little because I was so behind everyone. Today, I take almost 30 minutes just read a few pages and find myself not understanding the sentences that I’m reading. No one has suggested that I have dyslexia or believes that I have it because I do pretty well in school.
    What is the best way to get tested for it? And if I do have it, what are the steps after that?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      At your age, the best way to get testing would be to either to make a request through your school or talk to your parents about arranging private testing. Keep in mind that you don’t need formal testing to get help. Rather, testing and diagnosis is useful if you feel that you would benefit from accommodations such as extended times for test, especially for tests like the SAT.

      Your slow reading speed and difficulty with comprehension are signs of dyslexia, as are the problems with writing letters in correct order. These problems can be resolved using Davis Dyslexia methods.

      • Kaileigh

        Thank you for getting back to me.
        I was recently diagnosed with ADD and have testing accommodations for it. I noticed that a lot of symptoms of dyslexia are the same as ADD. Is it possible to have both dyslexia and ADD?

        • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

          Yes, there is a huge overlap in symptoms of ADHD & dyslexia, and it is common for dyslexia to be misdiagnosed as ADHD; and it also common for individuals to have both.

          Dyslexia is often accompanied by difficulty with focusing and sustaining attention, which is tied to the confusion over symbols and words.

          However, ADHD does not produce or explain problems with reading speed or comprehension, or difficulties with writing. So a person with true ADHD would also experience difficulty with energy levels or attention focus in other situations outside of school.


    my son is 12yrs and he is having problems reading and writing searching for solutions, I realized some symptoms of dyslexia. how do I help him get out of it?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      I think the best place to start is by reading the book The Gift of Dyslexia.. The book will give you insight into your son’s learning style and explain our approach, as well as providing instructions if you choose to work with your son at home. Here’s a link to a page with information about the UK edition: The Gift of Dyslexia (UK Edition)

  • Kennedy

    Hi, I’m a teenager and I have often been labeled as “dyslexic” by my peers despite the fact I have never exhibited the symptoms I thought were commonly associated with it. For me, I can read well but I have trouble understanding what I had just read sometimes. I also struggle with spelling, a lot. Even with below grade level words I learned and memorized years ago. I have a hard time reading things out loud. When I read aloud I miss read things, add words in that don’t belong, changing the orders of words, saying the wrong word and tripping over my words. Also, as a kid learning to read, I was placed in “impact” groups to help me learn to read because it was a very difficult thing for me to do. Now I read a lot, almost daily. Sometimes I also have a hard time saying numbers aloud and switching the order (ex. 24 but I’ll say 42). But I am still not sure if am dyslexic or I’m just imagining it. Thanks

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kennedy, the problems you described such as difficulty with spelling and understanding what you read are common symptoms of dyslexia. Dyslexia is not something that you either have or don’t have — rather it is a pattern of thinking and learning that occurs along a spectrum. So a person could be mildly dyslexic with only a few symptoms, or be strongly dyslexic with many symptoms — or anywhere in between.

  • Ben

    Hey, I’m 22 years old and have been suffering from dyslexia as long as can remember. Overtime this has greatly impacted my ability to stay driven and even lead me to losing my last job. What steps can I take to regain my confidence and have my dyslexia feel like a gift instead of a curse? I would greatly appreciate any feedback, thank you so much!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Ben, dyslexia becomes a gift when you have the tools to manage the symptoms and the understanding needed to maximize your strengths. The Davis approach is built around that goal. Unlike other programs, it is not based on tutoring or an attempt to train you to think or function like a non-dyslexic. Instead the Davis techniques are built around common dyslexic strengths. So the first step for you may be to arrange a consultation with a Davis Facilitator to learn more. To find a facilitator near you, visit https://www.davismethod.org/

  • Amber

    For a long time i’ve always felt that I thought differently compared with my peers. I’ve struggled with OCD and other mental issues. I’ve got nearly all symptoms listed and no one seems to listen to me when I talk about this.

    I can work issues out, think about ways to describe situations, do mathematical equations, and communicate with people a lot better in my head, then doing them aloud, or on paper.
    I can read fine, but cannot comprehend what I just read. I also say things that I believe is right, when looking directly at the object, but say the complete different thing, colours for example (this is hard to explain).
    I struggle to let out my frustration without getting angry and giving up, feeling like the world around me gave up on me.
    I also feel as if I am an extroverted person, but can also be introverted for an extensive amount of time.

    There are other things I can’t can’t be bothered listing, thatI have struggled with and continue to do so.

    Do I have dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Amber, difficulty with reading comprehension is a common system of adult dyslexia. Generally this is because dyslexics tend to think mostly with pictures rather than words, and they do not have pictures to go along with small abstract words of language, so they find they cannot make sense of what they read. We use clay modeling and a simple visualization exercise called Picture-at-Punctuation to build comprehension skills.

  • Janet

    I’m a preschool teacher and have a dyslexic four year old in my class. It’s been very tasking helping her learn. What do I do? She has only two months left before going to the next class. I truly want to help her.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Janet, we don’t work with children under the age of 5 because many are not developmentally ready for pre-reading skills, and it usually does more harm than good for academic skills to be introduced too early. The child then begins to associate negative feelings with the activity and that can create a learning block that wouldn’t have been formed if the academic instruction had been delayed until the child is developmentally ready.

      You can help a young child develop foundational skills, but it is important to keep activities playful and geared to the child’s level of readiness. This article on our web site has a range of suggestions of activities appropriate for children ages 3-5:



    I actually don’t know I have it or not. I related myself to most of the symptoms at the same time some were just opposite to what I feel.
    I am a b.tech first year student and I feel like due to the type of schooling and guidance I received till now the symptoms didn’t come in my way.
    Reading the article I realised how I developed different techniques to perform different tasks. I am a kind of over achiever this is my first year of college and I became the first runner up of science Olympiad without doing any hard work for it.
    I qualified the JEE main exam the most prestigious engineering entrance exam in my country this year which I wasn’t able to qualify last year just due to stress and emotional pressure from parents. This time I was already in a college and the exam doesn’t have much to do with my future so I solved the paper easily despite I didn’t study for it. Generally students prepare for 2 years to crack it.
    Adding the format of exam was multiple choice questions so I don’t have to so how I solved the question on paper.
    The knowledge of the subject I have, have never been reflected on a pen paper test.
    The thing that I know the answer but can’t show it on paper has always restricted me from achieving good marks.
    I always solve the maths problem in my head before solving it on paper and their is always a chance that I did it right in my head but is wrong on paper.
    Teachers have always said me to avoid the silly mistakes and according to me they are the 90% of the mistakes I do.
    I a couple of circumstances I have copied the question wrong and solved it although the solution was right I didn’t get the marks because the question was wrong.
    I always get confused between right and left hand.
    Do I have dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      All of the experiences you report are also commonly associated with dyslexia. Many stem from a different way of processing information in your mind. Dyslexics tend to think mostly in pictures rather than words. That thought process is much faster, but is one reason that you find that you know the answer but have difficulty explaining how you arrived at the solution on paper.

  • Angel L

    I’m 15 years old, this past week ive been really feeling dislexic. I self diagnosed myself in my head to be dislexic lol. As im reading this, im visualizing a scale with 6 choices simular to a survey i took recently. I went “strongly agree” on most of them, though i did have some “strongly disagree” too. The reason ive been feeling dislexic, is because for a long time, i had trouble figuring out why i was the least bit better than all my other classmates.

    Reading, staying focused and putting my thoughts together were struggles. So i started to think to myself “why am i not able to keep up to par” so i went and tried to analize my patterns, and from that, reason out what it meant. I read things 3 times over to ensure i read correctly, stutter and have trouble talking.

    I read things wrong, and people often correct me. The only thing that perplexed me was why i was able to memorize 40 digits of pi in a week, and retain the information. When i read this article, it pointed out some of my routines that i dont normally think of. A comment above mentioned how their son says digits out loud to help memorize. I started thinking about how i memorized pi. I didnt really memorize any single number- i didnt read pi, i looked at a collection of numbers, retained that image and said the sequence out loud. Although ive reasoned this out already, the fact that I memorized pi stands in the way of me fully grasping the theory that i am dislexic. Another thing that i read, was that people with dislexia often spell things as it is said.

    This is clearly visable when trying to learn the complex spelling of chocolate, and as I write this, i still slowly recite the spanish pronunciation of the word and spell it as i hear it. I also became aware of this, when while typing this out, mispelled loud as laud, and having trouble correcting it. Though i only weote this, there is still much more i could have elaborated on. I still dont know if declaring myself dislexic is just an attemt in account for my low self esteem, or something i might actually have. Its been mentioned before in Elementry once or twice, but never again after that. Can it be concluded by what ive written wheather i have dyslexia, or not. Btw this is the most carefully revised comment ive written in my memory lol.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Angel, your symptoms are fully consistent with dyslexia. Dyslexics often have great difficulty with tasks that seem easy to others, but at the same time can excel at tasks that seem complex or difficult to others. Partly this may be because of the level of attention focused on the task — when you memorized 40 digits of pi, you know that it would take mental focus and effort, so paid full attention to the task. But if someone tells you their phone number, you assume it will be easy to remember, and don’t take any extra steps — and sure enough, you are likely to forget the number or transpose digits when you go to right it down.

      What you are doing now — analyzing your own thought patterns to better understand the source of your difficulties — is exactly the right thing to do. The more you understand the workings of your own brain, the more you can improve your ability to learn and retain information.

      I personally believe that part of the problems associated with dyslexia comes from being very smart, and having so much going on in your brain at once that it is harder to sort out and keep track of all the input and thoughts. I think that dyslexics take in more information and see more possibilities, so it’s hard to settle on just one spelling for a word when so many alternatives come to mind.

  • Ryan

    Hello, I’m 24 and I’ve had the knowledge that I may be dyslexic for a while now. After reading this article I have confirmed my suspicions. I meet the symptoms almost to a t. Now that I know I truly am dyslexic, I don’t know how to carry on in a healthy manner. I’ve always been a bit hesitant to really accept or confirm it, I thought maybe it was in my head and that I was just a weird person. Today at work made me really want to find out. I work in logistics, and I load semi’s according to their allocated store number. This week I was on a new project including the stores 775, 757,& 777. I can’t find the words to describe my frustration. How can I manage my dyslexia in a healthy way. As of now I feel isolated, and overwhelmed. Hoping for some guidance..

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Ryan, dyslexia can be corrected. The first step toward resolving a problem is knowing that you have it.

      In the meantime, here’s a suggestion — my dyslexic son told me years ago that he always verbalized any numbers he had to remember — so when you are looking at store numbers, say the numbers out loud to yourself: seven, seven, five — seven, five, seven — seven, seven, seven. You might also get in the habit of running your fingers under the numbers, or holding a card under the line where the numbers are written, to make sure that you read them accurately in the first place.

      The Davis Orientation techniques describe in the book The Gift of Dyslexia can be quickly learned and will help assure that you are correctly seeing and interpreting number series and other written information.

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