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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  • Lindsey M

    My daughter is 6, she has always been behind everyone her age. She rolled over at 7 months, sat by herself at 9 months, crawled at 12 months and walked at 17 months. She took a pacifier until age 3 and that’s about when she started to talk. She will not accept “no” as an answer, she does not even know what “tomorrow” is, let alone the days of the week. She won’t even attempt to tie shoes but when she does it’s always in a knot. She doesn’t know left from right. When they do the pledge at school, she puts her left hand on the right side of her chest. When she brings homework home, she has major meltdowns. She is very quiet and shy around other people but very demanding and bossy with her dad and I and her brother and sister. She gets car sick very easily. She doesn’t like to leave our home unless she goes across the street to her sisters house. She gets b and d mixed up when writing, her 2’s, 5’s, 7’s and 9’s are always backwards. Sometimes she writes her name from right to left. She can’t get the concept of addition or subtraction at all. I’m losing it here! If you could maybe give me a clue to what you might think she has I would appreciate it kindly, thanks, Lindsey

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sorry, but your daughter’s situation is too complex for an online “diagnosis”. I could tell you what she is missing conceptually — for example, as she does not have a clear sense of time (doesn’t know what “tomorrow” means), she probably also doesn’t understand cause and effect or the idea of consequence, which in turn is why she would tend to get upset when told “no.” That conceptual gap would also carry over into her inability to grasp basic arithmetic. The symptoms you describe with writing numbers and letters are very consistent with dyslexia, but it can also be developmental – so not enough by itself to diagnose dyslexia in a 6 year old.

      Have you asked the school to have her tested, or sought a professional evaluation on your own?

    • Addy

      This might seem weird but your daughter is a genius. It’s not that she doesn’t understand the rules of this world but people fail to understand her view about the things around her. So just relax and let her be what she is. Consult an expert only if it is affecting her health, physically or emotionally.

    • phillip d

      I have aloot of advise, way to much to post, I work with students that have these issues.

  • Margaret F

    I was finally diagnosed with severe dyslexia at 56 years old. Feeling stupid and told your stupid or lazy all my life led to agoraphobia, severe anxiety and depression. I’m going to see a women who strictly deals with adults, I’m petrified because I can’t hold adult conversations and I cant follow directions to even get there. Is their hope for me ? I’m at the latter part of life, can I or is it worth the try in helping an old dog learn new tricks?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, Margaret, there’s hope — dyslexia can be corrected, and there is no upper age limit for the Davis program. Davis Facilitators work with adults of all ages, including many over the age of 60. The Davis tools can be life-altering and motivated adults tend to do very well, very quickly, with integrating and using the tools. Check our directory at http://www.davismethod.org to find the nearest facilitator.

      • Julie

        I was diagnosed at age 52 as I had decided to take up nursing as a career. Only when I started university was I diagnosed. Went through years too knowing something was up but not quite sure what. I could not read a map, my directions are horrendous, I constantly use spell check. Happy to say I am know achieving my goals. Spent too many years wondering why I am not able to do the same as everyone, then released my reading speed was low and I had trouble processing information. I have used many coping mechanisms and am sure there are plenty more in my age group with undiagnosed dyslexia.

  • Kat

    I was diagnosed in the 4th grade only because my teacher cared enough to figure out what was going on. He taught me how to work within my dyslexia and not around it. I have a bachelor’s in Accounting, I manage a large account team and also have my own side business. Dyslexia does not mean you cannot succeed and obviously does not mean that you lack intelligence.

    With all that being said, I suspect my oldest son is also Dyslexic and for some reason (even with me knowing what he is going through), I am at a loss of what to do to help him.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Have you read The Gift of Dyslexia? That’s the best starting point to understand what we do — which may be very close to what your teacher did (“work within your dyslexia and not around it.”)

    • Susan F

      Contact your state Department of Education to get all the rules around special education. If you can get a diagnosis, you can ask for a Section 504 plan to accommodate your son and the tools to be successful. It may not be easy. Contact a Dyslexia group in your state to see if you can connect with an advocate.

  • idris

    so basically i am a recent paraplegic with recently discovered dyslexia……..thats double diasability……and people be like he is fuc**d…on the contrary am thinking its a blessing

    • CrownOfSplendor

      You ARE a blessing! My son is dyslexic and man his intelligence is mind blowing to me! He really works hard, where other people tend to be lazy. It drives him to do amazing things! Paraplegic, dyslexic… you are. ROCKSTAR in my eyes!! Be blessed!!!

  • greg k

    my daughters little girl my grand daughter.has this hugely frustrating problem she is so sensitive and sweet.

    my son had the same problem he would study know it all but go to school and not be able to test on paper .he was labeled a daydreamer.i got him a tutor she helped him after years of fighting americas propaganda schools he was finally in about seventh grade allowed to test in a special class one on one he excelled from that time on.

    now with my grand daughter her father is very mean and calls her lazy and things i cant get him to stop.hes so full of himself.his catholic belief system comes from iowa where he believes wifes and children are property to be controlled.she does alot of the stuff her uncle did and shes so smart and very hurt that she cant succeed in testing.and her father tries but not in a loving way.

    i told him if he cant remain patient and loving to leave her alone and get her help.he has plenty of money but he wont spend a dime more than he has to. my daughter works with her constantly like i did with my son.but nothing will work until the schools grow up and are held accountable and forced to handle these children like the professionals they hold themselves out to be.

    my son slowly learned techniques that helped him grow out of it to a certain extent.hand writing should of never been taken out of schools most public schools dont teach it on any real level.

  • Marie B

    The schools are absolutely no help! My daughter is at the end of 7th grade and still has scores well below her grade level. Some of which she scores at a mid 3rd grade level. I have continuously fought for the school to help her since she was in the first grade. Even though she failed year after year the school continued to pass her with the explanation that she would catch up. The cookie cutter tests they administer to ANY child struggling, is not accurate testing for a child with dyslexia. Therefore they would not give her any support at school her elementary years.

    Fortunately she had a wonderful fourth grade teacher that advocated for her and was finally given an IEP going into the 5th grade but was limited support. By the end of 5th grade her reading level was plummeting. At that time, the school administered a reading test. Because of the low test score , the school increased the amount of support going into the following year. She will be in eighth grade next year and yes, she’s still failing. The school however fails to recognize that the significant deficits she has in certain areas is the cause for her failing. Now they want me to sign a behavior plan and put the fact that they have failed to appropriately educate my daughter from the beginning of her educational career on her and off of them.

    I’m beyond frustrated at this point and so is my daughter. So am I supposed to just sit back and let the school get away with not giving her an appropriate education? Where do you go from this point? Without the proper support moving forward, she will not graduate. What can I now do???

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Marie, I hope you will look into a Davis program for your daughter. You are experiencing a classic runaround from the school, but the bottom line is that the school isn’t going to help her. You can continue to fight the school, but in the meantime more time goes by and if your daughter doesn’t get help before high school, a lot of educational options may be cut off for her. Yes, you are legally entitled to FAPE (free and appropriate education) for your daughter… but there’s sometimes a very big gap between what is written in the law and what really happens.

      So – read The Gift of Dyslexia, and talk to a Davis Facilitator. We can’t help you win a battle with the school, but we can give your daughter the tools she needs to succeed.

      • Teddy I

        I have 27 of these listed

      • C. Kamena

        Very true. The school does NOT care about your daughter. They have written her off and just want to collect the ADA money for her attendance. We spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting the school district in “court” and lost because the system is rigged. They will spend 100k of tax money on lawyers to sue parents before they spend $20k helping a child overcome dyslexia. They get paid to lie under oath about how your child is making progress while you take time off work and go into debt. Forget about FAPE and justice. Pull her out and homeschool. Spend your money and time on tutoring and programs that are proven to work.

    • Cole

      I’m sorry you guys are frustrated. I used to think I was dumb or slow till I understood how to work and learn with my dyslexia. I’m sure she will find her path I did. I own and pilot two airplanes and run my own company also have various degrees . Nothing is impossible it’s just figuring out how you learn the best.

    • Jo D

      My patent had to sue the school district in order for them to implement some type of alternative to help my brother in his handicap for learning! They did offer him taped voice instructions and that seemed to help him. That was over 45 yrs ago!

    • Maria

      Hi , please don’t get frustrated go directly to your school district and speak to the school superintendent let them know of your situation I’m sure you will get the help your daughter needs but don’t sign her off because of the school staff inadequate teaching for special needs students as parents we are their only advocates. I will pray for you and your daughter may the holy spiri guide you in the right direction.

    • Pammy

      Marie B. Stop depending on the school. They aren’t trying to help her. There are laws but don’t waste anymore time. She needs this now. She’s getting older. You need to get her tested & get a proper diagnosis . Without knowing what’s wrong with her she can’t get the correct help so she can be a productive & hopefully have a happy life. She’s not heading that way now. I’m surprised her pediatrician hasn’t referred you. Do it Now. My daughter’s insurance paid for the psychiatrist & part of psycologist. Once you have a diagnosis & any medical intervention she needs then you’ll have proof for the school. Look up the laws. She’ll have to do work at home too. You can’t depend on the school. But when you have the outside reports of a plan then the school has to follow the IEP. That was always an issue too so you have to check on it frequently to make sure they’re following it. Good luck. I wish your daughter the best.

  • One worried parent

    How can I get my 9 year old help I have asked the school and they tell me she will grow out of it and now she is going into the 4 grade and is still changing the spelling of words or writing letters and numbers backwards and isn’t strong reading and writing. She is a very smart girl and wants to do her best and gets so upset if she can’t do something

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      If your daughter is in public school in the US, you can start the process to get your daughter evaluated for learning disabilities by making a written request. Please check our FAQ here for more information: https://www.dyslexia.com/question/school-testing/

      However, the school’s claim that your daughter will “grow out” of her problems is not a good sign. Obviously at age 9 that is untrue; unfortunately many schools do not have staff on hand who understand dyslexia and you may find yourself in a prolonged battle with the school to get services that are not geared to meet your daughter’s needs. I would encourage you to read the book The Gift of Dyslexia to learn about our approach — the problems you are seeing can be addressed very easily with a Davis program, and your daughter is clearly highly motivated and likely to progress very quickly.

    • Mysti

      I’m dyslexic and received no help through schools until now (I’m in post secondary) Get a color overlay for her reading, have her read aloud, and watch you mouth or whom evers when they are speaking if she is having problems with trying to pronounce words (I spoke backwards when I was learning to talk) , read out loud for her, if you can get a computer program for her school books that really helps as it reads the text out loud and highlight the words as it’s reading, or a smart pen is great too, very helpful, also colored loose leaf works well for me too.

    • Andrew

      I would say if the school won’t do anything take it above the school to the superintendent maybe look in to different schools if that school won’t find one that will this website has alot of great information use it all

  • Troy

    So, i am researching symptoms of dyslexia, and it seams a lot of people are having problems with spelling? Well, same here… When i was younger, i went to a lot of reading classes. I couldn’t help to think that i was an ‘idiot’. Labeled an idiot by some of my friends. I had a feeling that i had dyslexia (not sure because of schools that tested me for it.) – Yes, i can write to an extent, but only words i can recall. Or, just pronounce.

    Now i know being dyslexic doesn’t make you an idiot. But, when my friend calls me an idiot for not being as observant as he is.

    I am 15.

    If you respond, i appreciate it…

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Hi Troy, I’m not sure what your question is. Difficulties with spelling are the most common and persistent symptoms of dyslexia. It has nothing to do with intelligence and your friends are misinformed and rude to call you names.

      • Troy

        My question is; How can i help with my dyslexia?

        • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

          Troy, our methods are described in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia. A Davis program will help because it provides a way to assure that your perceptions of words on a page are consistent and accurate, and also will allow you to build an accurate visual memory of words that you read. If you have problems with reading or reading comprehension, it is likely that you would experience improvement right away.

          However, because English spelling is so inconsistent, it would take much longer before you would notice significant improvement with spelling. Your spelling of common words would tend to improve quickly, but you would still need to study new words or word patterns to learn them.

          • Troy

            Thanks. I appreciate the help.

          • Journey

            All dislexia is, is a different way of seeing/thinking that isn’t understood so there is a lable placed on the child/adult. Absolute disgrace

          • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

            We agree with you that dyslexia is simply a different way of thinking– but keep in mind that the label is often the only way children can qualify for extra support or accommodations at school. In a perfect world, kids who have difficulties in school would get the help they need without having to get any sort of label — but that’s not how things currently work.

            Our organization is dedicated to increasing awareness about the mental gifts and talents that accompany dyslexia. When people understand the positive aspects of dyslexia, then there is no stigma attached to the label — and “dyslexia” is certainly a better label than “learning disabled”, dyslexic kids and adults are certainly able to learn just about anything. The only “disability” is in the educational system that expects all children to learn in the same way at the same time, and requires students to have a label in order to qualify to receive educational services geared to their learning style.

  • yaa

    My student, seems intelligent but so addicted to toy animals. without animal in had he cannot enjoy any game. he is smart but lazy to study , rather, he prefers everyday is a play time, then he can hold a toy in hand and harm or run throughout. he is very choosy when it comes to food and lie on the floor when he gets upset or refused a thing. he doesn’t accept no for an answer . he is unable to focus for a long time and usually have to play alongside learning. he is not kind with other kids, and always want to hit them or kick them and run away. how do i make him understand there is play time and work time and to understand the word No.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      yaa, the behaviors you describe are not typical for dyslexia, but would be common for children on the autistic spectrum. I hope there is a way you can make an appropriate referral within your school system to arrange for further testing for this student. Please keep in mind that students with learning differences are not “lazy”, but often experience difficulties that make it extremely difficult or upsetting for them to study.

  • Kumari

    We are Sri Lankans and we use Sinhala language for studying. My son, who is the only child is 8 years and he is up to the standard in all the subjects including English. But not in sinhala language. We are talking in sinhala at home and he goes to a sinhala school. Most of the time he omits the added parts in writing the language and in reading he does the same. Very lazy in reading sinhala books. He usually does not obey his mother that is to me. He has difficulty in describing an event but he is good in talking when he is blaming some body when he is angry. Does he have dyslexia and how can I help him. Looking forwards for your guidance.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kumari, the Davis techniques can easily be applied in any language. If you are able to read English well, then you could use the book The Gift of Dyslexia as a guide. Your son would need to model the Sinhala alphabet in clay and then move on to modeling words that give him difficulty in reading, focusing on the small abstract words of the language. (You would translate these from the English trigger word list, to the extent possible).

      Please understand that when a child has dyslexia, it is extremely difficult to try to read and focus on print. The child is not lazy, but is often very confused and overwhelmed. These feelings can also give rise to frustration and angry — so it is important to be supportive and encouraging.

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