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 July 13, 2020 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • susan c

    could I ask at what age do children get tested for dyslexia, I think my 11 year old granddaughter might have it, she has now gone to high school, do they test in school or would it be through your gp.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      There is no upper age limit for testing for dyslexia — so age 11 is very appropriate. A family’s ability to seek testing from the school would depend on what part of the world they live in.

    • Andrea B

      Hello Susan C,

      I’m a grandmother also and I just found out my 6 year old granddaughter was diagnosed today, after a month of testing through her school. She has teachers that are really invested in the education of children, and I’m grateful to have them in my granddaughter’s life.
      It’s never too late for testing. Please schedule a meeting with a school official asap. Also, let your granddaughter know she’s been trusted with a gift that will take special people to help her mold her beautiful life.

  • Evelyn W

    Hi can dyslexia effect social behaviour, in ignoring individuals, tone that appears rude and abrupt, that has no intention to cause effence, and my boss keeps stating i task orientated is this part of the disability

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      It’s possible that the problems you describe are tied to dyslexia, especially if you have a tendency to get lost in your thoughts or lose track of time (disorientation) — and that is what leads others to perceive you as rude when they try to get your attention or they interrupt your train of thought.

  • Doreen M

    Your article has been so helpful. I have a seven year old born with mild tri 21. he has most of those characteristics. I live in Uganda, East Africa. am trying to find a solution so he can lead a meaningful life.

  • Katie S

    I just looked up this to figure out if this was me. Years I thought I was autistic or other forms of disabilities. But this right here is totally me. I’m 30 years old and I’m just figuring this out, how is that even possible I want to cry.
    Yes I am literally all of this nothing left out including the bet wetting which I’ve learned to live with and even my husband has accepted me for it. How did I even manage a husband with all my issues. Mind blown.

    • Prof. M

      I am 25 yo. I also thought I was somewhat autistic (my parents literally had me tested when I was younger) and I am also just finding out that I may be dyslexic.

  • The Dev

    I Just read about dyslexia for the first time today. I know the societal trope “oh, you transposed numbers! that’s called dyslexia!”; that happens to me ALL the time. I never thought though that I might actually have clinical dyslexia, but based on the above questions, I find myself wondering: “Does everyone really not have these same difficulties?”.

    It sounds like my case is fairly mild as I don’t exhibit some of the more severe problems, or I’ve overcome them throughout the years, but I still have problems with reading and re-reading sentences and not understanding their meaning, I find it impossible to memorize anything, I still hold my pen weird, can’t spell worth a darn, if I’m particularly tired I can see letters and words start to spin around on the page, and a few other things on the list.

    I’ve just learned to live with the issues and found work-arounds for them not even knowing I had a condition. I’ve been a software developer for over 10 years now which is not a profession you would think someone with dyslexia would be good at, but I’ll be the first to admit, I tend to use technology like a crutch to help me through some of those issues, so being around computers all day is perfect for me.

    Reading and re-reading requirements for software isn’t as much of an issue. Rarely do I get paragraphs of text from my users asking me to do something, it usually comes in the form of lists or orally and I can make my own notes (which are in the form of lists). Sometimes I just have to bear down and concentrate on a sentence or two though. That’s a bit frustrating, but a little concentration gets me though it every time.

    I always take digital notes with my laptop, never on paper, so holding a pen isn’t really a thing for me anyway. Likewise, all modern browsers, apps, and software have spell checking built in and give you the helpful little red squiggles if you can’t quite remember it.

    I have completely given up trying to memorize anything or trying to remember a short chain of numbers or letters and I copy-paste pretty much everything all the time to make sure I have everything right.

    And on those tired days, I either get some caffeine and come back, or I go to sleep and deal with it in the morning.

    To all those kids and teenagers with dyslexia out there: don’t worry so much. Just figure out what works for you to get around your disability and embrace it. I have it, and I have a 100k salary, and you can too.

    • Marcel

      The article was very informative.

      A reply to The Dev:

      I have a 13 year old granddaughter who has dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia so I am often researching information that might help her with her disabilities. I have to say your passage is one of the most inspiring I’ve read! I will share your words with her in hopes that it will help her realize that she, too can see a successful career in her future. She’s a bright young lady who has been pretty good at getting around her disabilities thus far and your words will motivate her even more! Thanks!

    • Leanne W

      Today I decided to research Dyslexia and I really happy I did. I realise what I always suspected. Reading your post make me feel better and proud of my efforts so far towards getting my diploma of nursing
      Thank you

  • Pranav

    Always knew something was not too right with me and I kept trying hard. Still, at the age of 36, get confused between letter b and d. Was orally fluent and knew things but somehow never scored good in exams although I though I did pretty well Numbers specially being a problem. Still counting on fingers. I’ve always been good with sports, mechanics and basically the practical stuff but never theoretically. So many things from this article fits.

    I think it’s very important for the parents to identify these characteristics and deal with their kids according, without making them feel different and not expecting them to do the way other kids do which will affect their self esteem, which happened in my case. Not sure if I was an introvert from the begining or eventually became one.

    And yes, this article fill make me feel better. Thanks!!

    • Pranav

      We’ll, all that said, now I’m feeling quite low thinking that I’m not normal. Psychologically I’m feeling quite unfit and I’m wondering if ill ever be happy and successful.

    • Pranav

      Well, all that said, now I’m feeling quite low thinking that I’m not normal. Psychologically I’m feeling quite unfit and I’m wondering if i’ll ever be happy and successful.

  • Bealu

    I use my harts position to determine my left and right all ways have a Paine in my stomach and when I’m studying my father use to say if I study I could be better than all my class mates but didn’t understand what I was going through no one knew what dyslexia was. I am from ethiopia tanks for this you may have changed my life

  • Hannah

    I was smiling as I read down through the signs of dyslexia. I’m always confused between my right and left hand, whenever I am baffled, I raise my hands, I think which hand is used for writing and once I get the answer I will be able to determine which is which. Having hard time also reading analog watch, poor health — always have ear infection, too emotional, perfectionist ever since, keen sighted, always reversing letters ei to ie, uo to ou in words having those letters and always late in school LOL. But I don’t tell anyone, I think no one will believe me and I don’t know what to do with it

    • Mary

      I feel so ashamed of myself, I don’t like to go out or make friends because I don’t want people to know what I am going through, I have almost all the symptoms here I cry to sleep sometimes am scared of going to school and everyone around me expect so much from me, the worst of it is that the person I called my boyfriend seize every opportunity he has to insult me because of my condition, I feel like no man will ever accept me for who I am, I feel believe that he is ashamed of me, I know I want to do better but I can’t, I which there is a cure for this.

      • trina

        Mary don’t be so hard on your self! I have had dyslexia all my life and had no idea until I was 23. I am now 35. I have a husband two child a successful nursing career even though professors said I would not make it writing the way I did. The right person will love you for you. Once you figure out why you have all these symptoms it’s like a weigh is lifted off the shoulders because you’ve discovered the cause. Sounds like you would benefit from a support group. Look on social media IG, Facebook to talk with others. Some of the most successful talented people have dyslexia. You can find a way to mange it if you are willing to research and do the work. We are born this way just like someone with asthma they can mange it so can we. Good luck dear 🙂

      • craig

        Hi Mary.

        Sorry to hear you feel that way. I too have most of the symptoms on here and when young felt the same way.

        Agreed, it can be hard feeling like you don’t fit in. More so when young, as the natural thing is to want to be accepted and be like everyone else. It can also feel like no-one understands.

        I didn’t think my life would turn out good. However, as time has shown, In time we find the people who we relate, understand us and love us for who we are. It is not constructive to spend time with people who want to put you down. They do this to hide an insecurity they have with themselves. It is not a reflection on you and you should not let it continue. The game is to rob your self-esteem so you look to them to give you permission to feel good. They then get some kind of benefit from keeping you not feeling good. It’s a bad game where no-one wins.

        Life is a gift of which we should all enjoy and be appreciated for the uniqueness of who we are. Imagine if we all looked the same, acted the same, dressed the same. Boring huh. And who wants to be the same as people that are mean to others.

        You’re special, as are we all. We all deserve to be loved for being who we are.

        Yes you have challenges, but that is also what makes life worth living and can make it interesting.

        Tough as it feels now, in time we come to understand we are all different. I would not change who I am now, yet desperately wanted to when I was young. I hope you find this in yourself too.

        If you are able, speak with your parents about how you feel. Do they understand how you feel? They should love you for who you are and support you. If there are issues there, is there another adult you can talk to like a teacher? It can be surprising how supportive people are when they understand how you feel.

        I found out today my 8 year old is dyslexic. I want him to understand he is a gift. His different way of thinking and seeing things will also make him unique. Uniqueness is what people come to love us for. If they don’t, then they are not the right fit. Like a jigsaw, if the pieces don’t fit, no amount of pressure will make them and you will never find the right one whilst with the wrong one. Try to accept and enjoy being who you are. We can’t be anyone else:-) Being here is the greatest gift.

        Stay strong, life is good (even if it feels tough now) and it gets better.

        Sending love.

      • Warren

        We have gifts other people wish they had our creative mind I’m 54 struggled reading and writing all my life. I orally take information like a sponge. No need to be ashamed, the boyfriend I get rid of, he sounds like a narcissist. We tend to have very high IQ some of the most successful people are dyslexic. Richard Branson, Steve jobs etc
        I now run my own company that operates in 42 countries with a product I invented. So what if we don’t fit in into other peoples world we can make our own to fit into our world. No shame or blame for being one very unique human. Stay strong love your self for who you are best wishes warren Ps i use spell check but still i and e mixed up thats me and i’m happy

        • Eileen

          I am so happy to hear stories like what u guys have. Unfortunately, I just realized I have dyslexia at age of 49, I always tried very hard and still not fitting in and all other issues as I see we all share similar experiences. I just got fired from my job cuz I won’t correct my mistakes . I am just in a dark place right now. I am doing more research so I could help myself. Wish me luck !

      • Sol

        I Truly mean All the Respect, Love and good energies in the World.

        The cure is to remove that negative energy from your life mama. That male choosing to insult you during your journey towards understanding what you’re experiencing and causing you to feel less than rather than Building you up the way A Real Man would is Proof that he is not for you, you deserve compassion. And nothing less.
        G-d made you.
        Remember He Makes No Accidents.
        Focus on the positivity around you and remember anything less than positivity, love, compassion and understanding surrounding you is Not meant for You.
        Just breathe for a moment. It’s a lot to take in, your symptoms feel and sound overwhelming. I can only begin to understand. Just remember you Are Valuable. I’m Sure.
        Remember each step towards Your Beautiful Future takes Time. Breathe.
        Pray. And Remove what needs to be removed, so you May Build and You May Have the Space Around You that is Healthy, So you can begin to understand yourself. Cause this sounds like a lot of outside Ignorant Ignorant noise. I mean no offense towards anyone you love. But anyone you love should love you the same or that isn’t love, it’s toxic. And you deserve that dear. Just really want you knowing you’re worthy. No one should Ever take that away from you.

        May The L-rd Guide You Mary

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Keep in mind that a Davis program can help individuals at any age — and the program does much more than address reading problems. If you work with a Davis facilitator, they will begin by going over your problems and goals and will structure a program geared to your specific needs.

    • Voc

      Im glad Im not the only adult that struggles with which is left and right. Many people in my life have made jokes about it and it has always made me feel bad about myself. How can I be in my late 20s and not know left from right? Reading this information has been really helpful and now I having a better understanding of myself. I have always known I had some form of Dyslexia but it wasn’t until I started taking college classes online that I realize how bad it is. I misread a lot of the information and I don’t know how to discuss it with my teachers because I do not want them to think that I’m trying to make excuses for myself. It is really frustrating!

    • Nelly

      Thank you so much for this post.. Now I understand everything.. Thou it’s affecting me academically but at least I now know where My problem is from

  • Sue I

    How can i go about getting my son assessed?
    my son is now 15 years old and is terrified of having to do exams next year. I have asked at the school several times as my son has many of the above characteristics and states that he has lots of ideas/thoughts in his head but can’t get them down on paper. The school told me that although he was behind for his age it was just because he needed to work harder. I also mentioned it the the Doctor, who said that Health visitors used to be able to help with this but they don’t get involved with things like that anymore and just said it would have be the school that got him assessed.
    I feel that over the last 4-5 years he has been completely let down by the school and the other systems.

    Please can you advice the best way of getting him assessed.

    Many Thanks

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You can find information about formal testing for dyslexia here:

      Keep in mind that a formal diagnosis is not required for a Davis Dyslexia Correction program. You can find a Davis facilitator near you at https://www.davismethod.org/ If your son wants help, working with a Davis provider might be the best way to help him meet his goals.

    • BillNyneTheScienceGuy

      If the school won’t help him like they did me, maybe you should see if he wants home schooling. It’ll be a tough ride, but for someone like him I think it could really pay off. I’m going off of the “lots of ideas/thoughts” here so it’s really up to your life situation and his thoughts on it. Don’t strip this option away from him without a good reason, please. I was given the option and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

  • Wendy F

    Can someone with so many of your stated dyslexic characteristics, but who had no trouble reading or writing, also be dyslexic? Is it a spectrum?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, dyslexia does occur along a spectrum and it is very possible for a person to have many characteristics that are tied to dyslexia without specific difficulties with reading and writing. Sometimes this will be labeled differently — for example, if the person has primary difficulties in math, it might be called “dyscalculia” — but the underlying cause may be the same.

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