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 November 28, 2020 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Sara VW

    I have been struggling with my 9 yr old son when it comes to handwriting, spelling and reading comprehension. Despite his grades which are all wonderful he has always received reports from his teachers that his biggest struggle is in spelling and putting pencil to paper and physically writing. When we practice at home writing he struggles and gets hung up on how his letter look and how it is not ” neat enough” or the letter is not formed properly, even though I encourage him to just continue practicing. He can relate to most of these signs listed but I can not get his school or Doctor to agree that testing would be beneficial for him because his grades do not reflect his struggle. He is a very articulate boy and has a mechanical brain when it comes to how things work and the steps required to get from point A to Point B ( if that makes sense) I am just at a loss with why handwriting, vowel sounds, letter sounds and spelling even common sight words he can not grasp. We have always worked hard at it on our own time but I now feel there is more to it. Am I crazy or just a super worried mother? I hate to watch his confidence level lower each time he goes to write and spell out words. Would love some insight. Thank you!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sara, My son was very much like yours and this is a pattern that Davis Facilitators work with quite often. Kids like your son are extremely intelligent and so are able to figure out ways to compensate for their dyslexia, but it is a huge struggle and very frustrating. But they tend to very well with a Davis program, which is geared to their innate strengths — so once given the tools they can move very quickly. You may find that the book The Gift of Dyslexia will give you insights as to how your son’s mind works, as well as a path forward.

  • wally

    I’m dyslexic, its not a disorder, its a gift.
    Between remember and invent is a spectrum.
    Dyslexic is the extreme edge of invent.
    Some brains mature early, the simple ones.
    The really powerful brains take longer to commission.
    Anyone who says dyslexia is a learning disorder has no idea how much time and effort it takes to program a powerful organic computer.
    If you really want to think fast and with maximum bandwidth use subconscious processing.
    If you want to slow that by 90% or more, think in words.
    If you want to slow that even more spell it out

  • Belinda

    my daughter is having a terrible time in math. She says its hard and doesn’t make sense to her. She can work a problem and then it’s like everything she has learned all goes away and she doesn’t understand. We are now learning her multiplications and she cannot remember them no matter how long we study. Ive had her tested and she’s been diagnosed with anxiety. She does well in other subjects but I believe her comprehension is not what it should be. she doesn’t understand word problems at all. Apart of me says she’s not trying but now I believe she is but something else is going on…maybe dyslexia.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You might want to consult with a Davis Facilitator about a Math Program. More info here: https://www.dyslexia.com/davis-difference/davis-programs/davis-math-mastery/

    • wally

      I failed math at every level
      now I program algorithms into computers
      find out what she is good at and expand that until it teaches learning
      she may see math as volume in her head, as colour, as sounds, as numbers, as words
      fore = four = 4 = a square = 2 x (too, to, tou etc) or half way up the read/red scale
      how does she see it is the real question.
      Try getting a length of string and tie the ends together then start folding it, thats real math, numbers are just an interface

  • Claire

    Trying to get my daughter (10) tested at the moment in a Switzerland. She’s multilingual (English, High German, Swiss German and French) and switches between languages at the drop of a hat when speaking but is equally bad at reading and writing in all languages (despite really wanting to read).
    I tallied up 15 definite characteristics on that list (and a few maybes/sometimes) but I’m concerned it’ll be written off as a “non-native speaker” issue.
    Any advice on how to approach the testing would be extremely helpful.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Claire, our focus is on providing effective help rather than on diagnosis; any person who seems to fit the profile based on the symptoms listed on this page can probably benefit from a Davis program. You can find a list of all licensed Davis Facilitators in Switzerland here: https://www.davismethod.org/loc/switzerland Davis Facilitators often work with multilingual students, and the Davis tools can be applied in any language. I think a Davis program is the only approach that would likely result in rapid improvement in reading all English, German, and French at roughly the same time and place. Of course, it will take longer to master reading in multiple languages because of differences in alphabetic symbols in each, but your daughter sounds like she is extremely bright and highly motivated. The key is that rather than trying to teach rules or provide tutoring focused on a specific language, Davis Facilitators work to find and eliminate the barriers that are standing in the way of progress.

      If you do want to first seek out a formal diagnosis, it’s possible that a Davis Facilitator near you will be able to make appropriate recommendations.

  • Dana

    Hi my daughter is 7 .I got her tested for autism.They say she wasn’t on the spectrum .I been noticing a lot of things like ,she reads but don’t understand ,she acts out ,sometimes I tell her right a number she writes it backwards.but she good in sports.she hits her brother,it takes her all day clean her room,her organization skills,

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Dana, many of the behaviors you describe are very normal for a 7-year-old. It can be hard at this age to sort out what is developmentally normal as opposed to what could be a sign of a learning difference. If you are concerned about possible dyslexia, you might find it helpful to read the book The Gift of Dyslexia — you might want to see if you can find a copy in the library.

  • Run-Tong

    Hm I’m 13 right now and I have this issue with whenever I’m speaking, I use the wrong endings, like if I just said bring in a sentence I’d proceed to say ‘bring the thinging and helping me pleaseing’ and I have an unusual urge to re sound out words whenever I’m speaking or reading something. But I never have issues with actually reading anything, but I spell phonetically (autocorrect is a lifesaver) and my pencil gripping is weird and it makes my handwriting horrible… I asked a question online about sounding things out and people replied with it sounding like dyslexia. But no one in my family has it, so I’m not sure if these are symptoms…

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Is English your first language?

      • WonTon

        Yeah, I’ve lived in Canada my whole life

        • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

          Well, some Canadians speak French as their first language. 😉 I asked simply because the verbal problems you are describing sound unusual, but it could still be tied to similar underlying causes. The pattern of spelling everything phonetically is a very common manifestation of dyslexia. It is tied to difficulty with preserving a visual memory of the sequence of letters in each word. There are a variety of techniques that can be used to build up these skills.

  • Learto M

    Hi, i am 30years and I have dyslexia from childhood,though I am still learning about it. You mention dyslexia been a gift! How so? Please explain that concept for me please?

  • Brandon

    While I haven’t had great trouble reading and writing I do find that without noticing I will omit/make up words while reading, write down made up numbers during a test when the real ones are written in the question, and often have to reread things a couple times for full comprehension. I’m 22 now but I noticed these issues in high school but passed with relatively good grades so I didn’t think anything of it, now I’m university I find I’m failing tests for misreading questions or incorrectly writing things down. I usually have the mindset that I’m always rushing through things since I usually finish with time and that’s what my grade school teaches told me I was doing. At this point what can I do to try and better my situation? Should I just try and stick to online resources and try and be more careful or would it be worth it to try and let my school know? Thanks for any advice!

  • Kelly

    I am thinking I have dyslexia, I tend to have a hard time retaining information, completing sentences/explaining what I mean, tho I’m 16 I still have a horrible at spelling, staying focused. I tend to get dizzy and vision getting blurry if I’m reading small text or text in a big block.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kelly, the symptoms you describe are very consistent with dyslexia. We do have specific techniques to help with focus and the sense of dizziness — we call that disorientation.

  • Kevan B

    Does colours lenses in glasses help with dylexia

  • Nilaakshi K

    Something i have wondered about later parts of my life. I am 42 and a few days a go someone told me that i could be dyslexic. My only reason so far as not to take it seriously has been the main reason that a lot of people get diagnosed through reading. I am an avid reader,quick too and good at comprehension…
    But the rest of the stuff fits like a glove.

  • David

    My name is David have been l have been diagnosed with dyslexia, when l read articles regarding dyslexia it says (the gift) l have struggled my whole life with this ha ha gift

    Or l just haven’t found my gift on dyslexia just yet

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Hi David. I have a question for you. Some people think mostly in pictures. Some people think mostly in words, always hearing a voice inside their heads. Some people are a mixture of both, and some people are not consciously aware of their thoughts. How would you describe your own thought process?

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