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 19, 2018 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • cin_sac

    I’ve been dyslexic all of my life and one day I noticed that the words I see in my mind are backwards, but they’re perfectly backwards. All I have to do is flip them, so right becomes left and left, right. The only problem with this method is, that I do it so automatically that I’ll forget I’ve already flipped and flip them again, making them backwards. Aixelsyd wins again.

  • Dara

    Can someone develop dyslexia at 20 years of age?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      An adult with no previous history of dyslexia can develop dyslexia as a result of an injury to the brain, such as a traumatic head injury or a stroke. This is called “acquired dyslexia” and happens due to damage or disruption to already-formed brain networks.

      This is different than the dyslexia described on this page listing common traits, which is focused on “developmental dyslexia,” which has a hereditary component and develops in early childhoods. Developmental dyslexia is not related to any sort of brain damage or defect, but rather a different pattern of brain development. In general, as they grow, the brains of dyslexic children do not follow the typical left-brain laterization pattern that occurse with typically developing children.

      It is possible for someone to have a mild form of developmental dyslexia and not become aware of symptoms until encountering a more stressful or mentally-demanding situation. So, for example, a very bright child with dyslexic tendencies might manage well enough through high school, but then start to struggle in college when faced with a heavy reading load. In that case, the person will usually be able to identify earlier signs of dyslexia when tracing their personal history. It’s just that the earlier signs would have been mild enough that they didn’t cause significant problems.

  • Daisy

    Hi! My daughter have 7 years old and she always crying and crying because she try to do her homework and she never get it, I try to help her for hours and she forget everything what I tell her. She always confused the letters , write in backward and she never focus and distracting so fast. My question is where I can go to bring my daughter to tell me if she have dyslexia?

  • Ani

    My issues are exactly what is written in the hearing and speech portion of this page. Is it possible to have only a portion of the symptoms? I don’t have trouble reading at all or usually understanding, but when I try to tell someone what I have just read or heard on the news, I can barely get out the story in a comprehensible way.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Ani, you might find it helpful to complete the online survey at https://www.testdyslexia.com/ — that is based on the same traits that are listed in on this web page, but it gives you an opportunity to weight the frequency of each trait, and it will give you a short report at the end that will give a profile of your strengths and weaknesses.

      If your only problem is with the traits listed under “Hearing and Speech”, it could be a result of a dyslexic thinking process, but it could also be caused by something else. Dyslexics often experience confusion with speech and listening because of nonverbal thinking style; they may think in pictures rather than words, and have very little internal monologue. So in a sense they need to translate what they hear or read into pictures, and then translate it back into words when explaining things. The picture-based thought process is also much faster than speech, so sometimes the problem is simply that the person can’t form words and speak fast enough to keep up with their own thoughts.

  • Bob

    I was born in 1950. The educators, family, coaches, no one picked up on the problem I was having when I was young. I don’t remember even hearing the word dyslexic until I was a young man. I was held back in the second grade because of my inability to read at my classmates level. My family was in the Air Force, so we were constantly moving from school to school. I was probably never at one school long enough for anyone to know me well enough to label me anything. Over my lifetime I have learned to work around it, As much as I can. Are there different types or categories of dyslexia? I’ve seen cases on TV that are much more extreme than my circumstances. I actually have learned to read pretty well, but of course the comprehension is not there.

  • Ahmad Al-Hassan

    Do you have an online test and certification (for elementary , middle school and high-school teachers) ?

    If you please let me know how much it costs.

    If you do not, then do you know of an organisation that does ?

    Thank you

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      I am not sure what kind testing you are asking about, but we don’t offer any sort of online certification.

  • Matthew

    hi, i may have dyslexia but i am not sure yet my mind seems to be a bit confused from one another as i have a hearing loss but everytime i read long complex sentences, i tend to get lost in what i was reading about and what was the subject about could that be the case i have dyslexa?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes the reading comprehension problem you describe is very likely tied to dyslexia. Do you feel that you think mostly with mental imagery rather than words? Dyslexic individuals often have difficulty making sense of words as they read and that creates confusion. The result is losing track of what they are reading.

  • Lindsey

    I have a daughter who just turned 5 in May and is about to start school in another month We have been practicing her name all summer and most of last year but she continues to write her name backwards. When we first started the letters were out of place and scrambled on the paper so I didn’t think anything of it until recently. She signed a card for a family member and wrote her name completely in order except every letter was written backwards like she was looking in a mirror when she wrote it. I’m sure its too early to tell but I thought I would ask anyway. Is this normal? Thank you.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You are right, it is too early to tell because all children go through a developmental stage where reversals are common. However, it is a warning sign or indication that your daughter is “at risk” for dyslexia. I would encourage you to consider a Davis Young Learner’s kit, because it is geared specifically for building skills for children your daughter’s age. The kit includes a manual with suggested activities so that you can guide your daughter toward learning her letters in a fun and engaging way. Letters are modeled in clay and the hands on, 3D modeling approach will help your daughter develop a better sense of how each letter is formed and oriented. You can learn more about the kit here: https://shop.dyslexia.com/dylkit

  • Marie

    Hello, thank you. Your article was very helpful. I strongly suspect I have dyslexia. But my parents and relatives find it hard to believe me because somehow my brain compensated in a very remarkable way. No one in the family knows that I only learned to read the normal phonetic way when I was 12. Before that, I would recognize words as pictures and at school I would be able to memorize our books so no one knew I wasn’t actually reading. I have always been artistically inclined and although I love to write I love drawing more because writing is very difficult for me. But since I love stories I practiced very hard and wrote and wrote everyday to he able to get better at structured writing. I am extremely sensitive to noise and disturbances and unpleasant or irritating odours to an unusual degree among other things. Same goes for my sense of justice. Most people don’t get me at all. It used to be very hard for me to read too. It still is hard for me to read aloud and comprehend at the same time. I have to read the material at least 2x or force myself to focus and concentrate very hard which always ends up making words swim or my heard hurt. During the 2-hour straight TOIEC listening and reading exam I almost fainted from mental exhaustion when it was over. I could barely move. The questions weren’t difficult, just the amount of concentration it required from me. Now I am studying Japanese and I think my brain is trying to compensate again because reading long paragraphs make me dizzy and the words just seem to fade and sway like it was being submerged underwater. I panic and forget Japanese words I already know and get mindblocked. On the other hand, I learned to read French words based on imagery not by studying the phonetic rules. I think this is the same method my brain used to “read” English words. I love writing stories and even if it is very hard I haven’t given up. Although the even harder part is the editing because my allegedly dyslexic mind hates repetition. Which is why I completely miss my own typos but see it very clearly in other people’s writings. In your opinion is my hunch correct? Am I dyslexic? And is there a sure way to confirm if I am indeed dyslexic? Should I get professional help or am I fine? (I am in my mid-30s and single too so I live alone most times.) Thank you so much again!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes — I would say that your history is a classic case of a dyslexic thinking style, perfectly illustrating both the mental difficulties and the talents. The question of whether you should get help is really up to you — do you feel you have a problem? do you want help with that problem? If so, we have tools to provide the help you want — but you will need to put some effort into the process. So that’s why it is up to you. It seem now that you are encountering problems due to disorientation while studying Japanese — that is what is the cause of the dizziness and sense that the word are fading and swaying.

  • Joel R

    I have 30 years old , my first language is spanish i will try to write in English. My mother tell me recently i was diagnostic with dislexia when i am child. But i do not have a recent diagnostic. I haved a driver job but they fired me because i lost . I was in the correct direction but i do not be sure that i am. And also i have dificult with the latters i write some times like This. i have dificult to find a job . My question is i have dyslexia.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Difficulty with writing letters and difficulty with directions are both common symptoms of dyslexia. Also, if you were correctly diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, then you would still be dyslexic. Although many people can overcome the problems they experience with dyslexia, the underlying dyslexia does not go away. Your mind still works in the same way.

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