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 April 4, 2020 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • KB

    I am in my late twenties and I think I have dyslexia. Or at least a mild form. I relate to a lot of the traits mentioned above and it really resonated with my childhood. However, I can read and write fine. When I read the words aren’t jumbled. I would say that my editing skills have taken me a long time to hone and I constantly have to edit and reread. Sometimes when I’m speaking my words get jumbled and I’ll use an incorrect word or I will miss pronounce a word. I do this on a regular basis that my siblings have dubbed it “word cloud”. I think it happens more when I’m excited/angry and I’m trying to speak as fast as my thoughts . I don’t know if this has anything to do with dyslexia or if this is just a weird ‘me’ thing. Any ideas/opinions would be appreciated.

  • Dhaniah K

    Hi I’m thirteen this year and during tuition classes my teacher picked up on my simple spelling mistakes like instead of spelling funny I spelt funning and instead of silence I spelt sliecnce and I have trouble memorising my timetables and I day dream easily and I always want my work to be perfect so when its not I rip out the paper and redo it I also cannot identify left to write I also like right now don’t put full stops ad commas and I researched and took tons of test today this was after she told my mum about all of this and my mum just says I’m not focused and is obviously not gonna do anything a bout it but the truth is I’m really scared because I’m always labelled as dumb and if this is what’s holding me back from becoming the smart person I’ve wanted to be I would be so disappointed in my self but I’m convinced I have it due to all my research and I’ve cried almost 3 times today just think how smart I could have been If I didn’t have this..

    • Nikki

      I can tell you are a very smart kid just by the words and clarity you choose to explain yourself. I went through the same thing, and people still think im dumb from a distance but when they actually have a conversation with me i usually hear how smart I am. Youre a smart girl and you have got this. Dont stress. Just have confidence in yourself.

    • Adea A

      A very smart professor once told me that no one is really smart. Only smart at what they do. Which comes with skills and practice. We’re all smart as we want to be. Lucky you caught on that you learn different early on. Anything you want out of life go after. You got this!

    • Sam

      I am currently a University Student. I recently found out that i have dyslexia whilst being a uni student and i took the assessment myself without telling my parents. Obviously, when i told my parents that i have been diagnosed with dyslexia they couldn’t believe it and even to this day. But slowly they are understanding me and trying to be supportive. Truth to be told i enjoy reading but i had and still have difficulties when reading a book or some sentences. I still have difficulties with my written expression and reading problems. Looking at your comment, i can tell you are a smart and capable person and people should not judge you or label you based on your learning difficulties, because at the end of the day we all have different abilities.

      I was emotional at the time when people were judging me and its not good to be around those people. I told my close friends – i am glad as they didnt see me differently, to them i was and am the same person. Having Dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed off, as there are other celebrities who have it too like Richard Branson, Keira Knightley and Anderson Cooper and Dyslexia didnt stop them from becoming successful. As Richard Branson considers his dyslexia as a gift. I’m embracing my dyslexia, as i’m a creative individual and loves problem solving.

      Achieve your dreams, look at me i’m dyslexic and i’m studying at University- having dyslexia didn’t stop me from going to University, you’ve got the potential too 😉 To whether you go University, open a new business or whatever you are interested in , you can do it. I would highly recommend this book called Dyslexia is my superpower by Margaret Rooke. She has also written a book about successful celebrities with dyslexia- those are written in a dyslexia friendly font.

      Theres a lot of support out there such as using assistive technology softwares such as dragon, claroread, mindview and Microsoft Immersive reader too. Also having 1-1 study skills support as well with experienced tutors. I am currently use these softwares and additional to help me with my studies. Especially Mindview as I like creating Mindmaps. Be inspired 😉 Don’t give up! Unlock your potential!

  • dave

    It’s easy to get help Naomi, talk to your doctor and let him know about all of your symptoms. It will help to write them down in the notes section of your phone or paper before you get there, so that you remember them.

    I had the same issues when I was your age and I wish I had told my doctor how serious they were. Please go, and tell your parents too. Explain that these are severe symptoms and you need help.

  • Clint M

    I’m 33 yrs and I one of them can recover from it or I will live with it the rest of my life?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Clint, the Davis Dyslexia program is appropriate for all ages and will give you the tools needed to overcome most problems tied to dyslexia. Ron Davis was age 38 when he discovered the techniques that are at the heart of the program, and which allowed him to read a book for the first time in his life.

  • Richard C

    I used to spell words backwards at school sometimes , example (sgel) legs my parents would laugh about it. Wake early with inventive thoughts. Good traite. Worst trait, facial recognition and remembering peoples
    Names, set me back a lot, direction left from right.
    Great at art and invention, love reading.
    Good design skills, became a facilities manager.
    Love all sexes.
    No bias
    Main drawback in life , extremely loyal.
    Even when shouldn’t be.
    Sometimes when asked what music, or book, film I like best can’t recall it, or favourite actor.

  • Desirae

    I just received my 9 year old daughters reading point average from school. She’s in Special Education. It was a 0.5% grade level. I’m very upset. I know when they passed her from the second grade to the third that it was a mistake. My child can not read, only a few very small words. She can only write her name and each time needs to be corrected because some of the letters are backwards.. always backwards. She still struggles with the alphabet. She’s halfway through the 3rd grade. My heart is breaking because I feel I’ve failed her and that the school has given up. I need help, I need advice on where to begin to get my child REAL help. I work a lot and she has 4 other siblings, two of them being babies. I knew she was struggling but did not realize it was this bad. I’m calling the school tomorrow and will be asking for a meeting so we can discuss what actions need to be taken to legitimately help my daughter. I’ll do whatever it takes. I feel awful it’s gone on this long. Things are going to change. Any advice for a very concerned mother???

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You can find a Davis Facilitator using the online directory at https://www.davismethod.org/

      Even if there is not a facilitator near you, you can still benefit by arranging a phone conversation. Many Facilitators are willing to travel to work with their clients.

    • gigi w

      You NEED to get an EDUCATIONAL ADVOCATE for your child, they do have free ones as well. Look within your school District ASAP! They know ALL about the in-and-outs of the law regarding education and the Right to an Appropriate Free Education.
      Any Evaluations your child will need to go through the School will have to pay. And if the Advocate thinks its Bias – she will the request an ”outside re evaluation to be done.” Advocates know that the school systems are Bullies, and manipulators.
      Also it wouldn’t hurt to go public, call the local media. The school system sucks! And the IEP, nor teachers are on your side! Remember that. Go with your gut! And if the school can’t provide her with what her specific needs are – The District pays for her education elsewhere – one on one aid in school, private school, or home school with teacher.
      I HOPE THIS EMPOWERS YOU! good luck-you CAN do this!

  • Trevor N

    I had an emergency operation 6 months ago and was given a large amount of anaesthetic. I had trouble forming words
    before my operation but since I am having real difficulty forming letters that make up words. I seem to be able to form
    numbers in maths, although my ability work out the answers is suffering. I now have a problem in telling the time.
    I make excuses for all my inabilities, bad eyesight, headaches, not having enough time to do these things and then
    I give up. I get confused and frustrated quickly.
    My every day life, i.e, Shopping, work around the house is not affected. My long term memory is not affected.
    QUESTION. Do you think that the effects of the anaesthetic could have a bearing on my inability to form letters and

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, these problems could definitely be associated with your surgery, but that is a different type of dyslexia than this website is focused on. You may have “acquired dyslexia” — which is what happens when someone who had no previous problems with reading, writing, or memory develops serious problems after a head injury or illness affecting the brain — and in your case associated with something that happened during the course of your surgery. This website — and the list of common traits — is focused on “developmental dyslexia” – which is the form that individuals are essentially born with and become apparent from childhood.

      Your first step should be to consult with your doctors or with a medical neurologist — there may be various forms of occupational therapy that can help you. There might also be more medical testing needed, such as an MRI — that would be up to a medical professional to figure out. Some of the Davis techniques can also be helpful – particularly the orientation training and work with koosh balls — those are described in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia – but it is not something that we have a specific program for. We only have anecdotal information from Davis Facilitators who have worked with family members after a stroke or concussion.

  • Naomi F

    I’m trying to believe I’m not dyslectic and everything I read is just not interesting to me so its harder to read but reading is so overwhelming to me especially reading articles, books, passages literally anything with writing close together and a lot on the page at once. Reading is easier for me with bullet points or highlighting/ bold on what to read. I mean I’m in eleventh grade and I haven’t read a whole book since I think like 4th grade. When reading especially when I’m frustrated, through my eyes, it looks like the words are shaking, I often get a headache from trying so hard to focus, I skip over full sentences that just look too hard to dissect at the moment and I often mix g with j or s with c when writing. I stutter a lot when trying to say something quick and often practice what I’m gonna say in my head to avoid embarrassment although sometimes that fails. What do you think are the first steps to getting tested and treatment?

  • Steven R

    Post this encouragement if it fits.
    I loved reading this article, keep up the great work.

    I was a part of a elementary school program in Maryland in the late sixty’s, put with a bunch of other dyslexic kids that stayed together through high school. The teachers hated us but got us through. My hand writing is still illegible. I always thought I was dumb and easily overlooked accomplishments while being a kid because I was different. I was a morning paperboy and bought a VW bug in the 6th grade and turned it into a racing dune buggy (my parents were great). I built complicated wood flying model planes. (Spell check has gotten me 15 times so far writing this) I left school with a c average taking as much art and shop as I could to keep my average up. An aircraft mechanic trade school recruited me, it was so easy, I couldn’t figure out why people were struggling. I now have multiple licences, pilot, mechanic, HVAC, welding… Education is impossible for us but training is great. It turned out my dyslexia was an amazing gift. I spent my career as a designer for experimental aircraft with multiple patent disclosures and now have my own company. Dyslexia is very very difficult but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Parents be patient and encourage them. If you have it, tell yourself constantly that your are smart (you are) especially when it doesn’t feel that way. Cash in on it, literally a high percentage of us are entrepreneurs. Most important… keep a sketch pad by your bed for when you wake up, your best work will come 3 to 4 AM while sleeping.

    • Stacey V

      Amazing. Thank you. I’m starting to suspect my 12 year old has this. He’s above avg/average student but really struggles with writing and reading. He taught himself how to write a bike at 3.9 yrs and fixed my Roomba vacuum when he was 4.

    • Ilene

      It’s easy for you to get all that training for free ….. some of us …it’s not that easy ..there are programs that will fund for your schooling and additional perks for being a slow reader, and processing info…you get extra time to complete assignments, and privileges being late or forgetting homework or test dates

    • Andrea B

      Thank you for sharing your story. I’m a Maryland resident as well. Your story has brought me great hope for my 6 year old granddaughter’s greatness. She was diagnosed with Dyslexia today. I had about 20 seconds of sadness for her (she’s so sweet), snapped out of it, and then immediately started seeking information and ways I can help her express her gift. I’m looking forward to the many great gifts she presents to the world.
      A million times a million thank you for sharing. Please continue to tell your story. You might want to take your talent of inspiration to the world, especially into the schools and speak to students about the gifts of Dyslexia.

    • Christine F

      Thank you for sharing your story. I just passed it on to my Granddaughter who is having a tough time of it in 10th grade. It is difficult to see the “gift” when you are in school, but for me, finding out at 27 that I was dyslexic, and not dumb, set me free and gave me hope. I believed I was the only dumb child out of the 6 of us, with college professors as Parents. Since, I finished college, got an MBA, and a JD. One of my daughter’s, also dyslexic, followed in my steps. And a son who graduated in Art from RISD. All four are talented and have done well in their field, but I have had to fight my way through 6 IEP’s for my children and grandchildren. It is exhausting but also rewarding. Still, there is all the emotional upheaval of being ‘different’. It doesn’t feel like a gift at all. Not now, but someday soon. It means never taking ‘no’ for an answer and finding that it is just fine to just be you. Once you do that, the social misery will slip away, and others like you will find you too. There is a Gift waiting for you if you can just stay the course. Hope Springs Eternal.

  • Haleigh

    I am only now starting to realize that i might have dyslexia.
    I have been shy my whole life
    I was a bed wetter
    I have bad eye sight
    My brain is always scattered and scramble around not paying attention to what is happening
    I have trouble reading, I might wind up re-reading the same sentence/paragraph because I lost my train of thought or I didn’t understand what I just read.
    Sometimes I might see a word on a page that isn’t actually there.
    I am a light sleeper
    I have a high tolerance to pain
    I had my appendix removed when I was 7(don’t know if this is a symptom of dyslexia but it happened)
    I struggle in every math class that i have been put in. And I do much better in my art class rather geometry.
    I am known to be clumsy.
    I have had an IEP for near half of my life because of my ability to not focus or stay still long enough to, being emotionally sensitive, not being able to read or write at the same grade level as my classmates, and some more reasons.
    8 year old me got math homework everyday with a word problem that i would try so hard to get right every time but I kept getting them wrong
    I am 15 now and still struggles in mostly math classes but english classes too.
    I have told the truth about all of this. Does anyone know if I have dyslexia or not?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Haleigh, you would need to have some sort of diagnosis to have qualified for an IEP, but sometimes schools use different names or phrases to describe the same thing as dyslexia. But the symptoms you describe related to trouble with reading, maintaining focus, and understanding math word problems are all consistent with dyslexia and these are things that are covered within the Davis program for dyslexia.

    • Gina B

      Hi Haleigh,
      I am an older Dyslexic. School was a nightmare for me and everything they asked me to do made me feel more and more stupid. There were no IEP’s when I was growing up.

      But I was good at art. My penmanship and creative thinking got me through many writing assignments with a barely passing grade.

      One day a light went off when a drafting teacher gave us a structural visualization skills test. I scored 100% and could understand 3 demential objects better than any of the boys in my class. I was the only girl.

      Find out what works for you with a mentor or tutor and use those tools.

      For example, I can not takes notes lest I forget the whole lesson or meeting. So I listen well and record the teacher. Then listen to it later for review. You may do better with Audio Books?
      But you or someone at the school (parent or counselor, etc) needs to identify what works for you and be persistent about getting what you need.

      Find the things you are good at and enjoy such as art and spend time with it. Your confidence will increase once you realize that you have spacial gifts! Most Dyslexics do.

      BTW, I work in Architecture.
      GOOD LUCK!

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