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 August 14, 2020 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Abi R

    Hi my son is a very bright 7 year old. I taught him to read CVC words before he started school and he’s maintained a high reading level (well above his age) however his comprehension is very poor. He’s also excellent at maths, unless the questions are sentences, not numbers. He’s terrible at following instructions oral & written. He’s a daydreamer who struggles with focus (except when he’s really into something like chess or Minecraft). He is very sporty & has great coordination/ ball skills. His teacher is frustrated with him & now doing homeschool I’m frustrated too… He has no problems with his hearing. I just want to help him but don’t know what to do, any suggestions much appreciated!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      It sounds like your son is having trouble making sense of the words he reads. This very often happens with small, function words of language — dyslexic kids have a hard time making sense of words like “it” or “of” or “on”. We use clay modeling to make sure that the person can automatically recognize all three parts of every word –what it looks like (spelling), what it sounds like, and what it means. You can find examples of many words at http://www.symbolmastery.com. Plus, making the models of word definitions is fun and easy! This article on our website has more information: Homeschooling with Davis Symbol Mastery

  • Gemma J

    Hi, I suspect that my daughter has dyslexia. She is 8 years has suddenly and uncharacteristically started being naughty at school and being called to the head teachers office! She is stroppy at home and wont talk to me. I initially thought that it was friendship problems, but it turns out that she is popular and seems to be the ring leader, which really shocks me.
    I then started to notice that every time we tried to do homework, spellings or home reading, she had a meltdown and caused a massive problem so she avoided the work.

    Now that I am homeschooling her due to the lockdown I was shocked again. She is in the top stream at school and her reports always mention that she is doing very well but is super quiet in class. Because of this, I did not expect her spelling to be so bad, her knowledge of times tables is non-existent and even the simple things such as number value (thousands, hundreds, tens and units) she genuinely couldn’t grasp! So how is she in the top stream??? It took me nearly an hour and lots of physical coloured objects to explain it to her. She is very bright and can already bake and cook by herself and is good at sports etc. So perhaps these things are just her weak points?

    Am I over reacting or could this be dyslexia? Any advice welcome

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Gemma, your daughter’s behavior issues are a tell-tale sign that is very common among bright kids with dyslexia. She is smart enough to realize when she is having difficulty with reading, spelling & writing, and also to figure out ways to compensate in order to hide her difficulties. One way is too behave badly – it is a simple avoidance tactic, but the meltdowns you see are also a reflection of inner pain and frustration.

      I think the current lockdown actually presents an opportunity, because you can use the time to turn things around. For now, I would suggest that you take a break from paper & pencil work and instead sneak bits of reading & measuring into baking and cooking activities (since she likes those). Then get a copy of the book The Gift of Dyslexia. Read the book — does the description of dyslexia seem to fit your daughter? The book gives you the information and tools you need to start on turning things around for your daughter — and if your daughter is willing, you can get started at home.

      If you need help, you find a Davis Facilitator near you at http://www.davismethod.org. Many facilitators are participating in our pilot for on-line program delivery, which can work if you are able to spend time with your daughter to supervise and assist with online work with a Facilitator. This information is noted on their listings (“Online Pilot Participant”) If that seems too much to take on, just about any Facilitator will be able to arrange a telephone or videochat for an initial consultation — so you can get basic questions answered that way.

      Keep in mind that your daughter is clearly very bright and talented. Dyslexia just means a difference in the way that she learns — she can excel in all areas, including spelling and maths, if she is taught in a way geared to her strengths. You chose to use colored objects to try to explain place value to her, so you are on the right track and I think you will find that the Davis approach will seem fun and easy once you get the hang of it.

    • Rebekah

      Look into ‘Times Tales’ i Just stumbled upon it to help with my daughter’s math issues. She is also on honor roll, but writing and spelling are terrible.

  • Anna

    Hi, I am at a bit of a loss as what to do I am 27 now was suspected of having dyslexia noticed more in high school but was told I had problems processing information looking back there was probably not the funds for me to be tested and children failing would have been prioritised. After learning my best way to learn myself I successfully got a good degree but having worked in a professional job now for 5 years I am starting to really struggle at keeping pace and especially reading text online and doing online learning in general. Is it worth getting tested now as an adult when you have had acknowledgements from teachers etc that it is more than likely what causes my difficulties?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Anna, Davis Facilitators can work with adults– formal diagnosis and testing is not needed, as Davis Facilitator use their own screening criteria. Basically, if you are motivated and your specific problem areas and goals match what our programs are designed to support, then the program can help. The fact that you have managed to earn a degree is an indication that you are likely to experience success with a Davis program. The only value of formal testing as an adult would be if that would qualify for specific workplace accommodations, and that, in turn, would depend on the local laws where you live and some specifics concerning type of employment.

  • Nicole D

    Hi i have a 5yr old daughter who can be the most funny friendly enthusiastic character, full of life and love but ive been increasingly concerned, even more so during quarentine.
    She can write the alphabet but sometimes uses both hands switching left to right by the letter but sometimes wrotes backwards like i mean letters also all backwards not all the time tho. She colours in with both hands hasnt time or care to finish or do neatly
    Major thing is she sees backwards example sounds out B. U. S then reads SUB or worse M. A. P she said lamp.. I was tpld it may be that she is mainly left handed, IM NOT SURE she NEVER gets shoes on correct always wrong feet and clothes sometimes. She still draws like in nursery school, like big head with not much detail etc theres loads more like math she can get money into her head and mixed up add and subtract she gets angry and upset too xxxx
    Plz tell me im not imagining this xxx

  • Bianca

    I literally check off 95% of the list… I’m 20 how did I not notice how bad it was for me until so late? I thought I was just stupid.

    • Sam

      Yeah i looked at this website before getting a screening and then a further diagnosis. I’m 19 so as a i got diagnosed with dyslexia a few months ago. I thought there was something wrong with me so i went for a screening and then a further diagnosis with a specialist who provided me with a report. Don’t worry you aren’t stupid, its just the way your brain is wired differently like i’m a creative person and a good problem solver. I would say just to be sure if you want to get a diagnosis for reassurance that would be beneficial for you. I am currently a University Student so i got my diagnosis tests back in January time. I’m not a professional adviser, but i can relate to your post since i’m a student right now. I look up to the celebrities who also have it too and they are really successful in the industry. That’s inspirational for me.

  • Jessica s

    My son checks off most of these he is almost 7 in kindergarten and extremely intelligent but is so behind in reading he Is very good at math when math problems are read to him but when written he writes all of his numbers backwards and when writing a higher number the 9 he will write it backwards like writing 17 he will write it 71. Also reading he will read the word “on” as “no” and vice versa. Also he has read the word “to” to me as “ot” which is why I became concerned because I don’t know why he would sound out the letter o first and this was after he’s made a few of those mistakes.

    He’s in a special reading class but is still so far behind despite both of his teachers saying he works his “tail feather” off. He gets so frustrated easily hate school and doing school work. He always complains about headaches, his stomach hurting, and not being able to see when we do homework or he has to go to school. Neither of his teachers has said anything about maybe it being this but I wonder how normal this is or if this could be why he is struggling so much.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Jessica, your son has very classic symptoms of dyslexia. I would encourage you to look into the Davis program — our system of orientation training coupled with clay modeling will address those reversals you are seeing, and give your son the ability to easily read and understand all of the common sight words. He is probably frustrated at school because he really cannot work with the letters and numbers until the underlying perceptual processing problem has been addressed.

  • Jean TH

    My grandson is 17, he was diagnosed with this when he was 4- he has coped well- with support at school- and exhibits all of the traits you have mentioned- one day- hypo- next day flat- one day helpful- over the top, digging up the garden- planting- painting the shed- then three weeks of nothing, arguing, causing trouble, bullying his little sister. I am trying to help him get his drivers license. We sit together on the computer and he answers 100% correct- the driving tests. 200 questions, and he gets them all right- we even purchased the AA driving skills questions and have practiced for 3 months on those- How ever we have failed 4x the actual driver test. My heart cry’s for him- he try’s so hard- He was so upset- He said-‘ Nan, I’m dumb- the room is too noisy, -people are staring at me-the lady is mean-‘ Its now become personal- and I don’t want to fail him again-Before I book for him a again! Can they (NZTA) provide some-one to read the questions to him, and he chooses the answer? Can he be helped to get his learners license.

    • Sam

      Hi Jean,

      Looking at the situation, I would say that you should contact the nzta people as they should be able to make some reasonable adjustments- however dont take my word for it. I’m dyslexic and I passed my theory test on the 3rd attempt. I understand how it feels like to not ace the theory side of things. However, on my practical actual test I passed on my first attempt it having been more than 7 months of practice lessons with my instructor. As everyone is different like the way they learn. Your grandson isnt dumb he just learns different so he shouldnt say those things about himself as I can tell he is bright individual. If the nzta can make reasonable adjustments such as maybe having a scribe, extra time, read aloud software, coloured screens then possibly they should be considered. Nevertheless, I cant guarantee it so it’s best to contact the NZTA whether they can make reasonable adjustments for those who have specific learning differences.

      My advice: The main thing is your grandson passes and it doesnt matter about how many attempts it takes. And good luck with to your grandsons driving test; hopefully he succeeds it and feels proud of himself when he passes .

  • Catherine O

    Hello, I have a 5yr old daughter who is struggling in school right now and her behavior has changed also. Before going to kindergarten, she was in home daycare that very much was like preschool. She was always the 1st in her class and excelled faster than the other kids. She started reading before the other kids but her attention was always an issue. Some of the symptoms mentioned for dyslexia describes her but many of them do not. I am not sure if this is what the problem is or if she has ADD or ADHD. I do think that me and her father not being in a relationship anymore has helped to manifest some of her symptoms. She just started seeing a psychologist and I am hoping for the best. Is it ok to not have all the symptoms associated with dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Catherine, the symptoms of dyslexia are variable from one individual to another, but family stress can also make it difficult for a child to focus and learn. As your daughter is only age 5, it might be best to focus on the home setting right now, and give your daughter time to adjust to the changes. The article on this page might help you to see how outside factors can influence the ability to function well: https://www.dyslexia.com/davis-difference/davis-theory/dyslexia-and-confusion/

  • Max

    Hey, so I think I have a form of dyslexia, I can’t spell very well and when I’m reading a page of a book or something and I finish the page I forget everything that’s happened in that page, I am able to read and understand small texts, but I would never be able to read a book without reading each page 5 times, am I just dumb or have I got dyslexia

    • Sam

      Hello I find I’m like that

      • Sam

        Hi there i am currently a university student and i was currently diagnosed with Dyslexia. I had some of the symptoms that you are mentioning Max. Its best to get an assessment completed as you can find out whether you have dyslexia or any other SPLD (Specific learning difference). You are not dumb, you just learn differently to others. I sometimes having spelling difficulties and reading difficulities. So based suggestion is to get an assessment completed by a specialist. If you have some of the symptoms listed above the page, its best to get an assessment done. Thats what i did, i got an assessment done by a specialist and there could be assessment centres in your local areas as well. I hope it helps, theres support provided on this website and theres also assistive technology equipment for those with SPLDs. Those are useful. But good luck if you carry out the assessment for a diagnosis screening. But remember, those with Splds are capable of anything, we just learn differently. I’m creative- i like designing websites and creating posters- and im dyslexic. And proud of being dyslexic as for me its like a gift 🙂 There are lots of successful celebrities who also have dyslexia. Be inspired ! Good luck 🙂

  • Jason P

    This all seems HIGHLY subjective and very little concrete. You could be a one or a 10. Hard worker or lazy. Can’t sleep or sleeps deeply. Specious to say the least. I found all of it useful, or none of it useful. See what I mean?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Jason, this list was compiled in part because these are the symptoms or complaints that Ron Davis had seen over the years from people coming to his center seeking help for their problems. In isolation, no single trait is that significant – but when a person experiences a combination to the extent that they feel they have a problem and that they need help, then the cluster of symptoms often stems from common causes. So yes, it IS subjective, precisely because the individual’s own feelings and desire for help or assistance is so important.

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