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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  • Kate

    Hi, my name is Kate, and I’m 15. I got 31 of the thins off the list above, but my teachers all think I just have confidense issues in my English and other languages. I’ve always done really well in most subjects and have been labeled as bright, so people think I can’t have dyslexia. Is it possidle it is just my confidence?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kate, a person can be very bright and dyslexic — that’s very common actually — but you probably would not qualify for extra support at school if you do well in most subjects. However, if you are dyslexic, it could be preventing you from achieving all that you are capable of. You may have to put in extra time and energy to keep up in school– for example, if it takes you 3 hours to do a homework assignment that other students can complete in 1 hour, then you won’t be able to do as much. Lack of confidence wouldn’t cause you to experience 31 of the symptoms on this page – though it certainly could work the other way around. That is, the problems you experience may very well contribute to lack of confidence.

      The best advice I can give you is to talk to your parents and share your concerns with them.

  • Fey

    My name is Fey, am 59yr old. I don’t like reading at all from childhood till now. I always prefer to listen to the audio version of every book…..or nothing. What do you think it is???

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Fey, if reading has always been difficult or uncomfortable for you, then it is quite possible that you are dyslexic. Given your age, it would have been very common for dyslexia to have gone undiagnosed while you were a child.

  • Jay E

    Whenever I’m at work, sometimes I tend to which around the numbers displayed on the screen, (ex. the total was $2.90), and I kept stating it as $9.20 in confidence even I know that milk isn’t that expensive. I do it quite a lot, and sometimes if i’m reading, even though I love it, the words tend to move in a wavy line (even on my cellphone) sometimes. I repeatedly misspell words after several times that I already know now to spell, like getting mixed up with “now” and “know”. I’m good at math, but even though i’m 16 I still have to use my fingers and I can’t get the right numbers otherwise or forget it, even with basic math. I can’t concentrate, I’m starting to not do school work and essays (I love essay writing/writing in general because I can get a lot done but I have lost interest now). Teachers say I always know the information but I have a hard time voicing this aloud or writing it down as they say too many things are happening at once in my brain. I hate reading aloud to groups, and I always skip ahead in sentences and never really get the information only if I go over it again. Like, I don’t like reading new books in the library as I can’t get into them because I prefer reading books I feel confortable with (such as ones I’ve already read, because i know the plot easier if i’ve read it before, and how it’s written.)

  • Mark

    Hi, I am a 40 years old. And for a long time think I may have a dyslexic problem. For many years I didn’t need to do much reading and writing. But doing more now. I miss spell words, been told I don’t type sentences correctly. If I not sure on the spelling of words I need I use words I know. I some times misperness words wrongly. Ones said potatoes instead of bananas. And sometimes have problems getting the right words out when talking. I don’t like talking infront of groups of people if I reading out. And I don’t always read everything, I read bits. Or skip bits out. I going for a test in a few weeks. As I ask for one at work. As I didn’t know you could do it. Do you think I have dyslexia.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Mark, the symptoms you describe are consistent with dyslexia. Dyslexis tend to think more in pictures than with words, and the problems you describe are a result of confusion over the meanings of words and disorientation. Please keep in mind that it is possible that you can be dyslexic, but not be able to document it through testing or diagnosis, simply because you don’t perform poorly enough on the test to qualify for official diagnosis. It can be hard for adults to prove dyslexia for that reason. That is a problem with the testing methods and standards, because over time most people figure out ways to cope with their dyslexia. But I think that getting tested is a good first step for you.

  • Sarah

    My 10year ticks so many of the traits. Especially the hearing and speech. I took him to a specialist center when he was 7 and after tests he came back as 97percent chance of dyslexia. After spending £500. The report came back as he is just a bit behind. He is spelling phonetically so therefore is not dyslexic. Well three years on still spelling phonetically. He has a tutor who thinks he is dyslexic, but a school who says no. They have given him a part time scribe and he completed a English test and exceeded the school and national average. Without a scribe he would just be staring at his paper wondering how to start. So frustrating,

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sarah, a pattern of purely phonetic but erroneous spelling is very common for dyslexia, and something that I would consider to be a sign of dyslexia — not something that would negate dyslexia. An example is that my son used to spell the word “they” as “thae”. I’d encourage you to look into a Davis program because it sounds like your son is very bright and could do much better if given help geared to his learning needs and strengths.

  • Soc

    Hello, I’m 21 years old and the concern I have is that very bad at spellings, I tend to write ‘d’ as ‘b’ or ‘p’ as 9 at times. I also get confused with Roman numerals and words with similar spellings, for example: instead of writing ‘python’ I write ‘Phyton’.
    I also a left handed person but there are a few things I do with my right hand. I often get confused while using the spoon to eat because I don’t seem to remember which hand I usually use the spoon. I often tend to read the words wrong too.
    I’m also tagged as a ‘zoned out’ person, a class clown, a person who is sensitive to many things. But I do have great communication skills.
    The thing which is worrying me most is that everyone has started tagging me as a dyslexic person .

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Soc, your writing and spelling errors are clear signs of dyslexia. If you feel this is a problem, then the letter reversals and transpositions could be easily corrected with a Davis program. Spelling takes a longer time to correct because English spellings are so inconsistent, but a Davis program would give you tools that would help with dyslexia over time.

  • Cheryl

    I think my ex boyfriend has dyslexia. He often pronounces words wrongly and sounds like he’s underwater when he talks. My teacher has been worried about him and he has 20 symptoms of the above. But I myself have 12, could it just be a coincidence or ???

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Cheryl, We provide this checklist to help people understand common traits of dyslexia, and also to understand the breadth of traits, and that dyslexia is more than simply problems with reading and spelling. If a person regularly experiences 20 symptoms from the list, that would be a strong indication of dyslexia. But many symptoms can also have other causes. For example, speech and language difficulties could also be the result of a hearing impairment. So reading a list online can’t provide a diagnosis, it is only a guideline that can help people know when they should seek further services from professional.

  • Anna

    I’m Anna and I’m 16, my father has dyslexia and I never thought of myself having it until a couple of years ago. I work in a restaurant where we call out the orders on a speaker and if the number is 123 I will want to say 231. I do fine in school but not well in math or Spanish. Math has never clicked with me and Spanish is just confusing. I’m also starting to drive now and I have noticed when I go to break I forget if it’s on the right or left. Could I be dyslexic or is it just a phase I’m going through??

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Anna, the problems you describe could all be traits of dyslexia. Dyslexia is not something that you either have, or don’t have. It is the result of differences in the way the brain processes information, and it is different for each individual. A person can have only a few symptoms of dyslexia, or many; the symptoms could be mild or very severe, and they could vary at different times.

      The important question to ask yourself is, do you think you have a problem? If so, do you want help with that problem.

      Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, especially when learning something new, or when under stress. And students can have difficulty with learning math or a foreign language without being dyslexic. We use the term dyslexia when there is a regular pattern of difficulties, which causes significant difficulty for you, and that pattern seems to be related to a dyslexic learning style.

  • Spenzer D

    I’m 15, but I don’t see words backwards. I have prescription glasses, but will put brith for birth, just almost did it again. I will put words in the wrong order, and think it’s right. I have done it about 5 times just writing this. I have a high pain tolerance, I had a spiral fracture too my femur and didn’t cry a tear. Screw big math problems, I can’t follow a lot of them. Could I possibly be dyslexic??

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, you could possibly be dyslexic. Dyslexia is not seeing words backwards — in fact, although some dyslexics do see or write words backwards, that is a fairly uncommon symptom. Mixing up the order of letters is a much more common symptom.

  • Casey

    Hi im casey im 25 years old. Im working in a hotel as front desk staff. I always do check out sometimes what i mean to say is room 412 but i always say room 214 or 124. I also have a problem on typing what i mean is the word “their” but i might type it “thire” and other more but putting it to auto correct so i dont have to re do the work. Do you think i have dyslexia even in my age.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Casey, a person can have dyslexia at any age. The problems with switching the order of numbers is a common symptom of dyslexia. The problem with your typing words could also be a symptom of dyslexia, but it could also simply be bad typing — I think the difference is whether you know you are making a mistake when you type “thire”. In any case, auto-correct is a wonderful tool to have.

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