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 June 2, 2020 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Frank

    I’m pretty sure I have dyslexia. Im 34. I didn’t speak till 4. I’m really shy and hate looking at people in the eyes. I have extremely low confidence. Other people can talk with people but I cant think of what to say. So I’ll just sit there. When I was a kid I would be the only one in class to not have friends. I would just sit there or try to hide.

    I dont notice things everyone else does but I notice things others dont. I have trouble looking around and finding things. I’m very socially awkward. Everyone thinks I’m weird.
    It seems like when I meet people they soon realize something is off.
    They think I’m retarded or something. My friends compare me to an autistic friend of ours and would always group us together. I’m not friends with them anymore and I have no friends now.

    This is where it gets really really bad. I cant keep a job more than 1 or 2 days becuz they’re all confusing. Arby’s and papa murphys were too hard for me. At arby’s I didn’t know what the sandwiches were under the wrapper and I couldn’t figure out the register and what order to push the buttons. Everyone starts yelling at me cuz they have to show me things 500 times.

    I got 30 jobs and quit them all less than a week. Every kind of job. A delivery job I would always forget to have them sign and kept forgetting where to have them sign.
    I have terrible hand writing and art. When I tried to draw a cat it looked like a 4 yr old drew it.

    I guess I’m good looking so people dont think it’s possible to be slow. When I cant understand the job my work gets really bad and my coworkers think I’m just being a lazy worker, but that’s not true I just dont understand and when they try to teach me i get more confused then they start yelling at me. Then they’ll tell their co workers how dumb I am and then everyone knows. At every job. I want to understand the job but peoples’ frustration would cause a terrible work environment. And then I quit and get really really depressed. Then I start drinking.

    I have a ton of thoughts that go thru my head and think people are all trying to sabotage me. I approached a lot of people I think these thoughts of, and mentioned my thoughts to find out and they dont know what I’m talking about.

    Does this sound like dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Frank, dyslexia stems from a difference in the way the mind processes information. The root is a language processing problem — that is, dyslexics have difficulty making sense of words — coupled with a tendency to disorient easily when confused or upset. From what you say it sounds like you have those two problems. However, these could also overlap with problems that would be labeled in other ways — your social awkwardness could indicate that you are also on the autistic spectrum. Davis Facilitators are able to help individuals with these sorts of problems as well, as all of our programs begin with providing tools to eliminate disorientation, and then a system to eliminate the underlying sources of confusion. But it does take commitment to work through a Davis program.

  • susette g

    I always had problems in school lining thing things like pegs up. Later in life I cant use anything electronic I cant figure out a computer when things disappear and come back. I also cant use a smart phone. I cant go around the corner without getting lost.I do everthing backwards. Everytime Im supposeto push a door to open it I will pull it. Or pull it I push it. I do everything backwards im so embarrased of myself someman told me years ago that his wife worked with people that had dsylexia I told him my problem he said my problem is a new type of dsylexia did you ever hear of a problem like this I feel so stupid what is it?

  • Elisa

    I have always struggled to read out loud it’s almost like the words get mixed up in my mind and I start to stutter. I get words like ‘are, because, cause, too, and the’ wrong way around. I get so nervous anyone calls me up to read or write anything. When I am reading out loud I can see a word I know but sometimes it takes me about 15 seconds to say it.

  • Jacquie R

    I am 26 and have ADHD and as well thinking I am dyslexic.
    I can’t focus on anything for too long. Reading just hurts my head.
    I have been unable to do a university degree as I can not write nor spell well.
    I want to know if there’s anything I can do regarding my writing and spelling? I do not read as I don’t understand the words most of the time and forget what I have read.
    Thank you

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Jacquie, the Davis program can help adults and will definitely help with the attention focus and reading comprehension. You can find a list of Davis Facilitators at http://www.davismethod.org — you can email or call for a consultation to learn more.

  • Temitope A

    Hello, am 15 years old, actually I find it difficult to read and understand immediately whenever am reading a school note but when reading some novels or watching movies I understand even before watching to the end and whenever am reading I will pronounce some words wrongly which I used to think I had a problem with my eyes and I find it difficult to understand in class no matter the number of times the teacher explains and I have more problem solving my math problems and even when it comes to writing an essay like debate it becomes very difficult which makes me feel really bad. Sometimes I am gentle and I find it hard to relate with people and always scared of answering questions in class because am scared of not getting it correctly and I once had a ear problem which was checked but nothing was in it, but there was a difference in my results when I had a lesson teacher for after school class. Is it that I have dyslexia or am just not intelligent.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The symptoms you describe are very common for dyslexia. Dyslexia is not tied to intelligence — rather, it is a difference in the way the mind processes information. Most dyslexic people think mostly in pictures, so when reading there is a need to mentally translate all the words into the pictures that make sense for the mind. You probably are able to do that easily for the novels you understand and enjoy, but run into problems for school assignments when there are words that confuse you, if you cannot form a mental picture to match the word.

  • Mia M

    Hi there. I’ve got dyslexia and was diagnosed a few months ago. I’m currently a university student, I wanted to know do you have any useful studying tools for dyslexic students? Its because I’m losing focus in my studies right now because of lockdown. If you have any advice on this, that would be great 🙂

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Mia, during the lockdown, many Davis Facilitators are providing full Davis programs online. You will find a list of these providers at https://www.davismethod.org/online

      It is best to use the map on that page to try to find a Facilitator near you — even though the services are now being given online, it’s a good idea to choose someone who will be able to meet with you face-to-face after restrictions are lifted. Also, it’s easier all around to arrange for service if you and your provider are in the same time zone.

  • Angel

    Hi there, I have a 7 year old daughter that I suspect I may have some kind of learning disability. She gets very anxious before she even starts her math or reading, her body gets tense she says she can’t do it and it’s a whole ordeal to get started and through it. She complains reading gives her a headache and I’ve noticed she will read starting with the last letters of the words first sometimes
    .With her math she may know the answer but will very frequently flip numbers around and when I tell her and ask her to fix them she gets very upset stating that it is correct. She is very smart and understands so much, I just want to help her feel confidant.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Your daughter’s anxiety is a very common aspect of dyslexia — it is also something that will make dyslexia worse. That is, if your daughter becomes tense and anxious every time she is asked to read or do written work, then her difficulties will increase. The solution is to provide the child with strategies to help her stay calm and relaxed and to maintain her focus, as well as teaching strategies that are geared to her learning style and current level of readiness. For most children age 7, we would recommend a Davis Reading Program for Young Learners.

  • Sam P

    I have a suspicion that my son may have dyslexia, both myself and my husband have it. He is 12 years old and I thought was coping well at school. He has a laptop for English due to being left handed and his handwriting is often (not all ways) illegible, he is having online handwriting lessons and does well in these until he has to write something in his book then it goes back to floating above the line and starting in the middle as appose to the margin as well as being illegible.
    Due to lockdown he has to read and then answer questions for all subjects, whilst doing history today he read the script then couldn’t remember what he had read about, the same was in English, when i read it to him he remembered parts but not the important bits and couldn’t get the words right. Even though he kept reading it he still didn’t know. He daydreams alot and when I ask him what he is doing he responds ‘he is thinking how to write it but doesn’t know how to put it into words’ so dictates whilst I type, this I do to stop his frustration.
    He is very sporty and brilliant with coordination but lacks confidence and says he is so behind as he cant write fast enough or clear enough. He cant revise as he can’t read what he has put and this frustrates him. He lacks confidence with his school work other than drama and sports.
    He is teary and very emotional about his work and this normally ends up with us arguing and him then having a strop and storming off.
    Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sam, the problems you describe are tied to disorientation and the way your son thinks and processes words. Most dyslexics do not think with words or an internal mental monologue — instead they are thinking in pictures or other sensory impressions. So they have to take an extra step to make sense of the words they read or hear. Reading out loud or writing independently can be particularly difficult, because it requires them to do two things at once to manage both the input and output. The tears and arguing are clear signs of frustration — and there really is no point of trying to continue or push past that. It simply is not possible for a person to learn or retain new information when they are in an upset or emotional state.

      The Davis tools for dyslexia specifically address these problems – they include simple procedures to build self-awareness and maintain mental focus and a sense of calm; and a system for mastering the meanings of all the small words of language that add to the confusion. (words like “of”, “the”, “that”, “to” — if those words don’t make sense to a picture-thinker, then reading is going to be very exhausting. This is all explained in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia — or you can contact a Davis Facilitator (www.davismethod.org) for more information.

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