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 September 25, 2018 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Sophie H

    Hi, I have been tested for dyslexia in elementary school but nothing came off it. Now in middle school My mum has been looking into it and found this website and said that I have been doing most off these things and I didn’t relised I done them I thought it was normall. My school hasn’t done anything about it and they think I’m lying I want to know if I can do something to help myself because it’s becoming a problem. Please help

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sophie, I would encourage you and your mum to get the book The Gift of Dyslexia and read it together. With your mum’s help, you may be able to learn to use the tools described in the book to overcome your dyslexia on your own. If you want more help than the book can give, then the next step would be to consult with a Davis Faciliator; your mum can find the name of a nearby facilitator here: https://www.davismethod.org/loc/uk for listings

  • Motherslove

    My son is 8 yrs old. He really doesn’t like to read. Matter fact go to school period. But I’ve notice that he gets his letter mix up (b&d). Also when i have him to read to me he always pronounce the middle of the word. (ANSWER/WERSNA). or say same for come. My son loves basketball and can shoot and dribble. No problem there. He also writes his two digit numbers where he will write the last number 1st and then put the right number in front. Just wondering if i need to get him tested or not. PLEASE help. Thanks

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Your son’s problems are very common signs of dyslexia. If you are interested in learning more about a Davis program, formal testing for dyslexia is not needed – a Davis Facilitator would provide screening that is appropriate to our program. However, if you are interested in getting your son tested through his school, you might find helpful information here: FAQ: School Testing for Dyslexia

  • Kelby R

    I am 16 and was diagnosed with dyslexia as an elementary student, however my school did very little to help me and I strove to help myself for years. Now as a high school student in a different state none of my paper work saying that I am dyslexic has transferred and I am having to speak to my concler about being tested again. And I was researching about how to get tested, my English teacher and I got into a bit of an argument. Her saying that I wasn’t and my spelling and behavior saying otherwise. I found this page and it has helped me to better understand my own behavior and how dyslexia has effected me in ways that I didn’t realize it was. I have always been considered artistic and creative as well as bright and quick as a whip. I made myself learn to read and have done pretty well for myself, on my own and it was not an easy process. I forced myself to read the Harry Potter books, which was no easy task for the first book. However I taught myself to read around my dyslexia for lack of a better way to put it. I am now an avid reader and am very rarely with out a book. I also have been reading at a college rate even though I had been practically unable to read until the forth grade. I taught myself that putting neon pink sticky notes around my math problems helps me to read them properly. Is this a common trick? I have struggled with math for years and now have the highest average I have ever had an 96. Is this common?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kelby, it is not common for young people with dyslexia to overcome their problems with reading or math on their own, but certainly quite possible and it is an indication that you are extremely bright and creative. As you now have good reading skills, I would encourage you to read the book The Gift of Dyslexia — you might be able to find it at a local library. Reading the book will help you understand our approach and whether it is similar to yours, and might also give you greater insight or ideas for additional strategies that you can use.

  • Pola

    A year ago, I started writing ‘yourself’ always ‘yourslef’. This continued for long, it still is. However, I started also writing in a similar manner many words. It doesnt matter whether is typing or handwriting, I will jumble, or suddenly forget how a word is spelled (which has never happened before), and I will create my own spelling. I have never been diagnosed with Dyslexia, but I wonder whether it is this condition.? Thank you

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You don’t mention your age, but if this only began in adulthood, it could be a symptom of health problems other than dyslexia. Most of the information on this web site is about developmental dyslexia, which is something that is inborn and symptoms are usually apparent during childhood and early school years, though sometimes not diagnosed until later. If a person suddenly develops symptoms in adulthood, it could be “acquired dyslexia”, which is typically a result of some sort of brain injury or stroke. So it would be important to discuss the new symptoms with a medical doctor.

  • Andrea

    Is there such thing as a dyslexic memory?
    I don’t have issue with reading, math, etc, as far as seeing and comprehending the words/letters accurately. I can remember names, faces, places, events, etc.. but the lines connecting who did what, where, and when, what their name was, etc, gets all jumbled up. I especially have poor memory for numbers, but I am good at figuring things out, which I use to compensate. I often have to count things out on my fingers, discreetly, because I don’t have basic math memorized.
    I’m certainly an artistic person, and have been described as being a daydreamer in the past, and was diagnosed with ADD as a teen.
    I’ve been told a family member is dyslexic, as well.
    So now I’m wondering, as I seem to have a number of the symptoms, but not what I thought was the main one (of seeing numbers/letters/words etc, incorrectly).. is what I have described also a form of dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Andrea — many of the problems you describe could stem from the same cause as dyslexia. Dyslexia symptoms are caused by disorientation when a person is confused, and dyslexics typically are confused by written symbols (letters, words, numbers). But there is a strong overlap between dyslexia and ADHD; disorientation can also affect perception of time and cause difficulty with sequential sequencing and memory.

  • Rob

    I have dyslexia. I am 43 and learned to live with it now for quite some time. I would encourage, dyslexics or non dyslexics, to read The Gift of Dyslexia. It will give you some insight on what it’s like being dyslexic and how it’s not a burden, but truly a gift.

    When I was a kid, in schools, I was labeled dumb, slow, and not able to learn. Math was always my worst subject. Reading and comprehension was also a huge struggle for me. There was no help for me in school. I just had to learn my tricks to get by. Music was the only subject that I was good at. Reading sheet music though, the notes seemed to shake on the page. I would end up memorizing the music so I didn’t have to read the page.

    It wasn’t until I was in college and a teacher, who was a psychologist, noticed my issues. He booked an appointment for me. I took the tests and sure enough, I was dyslexic. Turns out I had a high IQ. I was a better musician because of my dyslexia. I work in the IT field now. I accelerate at it because I not only see the problem, but any future issues that may come up.

    If you think your kid has it, get them tested. There’s no harm to them or you. If they are, great!! They can get help at school. If they’re not, great!! Maybe a tutor or something else will help them. My son has dyslexia. He has an IEP now, and it really helps.

    Please don’t wait though. I never got help with it. School, life, everyday is a struggle. If they get the help now, later on in life, they will prosper even more.

    • Richlyn V

      Wow I really admire youuu for that!! My boyfriend also has dyslexia and he just said it to me last night. I was shocked and I cried because now I understand that sometimes he can get wrong with the things that I say but I really admire him tho. He is one of a kind, beyond smart and he is really talented!! I love him! ☺️

  • Carina W

    Where can an adult go to get tested/ evaluated in New Orleans, La.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Carina, you may find this page of our website helpful to better understand your options:

      If you want something that can be provided to an employer or a college to prove that you are dyslexic and qualify for accommodations, then you will need a formal diagnostic assessment.

      If you want help for your dyslexia, a Davis facilitator can provide informal, program-specific screening. Here is a link to our provider directory page for Louisiana: https://www.davismethod.org/loc/louisiana/

      The Davis program works well for adults and all Davis Facilitators can work with adult clients.

  • Leslie

    My son is 13. He was born 3 months early. I’ve notice over the years that he has had a lot of problems. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, CAPD, learning disabilities in abstract math and reading comprehension. He was held back from kindergarten due to being developmentally behind. Then he failed first grade due to finding out at the end of the year they thought he had ADHD. The past three years he has failed the end of grade test but the school pushes him through to the next grade because he shows a little improvement. From doing research and reading this article I believe my son has dyslexia. He has an IEP at school but I don’t feel they are giving him the help he needs. I have voiced my concerns but they say they don’t see the same problems I see. How can that Be? He get very emotional when he has to read a story and answer questions. I always hear “I don’t understand”. I don’t know how to help him. What should I do?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Please read The Gift of Dyslexia. We have a different view of dyslexia and a different approach, successful in part because we understand the bigger picture and provide tools to address the full range of difficulties that can be part of a dyslexic learning profile. The book is the best source of information to understand our view and approach.

    • Deanna T

      I too have a son that has gone through everything you speak of. There is nothing WRONG with your child and they WILL BE FINE. I listened to The Gift of Dyslexia because I have trouble reading myself. However, my son had an IEP, has a high IQ and very creative! I tell him Dyslexia is his super power. He builds, draws, sings, is in acting, knows everything about planes you can imagine but he struggles in math. I spoke to my mom yesterday and told her he said he hates math and she said, “Tell him, join the club, none of us are good at math.”

      I tried so hard to get help with my son and I HAD TO FORCE THE SCHOOL’S hand to get him tested. I even went as far as to get him into Seattle’s best school for kids with Dyslexia, Hamlin Robinson. When they denied us, I thought I would die. He still has never OFFICIALLY been tested, I’ve tried to get special counselors that deal with Dyslexia called the entire city, I even had a client that said he would help and nothing. Things have dies down a little, had I not been my son’s advocate, he would not have the extra help he has today. His father, said to me, “You spearheaded this whole thing” and after all the testing and the parent teacher meetings, he only showed up to two appointments. So yes, I’ve felt very alone in all of this but you and your child are not. I don’t know what the answer is, but they will both be fine. Whoopi Goldberg is Dyslexic and so is RICHARD BRANSON, Louis Gosset Jr and so many others.

  • Amal A

    Hi, I’m Amal.. The last year I have asked you about some learning problems concerning my 6 years old daughter, who is now 7 years old. And thanks for giving me your sincere advice which helped me a lot to understand that she has a normal case of a foreign language learner. This time, my second daughter is 5 years old. She is studying English as first foreign language. She has a kind of reversal writing, sometimes in Arabic as well as in English: the letters seem to be as you watch them in a mirror, besides, she writes English from right to left and vice versa in Arabic which is to be written from right to left. Is there a problem or it’s just a matter of time? Thanks for helping us.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Amal, because your daughter is only 5, the reversals might be part of the normal developmental process. However, you can help her by having her model each of the letters from both the English and Arabic alphabets with clay. Do the alphabets separately and take your time; make it a fun activity — for example, it is fine if she only models one letter during a session. The use of the 3-dimensional media and the physical and tactile involvement of her hands with the clay will help her develop the brain connections to learn and remember the orientation of each letter. If the learning takes place in a fun and playful context, then she will begin to learn well and won’t experience the feelings of frustration that can make dyslexia worse.

      You are right to be attentive and concerned, but the work with clay is a fun and useful activity for all children at beginning learning stages, and can also help prevent difficulties for children who have dyslexic tendencies.

  • stacey

    I have a 9 year old son who is struggling in spelling and writing in school. He is extremely intelligent in other areas so I thought for the past 2 school years he just wasn’t trying in the subject that are least interesting to him. It has been a big struggle to help him as he gets so frustrated when asked to study and review spelling words. I have a friend that has experience in dyslexia and told me I should have him tested. I thought she was crazy until I did some research and found that mom son has almost all of the symptoms mentioned. I am very interested in learning as much as possible so I can better help him. Please let me know what is the first steps for a 9 year old so I can help him better succeed in school.

    Thank you

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Stacey, a good first step is to read the book The Gift of Dyslexia . The book will help you understand more about your son’s learning strengths and weaknesses, and give you the information needed if you would like to try using some of the Davis tools on your own at home.

      It is also a good idea to discuss your concerns with your son’s school. If you ar in Canada, the laws that provide for dyslexic students vary in different provinces, so you will need to check locally to find out whether the school will provide testing or extra support services, and if so, the process for arranging that.

      If your son seems to read well but has difficulty with writing and spelling, it may be difficult to get a formal “diagnosis” of dyslexia, as many diagnostic tests focus mostly on reading skills. Your son might be one of the kids who fits the category, “Isn’t ‘behind enough’ or ‘bad enough’ to be helped in the school setting.” But kids who fit that profile often do very well with Davis techniques — I think precisely because they are bright and capable and simply need an approach targeted to their learning strengths.

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