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.
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  • Kelly T

    My 8 year old granddaughter transposes numbers and letters…that is why I’m concerned about dyslexia. She will see “92” but write “29”. She also has trouble with writing words like “hear”…she will write “haer”. I’m not sure if her school has a way to test for this. Any suggestions? I’m a teacher, so I know the importance. She and her sister are living with me and her grandfather. I notice because I am always doing homework with her. Thank you!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The Davis techniques will resolve transpositions — you may be able to successfully integrate these tools with your granddaughter on your own. The basic techniques are explained in the book The Gift of Dyslexia.

      • Kira's mom

        I would have her evaluated. You can research Speech pathologists in your area (some are pricier than others). The Whole Child is an organization in some areas that may offer testing.
        Go with your gut! Other parents told me, if you have a feeling, follow it. I just had my 7 year old evaluated, after being concerned for almost a year, she has [now] been diagnosed. The more I research it, the more obvious it has become. Hard truth to hear, but validation with a plan to move forward.

  • Khristina

    My 7 yr old is now in second grade. She has an IEP for speech and reading. She started out with speech delay. At the age of 1 I started to question her speech. It took 4 years to get her help. Everyone wanted to blame it on the fact that we speak two languages in the home. My child spoke neither. Since kindergarten I have thought she may have dyslexia. Teachers told me know it was a speech issue. She confuses letters and numbers. Now the school wants to agree with me. They recommended I have her tested. It’s aggravating that the teachers assume that I don’t understand the aspects of my child’s learning delays. I have wanted guidance for 3 yrs. my child checks off on more than 10 of these symptoms. I have learned to fight for my child and her academic needs. If you believe your child has a learning disability don’t give up until testing is done.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kristina, if the school agrees that testing is required, then in the U.S. all public schools are legally required to provide that testing at no charge to you. Don’t let the school “recommend” that you take on an expense that you are entitled to. If your daughter is in a private school, then you are still entitled to free testing from the local public school district.

  • Karen

    After homeschooling for k-4, my 9 yr old decided to attend public school. At home, we were ableto adapt her learning to her strengths, but at school she is struggling.
    – confuses b,d,q, r, I, l etc in writing, spelling words
    -trouble putting thoughts into words and into sentences
    -struggles with concepts such as nouns/verbs even after repeated lessons etc
    -trouble recalling learning, like memorizing science terms
    – spelling is always difficult, and reinforcing with repetitive work doesn’t seem to help “memorize” the correct spelling
    Reads just below grade level, but can read
    Struggles in math

    She is getting tested at school for dyslexia, but I’m struggling with how to best work with her gifts.

  • Shawn

    My 7 year old daughter is struggling in 2nd grade, this is the 2nd time I have asked them to evaluate her for a learning disability and I’m now waiting. I was denied the 1st time because her test scores weren’t low enough. She just tested and they are low, so I’m asking again. Her teacher is saying she doesn’t pay attention, she’s drifting off in class and doesn’t follow directions, although she has never made me aware. I had a conference and I don’t feel she is concerned because she has deemed my child a behavioral issue. What can I do?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Shawn, I am sorry that your school is giving you such a hard time. My experience over the years has been that some schools are very good about providing services for dyslexic students, and some simply give parents the runaround and make them fight every step of the way — and those schools usually don’t have effective service to offer in any case. If you simply wait to see what the school will do, your child suffers. So I think the best option is to be proactive and explore options for outside services for your child– that will also help you become more knowledgeable if the school does offer services. Of course we always recommend that parents read The Gift of Dyslexia to understand our view and approach to dyslexia.

      Behaviors such as not paying attention, drifting off in class, and not following directions are all symptoms of dyslexia. They stem from disorientation and difficulties processing the meaning of language.

  • Christine

    My daughter is 7 and I hade a meeting with her teacher yesterday and she informed me that she has been struggling a lot in second grade writting,reading,spelling pernouncing words correctly ,easy in class instructions she has a hard time following direction,simple task that she has done over and over again she will forget all of a sudden, and she can be in her own little world ,she is the sweetest girl and ever sense kindergarten they have been worried about her falling behind and always wanted to keep her another year ,but I thought she just wasn’t pushing herself enough or needed to focus better ,but now the teacher is telling me I should talk to her teacher ,I am concerned and a little scared .

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Christine, I would encourage you to make an appointment with a Davis provider as well as to continue to work with your daughter’s teacher. A Davis program can help address all the problems you have listed. To find a provider near you, go to https://www.davismethod.org/ (If there isn’t a provider close by, you can arrange a phone consultation with someone farther away– it’s just much better to be able to talk directly with someone).

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