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 December 10, 2018 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • becci

    My 8 year old son really struggles with his hand writing but can read well. I’ve been told by his school they don’t think there is a problem. He knows exactly what he wants to say but can not get it on to paper, he has poor co ordination and is very clumsy, struggles with time gets very confused trying to work out the time. He can’t tie he shoe laces or ride his bike. His teacher is constantly telling him his work is not good enough which is crushing my son, he is extremely sensitive and has low self esteem. Most of the men in my family are dyslexic so I’m very aware there may be a problem but I’m also concerned that maybe I’m over thinking it because of my family being dyslexic.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      There can be several different reasons for a young child to have difficulty with handwriting and poor coordination. Dyslexia or another, related learning difference (dysgraphia or dyspraxia) — but there could also be separate, physical problems. You may find it helpful to go through our assessment survey at https://www.testdyslexia.com/ That will help give you a better sense of whether your son’s symptoms are restricted to writing and motor skills, or seem to overlap into other areas. Of course, the more the symptoms overlap, the more likely that it could be a form of dyslexia.

      In any case, the teacher’s criticism is inappropriate and not helpful — I hope you will be able to address that at your school. A Davis Facilitator would be happy to evaluate your son for the Davis program, to determine whether our program might help.

    • kdavis

      i’m 17 years old and I have dyslexia and your son needs to know that he’s not alone, that he’s smart and that he can do any and everything anyone else can he just may have to work a little harder. I always thought the time thing was just me, but i would recommend getting your son a watch i wear one all the time now because i constantly like to know what time it is, not sure why but i do, it might make him feel better. i couldn’t tie my shoes for a long time either, I had a friend teach me in class so i could slowly do it on my own, couldn’t ride a bike till i was in the 6th grade either. Most of my family is also Dyslexic, my mother and my brother, the school i went to at the time had a specific Dyslexia class that help taught me how to get my words out without stuttering so much and helped me get my spelling down. It never goes away but while he’s young he should try to learn how to cope and learn in his own way before he gets any older. Some medication also may help, mine helps me keep my mind focused during the school day so i wont be so easily distracted. Trust me he’ll turn out fine, I have and now i just kinda play off all my dyslexia moments off as blonde moments.

  • Anon

    How can I be tested for dyslexia? I’m 17 years old and I have trouble with writing skills and I’m still in school. As I agree with the symptoms of dyslexia mentioned above with having it, is it legit or do I have a case of incompetent teenage syndrome?

  • Chloe

    I had a dyslexia test last year but it came back and said that I don’t have dyslexia.
    However I have problems with spelling simple words and spell them how them are said.
    I also have to re read questions and book several times to understand the information. I am also a very slow reader and hate reading out loud in class as I often skip words or lines – which I find embarrassing. My work often lacks depth and has many grammar errors. Even when I use word check the correct word does not come up as my spelling is wrong. I struggle with their, there and they’re ect.
    I regularly mix numbers around when speaking and writing down leading me to get the answers wrong. I find it very hard to spot mistakes in my writing as I read it as correct.
    I also find it very hard to express and write down what I want to say and find it difficult finding a specific word when writing.

    • Gary f

      Well you’re just like me . But unfortunately i was born in 1963 . So when i went to school i was told i was just THINK. In my day ddyslexia wasn’t known . So i was bully ed and i had a bad time as a kid .

    • jackie

      I have the same problems but I’m 19 and my mother never let me get test because she didn’t want me to be labeled and get more bullied. I finally talked her into finding out what wrong with me and one of the teachers told me I may be dislexic but when I tried to get tested at school they told me if I was I would have know if there was anything wrong with me and I they basically told me that I am just doing that to get an easyer time in class. so I never got tested because the teacher was my history and I was failing her class so I got ashamed and yeah

    • Marc P

      Some Dyslexia tests / supporting organisations are more sophisticated than others. Perhaps try a different test / organisation ?

  • B. Johnson

    I have been told by one of our specialists that my 7 year old has dyslexia signs and she feels strongly that is where her struggles are coming from. (I teach and have tried using my village to help me!). She is right above average on her reading fluency. She is struggling with words that have vowel teams and more than one syllable at times. (Mainly sight words). Her reading is not my concern. Her writing is what is so bad. She has a hard time spelling words and will often misspell words . Her handwriting is pretty bad for her age. She seems to spell aloud much better than writing. I kept thinking dysgraphia and then this specialist immediately said dyslexia. Would her fluency be great but the writing be the difficult part with dyslexia? I am doing research and came across this page and wanted to ask. Thanks in advance!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Dysgraphia is a broad category and can have several different causes. For a small child, other than shared causes with dyslexia, the most common reason for difficulty would related to motor skills development. It is possible for a child to appear to be fluent with reading but have other difficulties related to dyslexia, such as with spelling in handwriting. Usually these are given different labels, like dysgraphia and dysorthographia, but often they stem from similar causes.

  • Me

    I am 20 years old and almost through college. I have struggled in school my whole life. I have always thought there was something wrong with me like having ADHD or something, but my mom would never get me tested or never believe me. I stuggle with reading and having the words either go fuzzy, I can’t concentrate on them, or they start to move, or I just can’t understand what I am reading. I also struggle with spelling the words that mix “ie’s” and “ei’s” or ea and ae. After reading all the above signs I have had or still have quite a few of them, there’s only a few that I don’t think I’ve had. Is it to late to get tested or is it even worth getting tested?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You can get help for dyslexia at any age, and you can also get a formal diagnosis at any age. The diagnosis is not necessary to get help, but would be needed if you want to seek accommodations at your college. So a first step might be to talk to the disabilities office at your college to get a sense of what accommodations would be possible, and what sort of documentation they would need to support such accommodations. A typical accommodation would be additional time on exams.

      However, if you just want to get help, the problems you describe (words going fuzzy, losing concentration, words start to move, etc.) are all sympotms of disorientation and easily correctable with the Davis approach.

  • 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.

        • Danielle L

          Im almost certain my daughter is dyslexic. Her last spelling test she missed most of the words simply by misplacing the letters and mixes up letters when trying to read. Im just curious what is actually done for dyslexia. What happens after diagnosis.

          • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

            Danielle, there are many different approaches to dyslexia. With the Davis program, we begin with providing mental tools to control and resolve disorientation, which is the cause of most perceptual errors like mixing up letters. We follow up with a system of clay modeling to master the alphabet and common words, along with a set of reading exercises to help train the eyes to focus on letters sequentially from left to right.

          • kdavis

            if your daughter’s school has it (lots of schools do) if you test her and she is diagnosed them they can or should put her in a specific class that helps her learn how to learn with it. im 17 i went through that program in Elementary, it was great helped be through school, also i had medication that will help me concentrate and not “zone-out”.

  • 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.

      • J S

        This is true, however, please check with your school and school district if no one is listening. In LA, we can’t test through the school because this is a medical condition. It’s a fine line w. the phonological assessment they can do. State only allows testing to be done once a year so if you have zero doctor evaluations with a diagnosis, the chances of getting this included in your IEP after school has tested is very slim unless it’s completely obvious. There are more mild cases that are hard to spot. I have GREAT doctors! It helps! Good luck everyone.

        • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

          Dyslexia is not a “medical” condition but is legally considered to be a learning disability, and every district and every state in the US is under the same legal mandate to test for any and all learning disabilties that are indicated by the child’s profile. Generally it is diagnosed in schoolchildren by a qualified psychologist.

          But your comment brings up a good point: schools often don’t follow the law and it is quite common for parents to be given incorrect rationales for why the school isn’t doing the part. The claim that dyslexia is “medical” is simply a way for a school to try to avoid paying for evaluation services that they are legally required to provide.

          Here’s a link to a FAQ that includes links to the appropriate federal law, regulation, and “Dear Colleague” letter that the Department of Education has issued about dyslexia:

          • J S

            Thanks for the link Abigail, but schools DO NOT diagnose so you need a doctor TOO! Yes, if the schools find anything during testing and a student’s instructional time is being impacted, as stated in Ed Code, because IDEA laws aren’t the only laws in play here, they can put services into play but you NEED a doctor for a diagnosis before a full Psychological-educational evaluation to back you up. U don’t need it 100% if it’s completely obvious but I wouldn’t do that.

          • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

            U.S. public schools are responsible under IDEA to provide whatever testing is needed to identify learning disabilities without cost to the parents. Dyslexia is generally diagnosed by qualified psychologists, not by medical doctors. The determination could be made by a psychologist employed by the school district, or the district could contract for services from private psychologists — but bottom line, the school pays.

            The law does not require that the psychologist make a specific diagnosis or use specific language — that is, the school psychologist could choose use a different label than “dyslexia” — but the point is that it when the public school recommends testing, as they have for Khristina’s daughter, the school is responsible for arranging and funding such testing.

            Khristina say her daughter already has an IEP for speech and reading, so clearly the child qualifies for special education services. Sometimes if a child is dyslexic but managing to keep up in school they will fit the category of not being behind enough to qualify — and in those cases the parents might seek a private evaluation in order to support a 504 plan with appropriate accommodations (such as extra time on tests). But that doesn’t apply to this particular 7-year old child, given that the child already has an IEP.

  • 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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