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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  • Jk

    My son is 3.5years old, he is good in rhyming but difficult to remember alphabets and digits. Is this age too early to detect or I should wait for more time to learn thesr things. Kindly. He too lacks attention and hyper aggressive. advise.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Your son is probably too young for learning the alphabet and numerals. It’s good to take notice of early symptoms, but I think it is probably more important for you to focus on his social skills. (“Hyper aggressive” is not a symptom of dyslexia, but does sound like something for a parent to be concerned about).

      Here’s an article with suggested activities for very young children: https://www.dyslexia.com/early-childhood-learning/

  • Tony A

    hi am Tony from Nigeria 22 of age I read your post and yes I must say yes I possess all the point you listed out. and it affecting me academically am not doing well in school but am sound very sound when it comes to do with studies what should I do

  • Stella

    Hi, I came across your article and many of these tell tale signs are pointing my 6 year old son in the direction of a dyslexic learner. He currently is in 1st grade. He was taken out of a dual language program that his school participates in and transferred to a regular academic English learning structure based classroom. We have tried almost everything possible to help him and teach him different ways to help said him read but with all of our attempts, we haven’t gotten much improvement and our son greatly struggles.
    He is very well behaved in school and he tries his best which we feel is very important. We don’t want him to hate school so we praise him for all of his efforts that way his self esteem isn’t affected negatively. We just had a parent teacher conference at school and we found out that even though our son is receiving extra help everyday for reading in a separate classroom, he is falling greatly behind grade level. We have spoken about some options moving forward and a testing evaluation is going to be taking place soon. Also grade retention is an option for our son because of the large gap in reading and language arts comprehension that will only continue to get larger if an intervention is not completed early on now.
    I am an English major, I was above grade level in language arts and always wanted to tutor my son in case of any academic struggles in school, but after reviewing and reading with him, I noticed there was something wrong and I needed to take action. He likes to hide the guilt of not being able to read by asking others to read for him, including games. He will spell out a word rather than say it out loud and he can’t properly sound out compound words and sounds of letters as in phonics.
    I have always felt that my son had dyslexia. He would read words scrambled with different letters and he still can not read many kindergarten sight words while in first grade. He does have many daydreaming periods and we have to snap him back into whatever we are working on at that moment. Homework becomes a constant struggle and we have been working together with his teacher and she reduced his homework lessons so it wouldn’t be putting so much stress on him. Sometimes homework can take hours so I think us working with him at a slower pace can help us achieve more. The school will be contacting us soon for his testing and hopefully we will find what is blocking him from progressing in reading and writing. Would you have any advice you can give me? I take so much time to dedicate teaching my son at home that I can always use extra tips! Thank you.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      My suggestion is that you read the book, The Gift of Dyslexia. Does the description of a dyslexic child fit your son? If so you may find that the Davis tools are the key to success for him.

    • Louise

      I stumbled upon this article as well, your son sounds very much like me when I was younger. I also struggled with reading, writing and phonics and often fell behind in my classes. As a result I was made during English/writing/reading classes to do phonics in a small group or individually. In the first instance it was extremely difficult for me to grasp as I seemed to ( and still do) seem to visual sounds and words in my head ( words were not visualed as words, but instead pictures of what those words were) . But in my case I had to memorise each phonetic letter and pairs of phonetic letters for example ou, oi, etc. Until I could put them together in my mind into words, at the same speed as everyone else. This took a lot of practice, and reading (not extremely detailed books- these are harder to concentrate on and make it easy to drift away from the story into your imagination) everyday helped me to become quicker at putting the words together. However I still struggle to make the words form onto paper or whilst typing especially in essays as my mind moves faster than my hands making everything extremely unstructured. But in practical tasks this is not the case.

      This may sound odd, but it helped me so much, has your son tried learning a small bit about of a new language ( vocally to begin with – I advise German, as it has the same alphabet as most European languages and is surprisingly easy to pick up than most). The reason I say this is because being able to recognise pronunciation of vowels etc in other languages often helps you to pronounce and read words you don’t know in your mother tongue much easier. Due to this i am now fluent in three languages, and I am an avid reader, even though I struggle with my concentration epically. A task that helped me whilst learning to read was to use a small amount of blue tack to play with in my fingers, so that I could keep constantly moving so that my concentration was deliberately spread over two tasks. This did not always work, but has helped me on many occasions such as in exams, which can make these symptoms much harder due to stress.

      I hope you and your son find more ways to help. let me know if there is anything more I can help you with, I would love to make things easier for you

  • Barbara

    I’m 13 years old. I consider myself good at reading and math, I have a higher AR level than most if the people in my grade, I’m also in honors math. Recently, sometimes when i am reading numbers(not doing math) my brain switched up the numbers. For example i read 20, when it was 02 and 12, when it was 21. I have also been experiencing frequent headaches, almost everday. I don’t k know if they are related. This had only been occurring since about July, its December now. If this helps I find it hard to get emotionally close to others, and tend to keep all my thought and feelings to myself. I am socialy awkward and introverted. Anyway, do you think that these symptoms could be dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Barbara, please tell your parents about your headaches and ask them to arrange for you to see a medical doctor. Usually symptoms of dyslexia start in early childhood– and it seems you are describing symptoms that have only started in the past 5 months. So it is important to first make sure that there isn’t a different medical or physical problem causing your headaches and confusion with numbers. At your age, the problems could also be related to hormonal changes. Dyslexia symptoms like reversing numbers can also be tied to stress, but I think that because the headaches started a few months ago and have been continuous, it is important to start with a medical exam.

  • Z

    I am 33 years old. I learned very well in school and came top ten of my class, which were over 500 students. I can read and write with out problems, I love it actually. My difficulty comes in numbers and typing. I can see the numbers and write them but sometimes they are backwards or when said out loud in my head its another number and then I write it wrong. I can count and do basic math without problem though. I constantly confuse my left and write even though I know what they are my brain acknowledges it but my hands do the opposite movement, which also makes it difficult when typing. I know all the keys but my brain says one key and my hands say another. Is this a sign of dyslexia? I feel like I have touch of it but don’t know. I can do coordinated thing but struggle with left and right. any thoughts?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      We would consider those problems to be associated with a dyslexic pattern of thinking and learning. That is, we would view the underlying cause to be the same as for reading problems, except in your case the problem seems to be tied to numerals and left/right confusion. In our view, dyslexia is caused by confusion over language and symbols that triggers mental disorientation.

  • Harris G

    I am 90 years old. I exhibit 16 of the traits and behaviors, namely numbers 1, 2, 3 4,7,8,9,12,17,20,27,28,31,34,36,37:
    I partially exhibit 7 of the traits and behaviors, namely numbers: 6,11,13,21,24,29,30,
    To what degree (1 to 10) would you suggest I’m dyslexic?

  • Cheryl M

    I am a 53 year old adult. I am certain I am dyslexic. J struggles academically in school grades 1-12. I tried so hard to do well but when Tests came I failed. It took me a whole entire year in high school to read a novel because I read and reread the same sentence or word over and over until I understand it. I was never diagnosed as a child. Reading. Outl loud makes me nauseaous. I am a choppy reader when Reading out loud. I count syllables and numbers in my head all day. Is this part of dyslexia? Today I am a 53 year old doctoral- prepared nursing engagement. That did not come without struggles though.

    In meetings I interpret what was said differently than the others in the meeting. I do have Hearing Lisa and wear hearing aids so this could from hearing loss also.

    I always felt stupid growing up because of my struggles in school but did not know why. It is best to read when I highlight the words in a computer because this makes it easier to read. Words on white paper is just a clump of letters.

    Is this dyslexia? I was never diagnosed but realizing as an adult that I think I am dyslexic. I am not stupid,, It just takes me longer to understand Royer the written or spoken word. Math has always been a struggle.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Cheryl, all of the symptoms you describe are consistent with dyslexia. Symptoms like perceiving letters as clumped together or feeling nauseous when reading are common results of disorientaion — and this can be addressed directly with a Davis program. I’d encourage you to consult with a Davis Facilitator to learn more.

  • Vici

    90% of the symptoms happened or happens to me I never knew I am dyslexic

  • Sonia A

    My son is 10 years old and is in fifth grade. This year he’s been talking more but only on subjects that interests him. But because he’s talking more and isn’t failing academically the school says he doesn’t have a learning disability. Since I can remember he’s always had difficulty writing down his thoughts, he couldn’t speak that well, and when he speaks his sentences aren’t always correct. In class they are not doing a lot of writing because everything is done in their chrome book. But ever since kinder I can remember that writing and putting his thoughts in order was always a concerned. I was told a speech therapist seen him and said nothing was wrong because he can move his lips and tongue. Well last week I went to school to get proof they tested him and they told me that theres no proof they ever did test him. Please help I’m really concerned

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sonia, it’s often hard to get schools to provide testing if the student is managing to keep up in class, even if it is a struggle. Dyslexia is often connected to word retrieval problems. We believe that is because dyslexics think mostly in pictures rather than words, so they can have a hard time putting their thoughts into words. So our program for dyslexia is focused on providing a way to build the mental connections between the thoughts and words.

      • Christy H

        Sonia, In some states, the federal law under IDEA requires schools to hold an intake meeting for testing at a parent’s request. The law states that a meeting or test must be scheduled within 30 days of the written request. Email counts as a written request. Check your state law.s. Also, contact your state’s department of education website. There should be a section on the top tab or in a menu about state disability compliance. I live in Arkansas and this is the case. I have an autistic child with dysgraphia. I did have to get the state involved in order for my son to get the services he needed. If the school gives you the run around, simply ask them if it would be easier for you to contact your state department of education compliance department.

        Good luck.

  • Geoff D

    I am an 83 year young dyslexic,I am right handed and left footed, numbers are much more friendly than letters, I am a poor speller, often with three letter words, but I was highly qualified in my profession as a quantity surveyor. I am musical and can play piano, clarinet, flute and guitar but only to a moderate standard. Is it likely that my musical ability is one of the gifts of dyslexia?

    • Mum x

      Hi Geoff, I am a mum of a little 8 year old girl with dyslexia. I was doing some research online and was feeling a bit anxious about her having dyslexia until I came across your lovely, positive, uplifting post. You have made me feel there’s nothing to worry about and put a smile on my face. You have made me view dyslexia in a different light. You see my daughter is musically talented too…. Is it likely that her musical ability is one of the gifts of dyslexia? Thank you!

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