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 October 21, 2018 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Lari

    My son struggles severely with math. He is in 6th grade and it is just getting worse. He tries so hard goes to school provided tutoring and private tutoring but doesn’t seem to be improving much. He has always had trouble with remember math facts. He didn’t master multiplication facts until this year and still can’t do them quickly. The teacher has noticed that he writes his numbers right to left. For example the number 15 he will right the 5 first and then the 1. He has always done this. I didn’t think too much of it. 3 years ago he complained of letters jumping around when reading. The eye doctor said it was a prism effect and prescribed glasses to help with that. He can’t seem to process math. It’s like he is digressing but I think it’s just getting harder for him to “wing it”. Could this be signs of dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Your son’s problems very well could be connected to dyslexia or discalculia. We do have a specific program for mathematics called Davis Math Mastery. A consultation with a Davis Facilitator could help determine whether this approach would meet your son’s needs. You can find a facilitator at this site: https://www.davismethod.org/

  • Kim

    Wow. This is me. Couldn’t read until I was in the 6th grade. Terrible with tests. Always got in trouble at school. Teachers said I was super smart but lazy. Solid C student but I tried hard. My brothers and sisters made me feel dumb because I couldn’t (and still can’t) pronounce big words. I could go on. I’m seeing someone to help me through all of this.

  • Orpha

    I am 23 years of age and an average student in class,but with time I have realized I have a problem in spelling words especially long ones ,people think am a very intelligent yet I don’t feel it myself ,I also forget very quickly ,ironically I am a teacher of English ,am thinking of quitting because of my spelling problem, could I have dyslexia

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Persistent difficulties with spelling are commonly associated with dyslexia, so yes, it is possible that you are dyslexic.

  • Dee R

    Is there any correlation with dyslexia and epilepsy or any other type of bright lights affecting the person?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Epilepsy is not directly tied to dyslexia, but there is some evidence that people with epilepsy have a higher than average rate of dyslexia. Many dyslexics do have sensitivity to some types of light.

      In the 1980’s when Ron Davis was researching the effects of disorientation on perception, he discovered that disorienting stimuli could cause seizures in susceptible individuals. This was an accidental and unexpected discovery when the experiment caused a volunteer to suffer a seizure, and Davis discontinued the experiment after that, so this hasn’t been explored further.

  • daniel f

    I am wondering if I have dyslexia, I have 20 symptoms that were above. I started to notice that sometimes not often but every so often I mess up words, I noticed this for a while and I was watching a movie about dyslexia and I notice that they had the same problem as me. The only problem is that I love to read, I read books everyday. I really need advice, and some help. is it possible to like reading even though you have dyslexia? Please help

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes it is possible for a person who loves to read to also have a dyslexic learning style and other problems that are tied to dyslexia.
      If you feel your problems are serious enough that you would like help, a Davis Facilitator would be able to work with you.

  • Norma T

    My grandson reads and comprehends very well. However, he exhibits almost all other signs of dyslexia. Holds his pencil at an odd angle. His writing is nearly illegible. He’s outgoing, helpful and kind to others, sometimes the class clown. His worst subject is math. No one recognizes that he has a problem because he can read. But this darn common core math and math in general make no sense to him. He has been tested and they say he is a genious. His IQ is 120 . What can be don? What are some algebra alternatives? He is a 7th grader. He made is this with lots of patient teachers and help. This year he has a new first year teacher that just thinks he is irresponsible and lazy. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Norma, it is possible that your grandson would be diagnosed with dysgraphia and dyscalculia if evaluated. We do have a program for math (whether or not there is a formal diagnosis) – you can read more about it here – https://www.dyslexia.com/davis-math-mastery/ A Davis Facilitator would probably also be able to help with the handwriting, but would need to evaluate him first as there can be different cause for handwriting problems.

  • Tania

    Just curious,wanting to know if I have dyslexia. People tend to think I’m bright or smart but I dont feel that way. I am a quiet person who likes to keep to myself and enjoy being on my own. That’s so true, I think in pictures instead of words. During early childhood I’ve developed a few symptoms mentioned above like ear infections and unusual early development stages. My mum thinks I’m lazy and careless, I am a deep sleeper. At times I think I have bad eye sight and sometimes think I see movements or hear things that are not there. People tend to think I’m a strong person but in actual fact I’m quite emotional but I don’t show it. Most of the symptoms listed above are mainly what I have. Am I dyslexic or not?

  • Syd

    I have a really hard time in reading class. But i dont understand why. We have a really strict sassy teacher so i pay attention ALOT but i cant focus, its like im focusing but im not. Is that just me being slow? Because i can read almost perfectly and obly once did i read the same line 5 times getting angry why each line was the same. Im worried because the teacher said im “acting like im stupid but im not” but i actually have trouble in class.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Syd, the symptoms you are describing are consistent with disorientation. You say you can read almost perfectly — but are you understanding all the words in the passage? A dyslexic person will often trIgger on a particular word that has no meaning for them; this causes the mind to lose focus because the words don’t seem to make sense. Very often the problem is with small words that can’t easily be pictured, like “of” or “from”.

  • Sondra

    I have a question can dyslexia be link and anxiety?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The difficulties associated with dyslexia can cause anxiety, and a person’s emotional state, including anxiety, can make symptoms of dyslexia worse.

      That is why our program begins with techniques to control stress and energy levels. We know that the person needs to be in a calm and relaxed state in order to focus their mind and to learn.

  • Mark

    I’m 16 and a lot of these are traits that I have. I never thought I had dyslexia until about a year ago when I started to mix up letters on papers and billboards and thinking I saw one word when it was in fact another one. Can dyslexia symptoms be delayed like this? All the traits that I have in common with this have only occurred within the past 3 years, not when I was a young child. It’s not really bad though, it’s only if I’m not paying close attention and am just taking a quick glance at something. But just today I had mistaken a $10 bill for a $50 bill. Thanks for any advice!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Mark, developmental dyslexia generally starts in early childhood, but sometimes symptoms are very mild. Fatigue and stress can cause some symptoms (even for a person who is not dyslexic) and it can make symptoms worse for people who are dyslexic. However, there is another kind of dyslexia called “acquired dyslexia” which can be the result of a head injury — so, for example, a young person who had a concussion might also develop symptoms. Even a very mild concussion can sometimes take a long time to recover from. Because your symptoms seem to have started within the last few years, I think it is important to discuss this with your parents.

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