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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  • Anon


    1.Does dyslexia increase with age due to stress..?

    2.I have most of the symptoms as above.
    I can’t by-heart, Where as I can understand and write on my own. (is not able to by-heart/remember a symptom of dyslexia?)

    3.At a young age (8yrs) I used to have an excellent handwriting but ever since my early teens I started to have a bad handwriting.
    Does dyslexia occurs due to emotional distress? or Is it only hereditary?

    Thank you!

  • Ard

    My daughter is 6 years old and when she writes the numbers 9632 she writes them backwards and the sound like as,ar,ol,or . I wonder if she is with dyslexia ?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      These are common signs of dyslexia but also common among very small children, so it is hard to know at age 6 whether your daughter may be dyslexic or not. You might find it helpful to complete the screening survey at https://www.testdyslexia.com/

  • Emma

    Hi my eight Year old has just been tested for dyslectic and the results are that her visual tracking is poor causing problems with reading and spelling etc. Is there anything on the market that I can help with coordinatinion.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The Davis Orientation tools together with koosh ball exercises will help with balance and coordination. The Davis reading exercises also build visual tracking skills. You can find instructions on how to get started using these tools in the book The Gift of Dyslexia.

  • Brian M

    I am a 36 year old male , i am dyslexic can it be passed down to my kids. Because my son read words that are not there.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Dyslexia is an inherited tendency — so yes, if you rae dyslexic, then there is a higher likelihood that your children may be dyslexic as well.

  • jessica

    im 29 now.. but since i can remember i was not able to read and write the proper way. I would spell and read backwards upside down if that make sense. (ex: “RED” would be “DER” but the “E” & “R” would facing the other way around). My mom struggled with me and showing me how to spell and read correctly. Not only that, the way I would speak was just not words at all and the only person would know I would be saying was my brother. School was not easy for me that’s for sure but i was really good at sports. I still struggle till this day when I’m under stress and i get worked up and then whatever i am thinking to say doesn’t come out the way i want it. My sentences does not make sense, so I’ve learned that I stay quiet think about what happened then I respond. I thought I would share something about myself because I did not know about Dyslexia. I thought I was alone because I struggled so much at school especially with testing. I hope this encourages others that you are not alone and that there is help. So continue, don’t stop!!!

    • Jessica

      My name is also Jessica, I dont know anything about this kind of this, but one time, while me and my boyfriend
      was playing a word game, i have difficulties with my spellling then he exclaimed that maybe imight have. So i am very
      curious how would i know if i really do have 🙁

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        Jessica, you can get a good sense of whether you might be dyslexic by completing the survey at https://www.testdyslexia.com/ — it is not a formal diagnosis, but it will give you a sense of how various traits and symptoms come together.

  • Lisa

    My son has issues with reading comprehension, but does not write anything backwards. Is writing things backwards always a symptom of dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The symptoms of dyslexia are highly variable and many dyslexics do not experience reversals in reading or writing. You will notice than on our list of 37 common symptoms, only one mentions reversals.

      For a better sense of your son’s learning needs, I recommend completing the survey at https://www.testdyslexia.com/

  • Sarah

    I don’t think but I’m sure my older brother is dyslexic. He’s an adult but it’s so bad. He can’t read a 4th grader’s book. Please I need your advice. Thanks

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sarah, the Davis program can help adults of any age, but the person needs to want that help. If your brother wants help, then you can use our directory at https://www.davismethod.org/ to find someone he can call.

      If he doesn’t want to get help for his reading difficulties, then as a sister you can learn more about dyslexia so you can be emotionally supportive and understanding.

  • Sarah

    My 5 year old is able to recite her alphabet and when asked what sound a specific letter makes can produce the correct sound. She is able to identify sight words when they are read aloud to her (ex. t h e spells ? THE). She however stills struggles to identify letters when presented with them in print. When asked to spell MOP for example she can sound it out and identify M, O and P but when asked to write the letters can not successfully do so. She struggles with first letter fluency and nonsense words also. Her school feels that there’s not enough evidence to support testing. Can you suggest where I can get more support? There is a family history of dyslexia also. Thanks!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      We would recommend modeling the letters of the alphabet in clay- the Davis Young Learner’s Kit for Home Use would give you all needed materials along with a manual including suggested activities along the way. The clay modeling and the activities to be done at the same time will help your daughter to be able to know all of her letters.

  • Phil T

    Dyslexia – Hell in my head – Thank God for Google

  • Liliana

    I have notice that my sons struggles with reading and writing and lately I have notice that he writes certain numbers like, 5,2,7, 9 backwards. He also mixes p for q, b for d only in lowers case. I wonder if he dyslexic, he was prescribed glasses but he doesn’t like them and he is in 3rd grade reading 1st grade level.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Your son has symptoms consistent with dyslexia. A third grader who is strugging and reading only at first grade level definitely needs extra help. You can choose to seek help through the school or privately. If you are interested in learning more about a Davis program for your son, you can find a Davis provider in your area here: https://www.davismethod.org/loc/united-states/

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