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 January 17, 2019 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

Related Articles

Common Characteristics of Adult Dyslexia

Common Characteristics of Adult Dyslexia

Most adult dyslexics will exhibit at least 10 of the following traits and behaviors. These characteristics are often inconsistent, and may vary depending upon the day or situation. Career: Employed in job/position that will hide difficulties...
Davis Program Average Reading Gains

Davis Program Average Reading Gains

Statistics from Rocky Point Academy Davis Facilitators Lawrence and Stacey Smith have assembled data showing reading level gains for more than 360 clients who completed the Davis Dyslexia Correction® program at their center, Rocky Point Academy , in Calgary, Canada.
Book Cover, Gift of Dyslexia

Looking for a solution? Start here.

The Gift of Dyslexia explains why dyslexia happens and what you can do about it.
Davis Method Provider Directory

Find a Davis Provider near you

(Click Here)


Share this page!


  • Martina G

    My 11-year old grandson is in 5th grade and really struggles in school. He can read at an 8th grade level but can not write very well. He transposes letters within a word usually in the middle of the word and does the same thing in Math. Transposed numbers in Math always lead to the wrong answers and he is so discouraged by this. He has given up on himself, struggles with low self esteem, hides homework assignments, fakes being ill so I have to pick him up from school early etc.

    He is on the other hand very knowledgeable about subjects he can easily memorize such as science. If he has to write a paragraph in science, we hit a stumbling block and he needs extensive help to be able to write down his thoughts. He constantly has to erase what was written because of transposed letters or numbers.

    Could you please give me some insight on how to help my grandson.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Martina, a Davis program would resolve the problems with transpositions. It is best to work with a Davis Facilitator if possible – you can check listings at https://www.davismethod.org/ However, if there is not a provider near you, you might try working from the book The Gift of Dyslexia. The book does give instructions on how to teach the Davis orientation skills, and I personally was successful working on my own from the book with my son when he was the same age. My son also had similar emotional and behavioral problems that were resolved after he gained the ability to use his Davis tools.

      I don’t think that your grandson is really “faking” his illness. The disorientation and stress tied to dyslexia really can cause symptoms such as headache, nausea, or stomachache. So your grandson probably does start to feel sick as the school day wears on.

      Your grandson sounds very bright, given his high reading level, but it must be a huge struggle for him to maintain focus every day. The Davis tools can remove those barriers and allow your grandson to really show his true abilities.

  • imelda

    My son is 6 y. o. He is diagnosed as an SID Child (sensory integrated disorder). We introduced him to letters, numbers, colors, shapes about a year and half ago. At first he can write correctly but lately he always confused between d and b. Sometimes he also write a word from right to left. he write 5 as S and reverse. He can read simple sentence like This is my box. my box is a train. my box is a bed. Etc. Do you think he has dyslexia? Or SID has connection with dyslexia? Appreciate your opinion.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Imelda, we do often find an overlap of symptoms between sensory integration and dyslexia. In our view this can stem from the same cause – disorientation. After a Davis program the sensory issues might subside, as the child becomes more habituated to maintaining focus or orientation and learns to use the Davis release tool. A 6 year old chidl can be introduced to these tools with the Davis Reading Program for Young Learner – which also includes the clay work for alphabet mastery. This is a parent participation program, so it would be appropriate if you are looking for tools to improve your ability to help your child.

  • -k

    Hello All –

    I absolutely love all the feedback here. Hoping you can help me or I can help you… 🙂

    My son is 7 & in 1st grade. Amazing in every way…math, art, compassion, plays the drums, sports, engineering, cars, outdoors.
    Except for reading…this is where it isn’t quite clicking for him. He understands the sounds, but in his head reads them backwards (ex. reads ‘saw’ on a page of a book, and reads it as ‘was’ on the page after). Or he knows the letters to spell the words, but he spells them right-to-left (ex. ‘to’: will sound out the letters, write ‘t’, then ‘o’ in front of the ‘t’.) Reads a word perfectly then has no confidence in reading it on the next page.

    This is a fine line of what teachers can do & what is provided for us, but I feel it is a common issue that we can address as a team.

    Please let me know of any groups, lessons, tips, etc that you have found to work. I am in the process of working with our school district of how to help him at home & at school, so I will keep you posted on any insight as well.

    Much Love

  • Norka H

    Hi, my son is 5 yrs old and in kindergarten, he had a speech delay, didn’t really speak in complete sentences until last year. He started early intervention at 3, he has come a long way and is very smart but I’ve noticed that now that he writing that there are times he writes the letters and numbers backwards or upside down but his answers are right except for that. Lately he’s been complaining of headaches so his dr. Is trying to rule out different things, i.e. sinuses or vision problems but I’m worried it might be something else. I’m not sure if his symptoms are that of dyslexia but yesterday while doing homework he kept writing the number 5 backwards even after several times or telling him that it was wrong and even showing him how to do it. I need help in understanding what’s going on so I can get him the help he needs. Thank you in advance for your feedback.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Norka, at age 5 many children’s brains have not yet developed the ability to remember and distinguish the direction of written symbols — so your son may not really have the ability to tell the difference between a b and d right now. Just telling him won’t fix the problem. It could be an early sign of dyslexia or it could be developmental. We approach it through modeling the letters in clay. Small children learn with their hands, so creating the letters in clay helps them better understand the shape of each letter, and the 3-dimensional media will help them build the ability mentally to remember how the letter or number should be written.

  • Michael W

    I’m 47 yrs old I’ve known my whole life that something was wrong with me . But I just found out that it’s dyslexia on the last couple of days . There just wasn’t counclers when I was in school I was just labled a bad kid , or I was lazy or didn’t care , But no one helped so I feel further & further behind . Anyway so much time has passed , I’m now fully physically disabled . Unable to work & unable to keep up in today’s world .
    What kinda help would you recommend I seek out for myself ??
    Thank You

  • Robin M

    Is there a link between dyslexia and stigmatism? ( spelling?, u know, vision!)

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      No, astigmatism is a visual problem separate and apart from dyslexia, though of course it is a possible to have both. Dyslexia is caused by a difference in the way that the brain processes information realted to symbols and language.

  • Agnes S

    I am 57 years old have I know I am dyslexic but I have never had diocnosed I have always known I an clever but shy away becouse of my reading writing difficulty’s so have never been successfully in any thing becouse of my problems it is a horrible felling knowing your not stupid but don’t know how to express your feelings to others they don’t under stand they just think you are thick.

  • miha

    Well i just found myself in 17 of the signs…

  • sarah


    My son is 9 and a half and is still struggling to read despite getting tutored the last three summers and doing tutoring during the school year. he is a third grader who reads at about a 2nd grade level. It amazes me that he continues to mix up b and d when he has a b in his name! he often times transposes numbers. he will even write random letters backwards! His spelling is all phonetic so it is pretty horrific. He often times struggles to get complete sentences or thoughts out or across to others. He has been tested for add, adhd, auditory disorders, and the list goes on. All testing comes back normal or above normal. We would like to take him somewhere to be tested for dyslexia. We live in a very small community and the school doesn’t have the ability to test for this. Is there a place we can take him? We know our son is very smart but we are running out of options as to why he isn’t getting the reading thing!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You can find information about formal testing for dyslexia here: https://www.dyslexia.com/question/who-can-diagnose/

      Keep in mind that you don’t need a formal diagnosis in order to provide help for your son. I’d encourage you to read The Gift of Dyslexia because you may find that the book gives you the answers you need to help your son.

      • Crystal

        We just received free dyslexia testing from Scottish Rite. Google to see if they have a location near you.

        • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

          It is important to distinguish between dyslexia screening and full diagnostic testing. Screening can provide helpful information, but the results of a screening assessment usually do not result in a formal diagnosis.

          Generally when assessment services are offered by a learning center that offers tutoring or intervention services, it is more likely to be program-specific screening or an informal assessment. The goal is to determine whether the child is likely to benefit from the services offered at the center.

          More information here: https://www.dyslexia.com/question/dyslexia-screening/

  • Emma F

    My son is 7, he can read but reads very slow. He may take his time but fully understands what he has read. He struggles with b and d and also will read saw as was or of as for. He also mixes both 12 and 20.
    He has extra tuition but struggles with his spelling. For example he may be able to read the word weather but will struggle to spell it correctly.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Emma, the problems you list are common signs of dyslexia, but they are also common mistakes made by most young children during the process of learning to read. However, whether or not your son is dyslexic, he would probably benefit from the tools described in the book The Gift of Dyslexia — particularly modeling letters of the alphabet in clay, and also the Davis reading exercises. It is good sign that he understands what he reads.

Leave a public question or comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *