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.

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  • Heather C

    I have had this gift all my life. It’s really just Dyslexia is a word that has different means to different people. For me as a young girl it was my curse. It was about the time I was diagnosed with dyslexia and grade 2. The school board place me into the disability class known as the retard class back in the 80s. I lost all my friends in one day. The new class was boring the only good thing was I didn’t have to read or write. My mother was so upset that was falling behind and the school board did nothing to support me in my education. I was placed in a private school where I learned I was smart and able to over come my curse and make it a part of who you are. Today I am 40 and a nurse.

    how you learn the best and use lots of visual examples for your children or for yourself don’t be afraid to ask for help sometimes that’s the biggest problem when people have dyslexia they feel ashamed about having it in the first place. Tell the person how they can help you. We all have different styles of learning.

  • Natalie

    My middle daughter is 7 and in 2nd grade. She is left handed like her father but she has beautiful handwriting. She often mixes up her b’s and d’s. She can write backwards. She guesses on what she thinks some words could be. She daydreams and blanks out under stress. She struggles with reading and writing but she still loves to read. She doesnt finish her classwork, doesnt manage her time wisely and doesnt participate in class. She has always had honor roll but i notice her grades are going down in reading and writing. She has a 100 in science and is great in Math. When she was 2 we would look for her and she would be sleeping in her bed. Till this day she sleeps a lot but wakes up early. She was an early talker and has always had a big imagination. Has always been sensitive with her emotions and loves to be alone making models with playdough. When she was in kindergarden, the teachers wanted to put her in the gifted and talented program.

    I was worried about her so I did some research. I had a feeling she could have dyslexia and the signs matched. Her dad and I believe he has it as well because he too fits the signs. He had low grades in school but never in Math and science. He does awesome with hands-on experience and exceeds with all the jobs he’s ever had.

    I feel so horrible for how hard I would be on my daughter when she can’t remember a sentence I’ve told her to write or how to spell a word. She has difficulty with sounding out words. Her teacher makes her write 20 words 5 times each and 20 sentences. She struggles trying to come up with sentences and has even more difficulty with the words now because the teacher is making the words harder due to some kids being on a higher level. Now I know I have to be more understanding and calm when helping her with school.

    • shae

      My daughter is also 7 and dealing with the same issues – mixing up d’s and b’s, she gives up on words she should be able to sound out and easily could – her math is excellent – and yet she has always loved books and reading. Her reading scores, especially comprehension, have plummeted and we haven’t been able to get her to focus and bring them up. She has been going to a more one-on-one setting within the school and I’ve seen improvement, but we have questioned dyslexia.

  • Pamela D

    Hi I am a 52 year old dyslexic lady….i often felt very different from other people. It’s great to read of all the unusual dyslexic traits though I could have helped out as I had most of them!!!! I’ve always been highly intuitive and always see what everyone else can’t see I can work people out straight away And have always been correct….ive always had really bad reactions to medications and chemicals….my ability to see the “whole picture” can be so extreme it can stop me in my tracks my dyslexia has definately been a curse in my life as no one seems to see things the way I do so life can be lonely at times….

    • RM

      Madam, my son has dyslexia, he is now 30+, it is diagnosed very late, almost in adult age, I am very worried about his normal life. You can give me some advice….

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        RM, the Davis program will help a person at any age — if your son would like help, then you can tell him about this site and encourage him to contact a Davis Facilitator for a consultation.

  • John M

    Hello I am dyslexic.
    As a dyslexic person growing up I could not understand why other children were finding spellings so easy and just cannot get it the more I try the worse it got and many a night when I started school I cried my self to sleep
    and had suicidal thoughts the English language is a very hard language to learn as there is silent e ect and makes it very confusing. Also at school when you learn the ABC it is not how the words sounds what to makes as it a form of word blindness.
    I think in are heads it’s like a jigsaw puzzle trying to match the sound with signs in are head.
    I think what would or Wood see what I mean
    Sounds the same spell differently what as again very confusing for a dyslexic person.
    Were was I a trait for a dyslexic person go off on something else. Look on YouTube (dyslexic with cards) very well put.

    If letters have a individual colour I think this will help to find it in are heads and help especially at the early stages.
    A (green in colour) for apple ect.

    I am now 43 I am now proud of being dyslexic I now still starting to understand it.
    I believe I can do things definitely then most people can. like most people have to do one thing at once. I can have different projects on the go and find it easy. Like open new pagers on your PC. Electrical fault finding I can do
    Organising weddings health and safety ect and find out more people ask my advice.as a dyslexic person we do not have Tunnel Vision and have brilliant ideas and very creative. I believe NASA employs quite a few dyslexic people. And Richard Branson has dyslexia to.
    Hope this may help someone it is a gift not a curse can feel like it sometimes.
    But remember that everyone has there talents and found that very clever people with degrees but think ahead all different scenarios they just don’t grasp it.
    I think we would make good Barristers to think ahead and weighing up the situation to win.

  • Carolyn R

    I am 61 years old. I learned I had some sort of learning disability in college. It answered so many questions for me. I had been compensating for so many years. I am a “ classic” dyslexic. I’ve since gotten a masters plus 60 hour of graduate work. I still struggle. But now I understand why. I’ve worked with children for 25 years to help them overcome the emotional obstacles of dyslexia. This I believe continues to be the hidden trait that needs to be addressed.

  • Randy p

    I am 59 this year. Was in pilot program for it. But I still have primes with English and spelling. It is very frustrating. Most people don’t understand because they can’t see it. It’s the silent disabilaty

  • danielle

    you know lot of dyslexic people may read this and not know what transpositions, omissions, phonetically and inconsistently means like me they just look like random letters bunched up. they mean nothing to me and they make no since to read.

  • Margaret W

    I have been living with this all my life and so has my mother. We have found meditation helps as well as taking frequent brakes. I did not read at grade level till I hit 6th grade and it took a lot for me to catch up and I did struggle a lot. I still do and there are days where stress does make it worse.

  • Megan

    My name is Megan and I am a dyslexic student in secondary or high school my question is what has been done for dyslexics with these learning difficulties and is there any new inventions or systems of learning in place for the future ?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Megan, the Davis Dyslexia Correction program is effective for individuals of all ages. This was developed by Ron Davis in the early 1980’s and is now used successfully around the world. The program has evolved over the years as the experience base of Davis Facilitators has expanded, but part of the reasons the program does work so well is that we alway adhere to our core principals. So the answer is that we already have an effective program –so our main goal would be to make our tools and experience more widely known and available.

  • Ruthie

    I am visually impaired myself and a friend of many people who are audio readers due to blindness. Either they were never taught braille for one reason or another, or while they learned it, just don’t use it. Because of this, the written word is only provided to them in audio format (through screen reading software). Many of them struggle with spelling, some say they are self-diagnosed dyslexic, some just say they don’t spell well. It’s a problem that affects them in many ways. I noticed that some of them don’t just spell phonetically (a sure sign of reading only via audio format), but will change how they spell words even when written twice within the same sentence. I am no reading expert, but have been looking for some way to help all of them, those who may be dyslexic, and those simply with the lack of having “experienced” words in any way other than through audio. Do you know if something like this exists? Also, I am curious what your thoughts are on dyslexia self-diagnosis in adulthood. Thanks!

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