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.
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  • Suzette

    This may sound crazy, but I am a 50 yr old registered nurse. I have struggled all my life in school. I was researching what exactly is dyslexia. I came across your article and it describes me perfectly. I was always delayed in reading and I have had to study extra hard and extra long to maintain good grades. I was “labeled” as lazy, not trying hard enough or easily distracted all throughout school. I am not self diagnosing, but, all of your signs in your article, is what I struggle with.

  • Jane B

    Hello. My daughter is at a bilingual school (Catalan and Spanish) but her mother tongue is English. She has always struggled with reading and maths in all 3 languages. The education system her is highly punitive and will take off whole marks for spelling mistakes. Her 11yr-old classmates get better marks for her in English and this is destroying her confidence.
    We have been told she is ‘slow’. However, she is an amazing artist and spends her time making models and crafting from anything she can find. She’s highly imaginitive and musical and is very good at acting. She composes songs and was learning the cello at the Conservatoire until they discovered she hadn’t really learnt anu music theory and had been relying on her memory and instinct.
    She is also labelled a daydreamer and hyper-sensitive at school. We were told her problems were because she isn’t Lear ing in her mother tongue but we’ve noticed that she has difficuties processing instructions and her writing is extremely erratic (handwriting changes, words repeated or missed etc.)
    We were told this was because of her bilingualism but I am not convinced.
    I tried to get her tested privately but it’s too expensive. Also, does it make a difference if she is tested in her third language as opposed to her first language? Incredibly, the educational psychologists here claim they have no tests available in English!
    Any advice you can give would be most appreciated.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Jane, from your description, your daughter sounds like she would benefit from a Davis program. A formal diagnosis is not necessary – Davis Facilitators are looking a the overall pattern of strengths and weaknesses and you have described a pattern that definitely fits the type of children we work successfully with. You can use this link to find Davis providers in Spain — https://www.davismethod.org/loc/spain — if there is no one near you, you might start with a phone call to learn more.

  • KM

    Sorry in advance for writing a lot! I’m not 100 percent on if I have dyslexia, as I’m a ‘smart’ student, but have been struggling a lot recently.
    I’m 15 and have always been a really good student (I’m not trying to brag though!) I love reading and have always been good at it, however I’ve struggled with spelling since kindergarten. I don’t mix up my letter often, I just use the wrong ones, flat out forget them, sometimes I even add a missing letter to the next word (ex: large elephant becomes larg edolphin) and generally can’t spell well. I also misspell the same words continuously and my brain never registers the correction. I mixed up does and dose until grade 7. Past 3rd grade when we stopped spelling tests, it was never a big problem because my teachers weren’t very strict on spelling and in 6th grade, my school converted to being a lot more electronic based, and spell check was my best friend. I’m in 9th grade now and my spelling is getting worse, so I did some research.
    I never thought dyslexia was even in the question due to my love of reading and writing, but I’m displaying other symptoms as well, I’m good at art, drama, music, sports, etc. and have a hard time studying, focusing, comprehending oral instruction, doing math (I have to use my fingers for adittion a lot) and time management. I also struggle with learning Spanish which is required at my school despite being in an honors class.
    I’m in advanced courses in science, and next year I’m taking all honors classes and 1 AP class, so adults around me aren’t very open to dyslexic testing because I’m one of the “smart” kids. I guess I’m here looking for justification, and I was wondering if anyone has a similar experience? Advice is more than welcome also!

    • JK

      If you feel what you’re experiencing is getting in the way of you receiving a fair and appropriate education you can have your parents request an evaluation with your special education department. This is best done is writing. You can find more information at the site below. Regardless, this is a great time in your like to look at yourself as a learner and a person, to assess your strengths and interests, and continue to practice self-advocacy. If testing doesn’t show anything or get the results you need be sure to have a dialogue with your teachers to make sure your needs are met. Good luck!


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