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 March 22, 2019 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Victoria B

    I have a 7 year old son who confuses his d’s with b’s, writes lots of letters backwards and also numbers.. Like p’s, 9’s, and gets very upset when he has studied spelling words over and over and still gets them wrong. He is very quiet (extremely quiet), he hasn’t learned how to tie his shoes, still wets the bed, puts on his shirts, underwear, and shoes backwards no matter how many times we try to explain or show the correct way to put them on. He uses “Uumm” a lot in sentences, but speaks very proper English (like an adult). I’m wondering if this is something more than just dyslexia because although he is extremely quiet he also has extreme difficulty staying still??

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Victoria, every single symptom you describe is something that we see regularly with dyslexic children –and Davis Facilitators can address all those problems within the course of a dyslexia program. So I would consider it all to be part of the big picture of dyslexia. Not every child has every symptom — but all are very commonly reported by parents of dyslexic children.

  • Dr. Ganasoundari

    I have a 9-year old son, who has problem with dot and bot, i.e., reversal of letters and sometimes words. I am not sure if he has dyslexic problem, for I believe the problems will vanish after some time. Although we put lot of effort in school studies, he forgets more than half the things taught at home and scores poorly in school in all the subjects. Otherwise, orally he is very good. Earlier he used to hate reading, slowly he is taking it as a challenge to read on his own and has improved a lot. School teachers dont have the time to help such a child. I am not sure how to help him. Is there any way you can suggest me on how to help him in his reading, especially retaining what he has read.

    Thank you.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Our methods are described in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia — so that would be the place to start. Your son’s problems do suggest that he is dyslexic, but the fact that he is also improving on his own is a good sign. It shows that he is motivated- which really is the key ingredient to success. But implementing the tools described in the book at home can eliminate some of the barriers he faces and allow him to progress much faster.

    • Joe

      Homeschool! Your child needs the time to focus on what matters the most! Being taught by the parent. Even colleges like homeschool children more than public school children.

  • Kathy

    I sound a lot like this. I crawled to the potty at 11 months but didn’t walk until almost 3. I was good in sports, writing music by ear, singing, gymnastics math science and problem solving orally but on paper it was awful and it still is. I am 58 and I finally made it as a junior in college and I didn’t learn my English until I was a sophomore 2 years ago. I made it to an Associates in medical assisting. I remember everything I see I’ll feel but the letters look like symbols it takes a while to figure out what it is you’re trying to tell me. Once I finally get it I don’t need to read everything else I get it quicker and retain more and I have more of a deeper understanding from a different perspective. I hate reading and writing any reports still especially APAs. it takes me all day to study but I memorize everything I see, it takes me longer to absorb it but once I do I retain it longer that most people do.I have a higher I Q according to the military I was the fourth smartest woman in California in 1977 and I was mechanically inclined but comprehension and reading was my worst thing. I like a seamstress clothing designer and I had a home improvement business. I became a life and disability insurance agent only because I couldn’t read the book like most people did. I went home for 2 months and highlighted everything in the index and then I meant learned everything from reading the index and what it was for instead of reading it from cover to cover it was horrible to get through it it was so tedious too many words. I passed the state exam with a high score. I didnt read a short book until I was in the 4th grade. my time management is awful and it seems to be getting worse with time. as long as I have people around me to help me with my schedule then I’m seem to be okay. I lack self-esteem and even though I’m told I’m pretty I don’t think I’m good enough to do things even though I’m 10 things at once, and is there a way to get help for this and get some Improvement? I am such a perfectionist and this is such a terrible thing you can never win it seems like you want. I have people full pretty well because I’m always coming up with engenius ideas to cover and do something extraordinary. Lol

  • Nigel

    Hi to you all.
    I am 76 I found out I was dyslexic when in the last year I had to do a job talk for Rotary.
    I was always under the impression I was thick, but having worked as a production manager for an engineering company for over 30 years I know I am not .
    At school I was at the bottom of the class always doing lines and detention for poor work; but then dyslexia was not recognised as a handicap. My success was that I always worked round my problems. My biggest fault is I can not manage money and every thing financial mydear wife does.
    I f she should go before me (God forbid) I have had to get aLPA so my daughter and son in law oversee what I do
    So what am I saying with stelf and good luck you can succeed look at Sir Richard Branston

  • Adrian K

    Thank you for this information, i also experienced such symptoms from childhood till now am 23yrs and it has impacted on my adult life since i still posses such symptoms.

  • Laura S

    My daughter is 14 yrs old and a freshman in High School. She was born visually delayed and sounds that were loud terrified her. She is highly intelligent. She was teaching herself Norweign French Japanese Italian and German. Over achieving and having to be perfect. She did everything early. Crawled at 3 months pulled herself up at 5 months walked at 9 months and potty trained at a yr old. She has always struggled in school with tests unless orally given. She has always been a grade or 2 behind in math. They were going to hold her back for 3rd grade because she wasn’t grasping multiplication and division. She did very well in small classroom sizes but this is not the case when it comes to High School. I have always suspected she is dyslexic but couldn’t get a school to listen to me. She wants to be a writer and many of your signs match her. Her father is dyslexic and I am also probably dyslexic. As a parent I want to do what’s best for my child.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Davis Facilitators often work with teenagers and adults. I’d suggest that you read The Gift of Dyslexia. If the book resonates with you and you feel that it describes the way you or your daughter think and learn, consider arranging a consultation with a Davis Facilitator.

  • Roberto G

    I had those problems, until recently. I am 45 years old now.
    What I find out, in my case, is that reading is a habit that in some people like me takes a lot more practice and exercise that for most people.
    How did I overcome my limitation?
    I purchased lots of magazines and books of things that I have a passion for and curiosity. I forced myself to read every day, at least few pages, even though I used to hate reading and I struggled doing so and sometimes I even almost fell asleep.
    Then I continued reading every day, creating a habit. Then I was able to read things that were less interesting.
    Now I cannot go to sleep without reading at least a bit.
    When our kids are going to difficulties in life, I try to support them by giving them articles or books that might help them in particular situations. With the pressure of the difficulties, sometimes they read some of the things I share with them. I think they are getting used to. For the one that shows dyslexic symptoms, I use very short articles or readings.

    Some people can just grab a musical instrument and just play or copy what they hear without any guidance or even teachings. Some others cannot do it without taking classes. I compare to reading. You can become a reader with effort if you want to and even if it is difficult to dominate.

    Not everything that I have to do to survive is fun, interesting or instantly gratifying, but I still have to do it to survive. I had to find a way. Now I am used to. Boring or not. The words “boring” or “bored” are forbidden in our home. If they come up, the immediate automatic reply is “There is plenty to do, let me show you.” Kids know that my reply to those terms is guaranteed. I will continue working on improving my dyslexia for the rest of my life. I know it is still there and mi grammar is still horrible. Working on it. That is how I landed here. 🙂

    I apologize for any errors in my post. Working on it.

    • Roberto G

      Watch me trying to fight my dyslexia, my struggles: 🙂

      “What I find out, in my case, is that reading is a habit that in some people like me takes a lot more practice and exercise that for most people.” — “What I found out…” sounds better than “What I find out…”

      “When our kids are going through difficulties…” instead of “When our kids are going to difficulties..”

      “I compare this to reading…” instead of “I compare to reading”

      “Now I am getting used to…” instead of “Now I am used to…”

      “I know it is still there, and my grammar is still horrible.” instead of “I know it is still there and mi grammar is still horrible.”

      See? I still face the problem, but I came back to try to do it better. Not great, but I keep trying and I know I will eventually reach full success.

  • 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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