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 May 25, 2019 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • nick j

    my child is 6. for him is not difficulty spelling is a common and persistent sign of dyslexia

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      All children will make spelling errors when they are first learning to read and write, so I would not consider most common mistakes to be a sign of dyslexia in a child at age 6 or 7.

  • Joel H.

    I’m 18 years old. Though I have not been diagnosed by a doctor of any sort. Dyslexia does, however run in my family with bot my grandfather and dad both having it. My question has more to do with testing both for SAT and my mid-terms and final exams at my high school. I struggled a lot with some of them with when I was reading the questions I would get to the end and still not be able to tell you what the question was about. My teachers all see how smart I am and when I never score above a C+ on a final they are always perplexed on why. Also when it comes to math in school I have never scored higher than a C+ in a class for both years of Algebra and the one year of Geometry. I guess my question would be what are ways that I can study for tests and finals since when it comes down to it I can not read and understand the question it self. Is there a way for me to be able to take the same test but be able to show my knowledge and understanding of the subject to my full potential. (This is the one part that is really hard for me because I am not able to show what I know other than in class discussions not matter the subject.)

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Joel, many dyslexic students qualify for accommodations on standardized tests, such as extra time – but to get that support, there needs to be both a diagnosis and a history of already have received accommodations in school. Since you say that you have never been diagnosed, and you are already 18 years old,l I am guessing that you would not be able to obtain those accommodations.

      I’d suggest reading these two articles on our blog for ideas as to how to improve your performance on the SAT:

      > Test Prep Strategies for Dyslexic Students: https://blog.dyslexia.com/test-prep-strategies-for-dyslexic-students/
      > How to manage dyslexia on the SAT and ACT: https://blog.dyslexia.com/dyslexia-on-the-sat-and-act/

      I’d add that in our experience, when a student has difficulty reading and understanding a test question, it is often because of confusion over the meaning of small function words. For example, making sense of prepositions like to, in, of, than. This is because most dyslexics are nonverbal thinkers, thinking mostly in pictures, and don’t have mental imagery to go along with these small words. So we address this in part through a system of clay modeling of all the small words.

  • Jennifer

    I have a 6 year old son who is really struggling at school. He has been under speech therapy from the age of 2 who have recently discharged him. He is also under the paediatrician who every year tell us that there are no obvious signs of anything and that he is still young and continue with speech therapy. Im really worried for him, he isn’t reading or writing at the moment. He struggles to understand a set of instructions most of the time. He also has quite a bad stutter at the moment. His teacher does say how brilliant he is at art and we know from home how talented he is at drawing and making things. He’s so creative. I’m wondering if any of these signs could be linked to dyslexia at all? I know you shouldn’t compare children but when I see how behind he is to others at school in his class it worries me so much. On the plus side he is very happy and we don’t have any behaviour issues at home or school.

  • jackie r

    I have a 5 year old son who is having a little trouble keeping up or retaining information. we go over abcs and 123s on a daily and he will still not get them right. its like he is not confident when he is asked to do something on his own like count to 10, instead of him knowing he can he will sort of guess. he will go from 123 to 5 7 etc. when he does the abcs alone he will sing ABCDEFG then skip to W, but when doing it with me he sings it the right way. when asked his name he will tell me his name but we go over the spelling D A M O N , and we will say it over and over again but then when I ask him to spell it on his own he only gets the last part right. he turned 5 march 15th but he still tells people he is 4 when asked his age. he can tell you his birthday and he knows all of his colors. his teachers has said that when working hands on he is great and can do it but when its time to work alone he struggles. I know all kids learn differently so I don’t want to rush or push him too hard but I don’t want him to be behind. it seems like other kids his age are doing more and speaking more frequently. when story telling or talking he sometimes studders when he gets frustrated and certain words are hard for him to pronounce.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Jackie, the Davis Young Learner’s Kit is designed to be used by parents like you. It provides materials and instructions that can be used to introduce very young children to the Davis tools in a playful, fun and engaging way. The child is never pushed or prodded beyond their natural abilities, but at the same time the child is learning in a way that we know to be highly effective with dyslexic kids and with visual learners.

  • RJ

    as an 8 year old, i was diagnosed with Dyslexia, but i didn’t believe it

    time skip to now (age 15), i decided to look it up out of boredom, aside from the can’t read or write well and the vision issues parts, everything else checks out for me, thanks for proving my old doc right good sir(s)/ma’am(s).

  • Rachel

    My son is 10 and has had a very hard time learning to read. We homeschool and so he has had plenty of one on one instruction.he is super smart and remembers anything I read to him. He listens to audio books way beyond most 10 year olds level. Yet when he tries to read his eyes start to water and he has to sound out every word. His eyes really bother him but we have had his sight tested and it’s 20/15. He has excellent vision. I believe he has some dyslexia but I have no idea how to help him. We live in El Salvador so it’s up to me to help him since there’s no where I know of to take him. Any advice is appreciated

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Rachel, as you homeschool I would suggest that you start by reading the book, The Gift of Dyslexia. The book has detailed step-by-step instructions on how to guide a child through the learning the key Davis techniques.

  • Aubrey

    My 6 year old matches a good amount of these signs. We haven’t wanted to resort to dislexia because, let’s be honest it can sometimes feel like a cop out of why my child isn’t progressing like the others. She just started reading and we have seen with her numbers she gets them backwards example 14 to her is 41 but with reading we have words like “them” that she mistakes for “me”. She’s ending the year in kindergarten and I’m wondering if this is something I should address to the teacher or just continuing working with her.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      With a 6 year old child, and the symptoms you describe, we would encourage the parent to work with the child using the Davis Young Learners Kit. The problems you describe do seem like early signs of dyslexia, but younger children are also in a phase of just beginning to learn to read and work with numbers. So the problems can often be addressed simply by providing the right tools early on.

    • Jill

      Trust your instincts. I saw signs in my now 3rd grader back in kindegarden. When I discussed it with his teachers they said they didn’t see any problems. He was reading and testing on level. So I decided maybe I was trying to cause problem where there wasn’t one. In second grade his grades and test were good but I noticed his self esteem was dropping. I could not figure out what was going on. I now know he was starting to realize that he was working so much harder than other kids to keep up. So he assumed he was dumb. Third grade hit like a ton of bricks he could no longer keep up. Finally I acted on my instincts and had him tested. He is dyslexic. Now we are starting interventions that would have saved him alot of heartache. If we would have started them 3 years ago. Just remember you are your child’s best advocate.

  • Rebecca

    i think im borderline dyslexic, but i dont know how to address it, or how to speak out, can anyone help? im 15

  • Nontyatyambo

    I struggle with understanding comprehension and very bad at reading and spelling. I’m 34 years old based in the westrand Johannesburg

  • Sarah

    My child has just turned 11. When she writes she makes quite bad spelling mistakes but if i ask her how to spell it she she writes it correctly (most of the time) I noticed yesterday she even spelled her name wrong. In grade 1 and 2 with sight words she could repeat the words but if i asked her in a different order she couldn’t tell me, she was just guessing. I am a bad speller so thought she took after me, but when i read her homework she has made so many spelling mistakes with words i know she can spell. She is very creative girl and loves art and drama. Very well behaved at school but often daydreams. She has always been quite emotional. Great sleeper since a baby. Just discovered she has a dairy intolerance. I am starting to worry as going to high school next year. Is she just lazy or does she need help? any advice appreciated.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sarah, difficulty with spelling is a common and persistent sign of dyslexia. In your daughter’s case, it is very likely caused by disorientation. So no, your daughter isn’t lazy — however, it is not clear from your psost whether she has any other significant problems with reading or school other than being a poor speller. A Davis program could help your daughter if she wants the help.

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