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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  • Rich A

    My son was diagnosed with dyslexia , he is bright and outgoing , my wife reads to him often , I’ve never seen this issue addressed , he has no sense of time ? this morning he thought we did something yesterday , when in fact it was 4 days ago ? my wife who is not dyslexic also doesn’t have a good sense of time.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      We do see problems with time management & understanding the passage of time as being associated with dyslexia, and we also have specific tools to address this. In our view, this stems from disorientation — because of the tendency to disorient (or, “zone out”, as reflected in our list of traits) — the person simply does not experience the passage of time in a consistent way. Davis Orientation training — which is included in all programs — will help the person develop a better innate sense of time, as the person spends more of their own life in an oriented state. We also include specific tools to understand the concept of time within Davis Concept Mastery; this is usually given as part of a Davis Attention Mastery or Math Mastery program.

  • Matty S

    I’ve never seen such truth wow I teared of how articulate and understanding this article is, thank you I’ve now found a voice in you 🙂
    I’ve even put as part of my disability course I’m studying in the symptoms of dyslexia a personal part of my life where I’d do all math mutiblecation I did backward in my head an not show the working out an thought I was copying or cheating where I’d find it too much effort to write it down so less penciling if I didn’t have to write it down until I got to times tables where you have complexs like brackets and more then the two it’ll be 3 or four like 8x6x(9×5) it only works forword 🙂

  • Sanjoli J

    Hii, I’m 22 and I think I have dyslexia though I’m not very sure because my memory is good enough but yes sometimes I have to read again and again, also I have always been a daydreamer and I don’t know what to do about that , I cannot drive as I get very confused and I couldn’t play ball games. Is there a sure way of knowing whether I’m a dyslexic or not and also can this be treated ?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      These problems are all consistent with dyslexia and can be fully addressed through a Davis Dyslexia Correction program. A Davis program would not stop you from daydreaming, but would definitely give you the ability to better control when you are focused rather than getting lost in your own daydreams.

  • Robin

    My dyslexia is getting worse as I age. I am 66. I am not talking about usual aging complaints but my dyslexia habits.

  • Eden

    Hello, I haven’t had some of these symptoms until recently, but I felt I should look into it after it started becoming a bit of a problem. A few that I’ve had for a while is not being able to comprehend sentences until I’ve read them at least 4 or 5 times over. I would be reading fine until one spot and this would happen for no apparent reason. Sometimes a couple letters or words would also start to kind of shake or vibrate. Another is being very bad at math. I almost failed math classes several times because I couldn’t understand equations even after studying. This was mostly for algebra and I always feel the need to check my answers on a calculator, no matter how simple the problem is. I also find it very hard to concentrate in classes to what teachers are saying, many times I’d just resort to drawing so I wouldn’t be stressed out over it.

    The symptoms that started recently are a lot more speech related. I keep repeating words or sounds and stuttering over and over without meaning to. I haven’t been so bad at speaking aloud and now it’s gotten me so frustrated that I would just kinda ‘hit stop rewind and play’ to get what I need to out. Or just stop completely. I don’t know how to combat it and talking slowly almost seems to make it worse. I don’t know what to do about this or if there’s any way to help but I figured the first step would be to get some sort of second opinion. And also, if it matters, I do have high functioning anxiety and social anxiety. I don’t know if that could be the source of these problems but I’ve had it for a while while this started more recently. Thank you in advance for any response

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Eden, these symptoms can be caused by disorientation, which does tend to increase with stress and anxiety. The Davis Dyslexia program begins with tools to help recognize and resolve disorientation, but even without a formal program, you might try learning some stress-relief or relaxation techniques to see if they help with your speech problems.

  • Ulrica G

    My daughter is 10 and loves to read but has reading comprehension issues. She also has issues remembering past learned tasks when of sequence. For example what letter comes after G? She doesn’t recall unless going through the alphabet from the beginning. Also months in the year when not in sequence. Should i have her tested?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Ulrica, the pattern of difficulties you describe is very common among dyslexic individuals, and the Davis program is built around techniques geared to addressing those problems. For example, one of several reasons the alphabet is modeled in clay and learned in reverse order as well as forwards is to develop mastery of the alphabetic sequence, so the person no longer has to rely on the “old solution” of reciting or singing the alphabet in their mind. So a Davis program would definitely address all of the concerns you mention.

      However, formal diagnostic testing may or may not be useful. A full-scale evaluation would give you more information, but your daughter may perform too well in tests of basic, underlying skills to qualify for a formal diagnosis, and may not test out as being far enough behind in reading ability to qualify for school-based services.

  • Karen

    Hello, my 6 year old son is having a few issues with school in year one, he struggles recognising words and re-recognising them. He muddles up his number and letters, often writing them back to front and getting his b and d etc mixed up. His attention span is very short in class, but he will happily spend hours building Lego and setting up army soldiers etc We are still struggling with his night time bed wetting, even having stopped him with any drinks after teatime, he will always wake with a wet nappy. Could any of these little traits be linked with Dyslexia, should I approach the school about it?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, the traits you describe would be consistent with dyslexia. However, because he is only 6, there may also be developmental issues at play. However, if he is feeling frustrated at school and seems to be having more difficulty than same-age peers, then it does make sense to raise the issue and seek help.

  • Payal T

    My daughter who is now 16 has all the same traits as me. 1. I had trouble concentrating in school during lessons that require constant listening like in history. I still wander off when people talk to me for longer periods of time. 2. Terrible at math unless I had a good teacher to explain the concepts to me that is when I excelled 3. Very good visual and kinesthetic skills but poor auditory skills 4. Always always on time. 5. Giving up things that I can’t do perfectly 6. Worst of all, read books extremely slowly as I have trouble comprehending and so I reread again and again.

    I was never diagnosed but is this a sign of dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The pattern of learning strengths and difficulty that you describe is very consistent with dyslexia. It is tied to having a mostly nonverbal thought process.

  • Heidi

    My daughter is ten she has always had trouble reading, she struggles and doesn’t really enjoy it. Recently she took a pre-babysitting course where they took notes. When she came home the notes were a little wacky, I realized this is the first time she has taken notes because until that course she just copies off the board. Then I was trying to help her read Harry Potter (it’s the first novel they have had parts of as homework) and she kept loosing her spot. I asked if she was tired or bored because she was loosing her spot , she said no when stuff floats around she finds it hard to keep her place. I gave her an ez-reader strip and saw huge improvement. I have since started trying to navigate the best route for testing and diagnosis. One of the first things I did was take her for an eye exam, well the Dr asked what brought us in for an exam now, I explained it to him. He preformed the exam and asked her to step outside. When she left he said that he thought she was fine, not dyslexic, not needing glasses, and that she was just doing all of it for attention. This is NOT how she is at all, if anything she will hate the attention, she was nervous. So he prescribed her glasses with the lowest prescription possible he said that they will clear the lines if she keep saying things are blurry. So I purchased the glasses, but I was wondering if anyone else experienced anything like this. I don’t feel like it’s for attention and I am not satisfied with placebo glasses, I want her to be allowed accommodations for test time and a few others her teacher suggested.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Heidi, your daughter’s losing her focus during reading is a very common symptom of dyslexia that is often caused by disorientation. Her statement about “stuff floats around” would tend to confirm that she is becoming disoriented while reading. The ez-reader strip you used is actually similar to an approach we would use as part of one of the basic reading exercises we use to build reading fluency.

      I am sorry that you went to a doctor who did not respect your daughter. An eye doctor is not able to diagnose dyslexia.

      A Davis program would address many of the symptoms you are describing; you might want to start by reading the book The Gift of Dyslexia to learn more about our approach and whether your daughter fits the pattern of a dyslexic learner.

  • Laura

    I’m 33, and believe I have dyslexia in some kind of form. I hated School growing up and dropped out (got my ged), i hate reading out loud, i can’t Pronounce words right, I’m not good at spelling or reading. I’m not in colllege, i has to drop an English class bc the professor started to asked students to read out loud. I want To work as a Medical assistant but I’m so scared about the spelling, reading part and pronouncing words (for this job) So this is holding me back from my goals

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