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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  • Shredha

    Truly speaking i had gone through this page accidentally…. but i was shocked reading this….i just found myself here…When i was kid, i thoroughly faced isolation because i was a below average student…slow at reading…mispells words etc.I found reading a language other than my mother tongue was horrible…& i usually got punished by my teachers aswell…i felt suffocated!!
    I still hate to remember those old days…today i am a way different..i have many friends& now i am an above average student in my school ..a confident girl.Now i fuantly speak English and 2 other languages.
    But still I am too lazy…deep sleeper….daydreamer…my parents call me immature…high tempered…strong feel for justice…easily distracted by sound…hate to read books…complaints of headaches and dehydrated while reading…can’t concentrate in an activity for a while….loses spirit as time pass by…..
    It took me this much time to understand myself….now may be i can improve myself …

  • mary joyce

    hi. i have a 5 year old kid. she can talk clearly. she ca remember happenings in our lives easily even places that we went to. she is also a hyper kid and really talk a lot but she has difficulties with abc’s. she knows the song but she cant identify the letters. even i teach her each letter when i ask her again she dont know it. is that a dyslexia? how can i confirm? which doctor should i ask?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Your child may be “at risk” for dyslexia but at age 5, it could also be part of a normal developmental pattern. With a 5 year old, our approach would be to have the child model the letters of the alphabet in clay. We also teach basic self-regulation skills (focusing, energy dial) — which can help with the hyper behavior, as it may be that your child is simply incapable of maintaining attention focus long enough to learn her letters. We have a home kit geared to children age 5-7 here: https://shop.dyslexia.com/dylkit

  • Petra M

    My daughter is 11 and until she got to year 4 (age8/9) she was doing ok at school but then she stopped making progress in literacy, mainly because of spelling and comprehension , which remain way below her age, she can read but not out loud. Her writing is actually fine, she doesn’t have problems with mixing up the letters but as I said her spelling is terrible.
    Another thing is she is so disorganised and untidy! She is very sensitive and often upset by small fallings out with friends.
    Does this sound like she could be dyslexic?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Petra, we use the term dyslexia broadly to cover a range of symptoms and patterns, and so would consider your daughter’s difficulties with spelling and comprehension, and disorganization to all be indications of dyslexic thinking pattern. More importantly, the Davis Dyslexia program is specifically geared to addressing these problems, because our approach is meaning-based. Often when a child first starts to struggle in 3rd or 4th grade it is because they have a nonverbal thought process, and simply cannot make sense of many of the words in print. They cope well in early grades when text is simple and content highly predictable, but then start to run into problems when the reading becomes more difficult.

  • Rem

    Hello, I’m a writer and I would appreciate some advice regarding a character in a story I’m working on. My character is a 12 year old boy with dyslexia (or at least, I’m considering having him be dyslexic). He’s very intelligent and wise beyond his years in some ways, but he’s often labelled as immature or lazy by adults because of his less than average performance in school. He dislikes school for various reasons, but one big reason is that he often feels that he’s being asked to do things that are harder for him than they are for other kids. His teacher doesn’t understand this and thinks he’s just being lazy (note that this story takes place roughly in the 1600s, so there was no knowledge on learning disabilities).
    I’ve been doing some research to try and develop this idea, and in doing so I’ve decided that it might be appropriate for him to have traits common to people with dyslexia (he already had a few of them, coincidentally). But what worries me is that, while my character has difficulty reading and writing, he actually love reading stories for leisure. He just doesn’t like reading aloud or being pressured to read within a certain amount of time. He still struggles with reading when he’s doing it for fun, but it doesn’t stress him out as bad since he’s reading at his own pace. He also writes for leisure- again, he struggles with it, but he doesn’t mind when he’s doing it on his own.
    I would imagine it’s of course possible for a person with dyslexia to adore and actively seek out reading and writing despite their struggles, but is there anything I need to watch out for to make sure this is still realistic? Is there anything about his character so far that I might need to edit and make more accurate?
    I notice that a lot of the people commenting on this page are parents or people with dyslexia, so I know this comment is quite different from the others. I apologize if it’s at all inappropriate for me to be asking this here. I just want to make sure that if I decide to have this character be dyslexic, I represent it properly.

  • Apple Mae

    My 7 years old daughter difficult to understand the letters,words, numbers,and sometimes in verbal explanations.And she has a behavior problem and cant read the word,she always forgot what i teach to her .Is this sign of dyslexia,if this so, what should i do?

  • Mac

    Diagnosed very late in life, which thing turned out to be a great blessing, because it explained to me the way my head worked, and why such a clever person could seemingly make such a hash of some things.
    My inner critic ( spell check made the initial typed jumble “citric”..very apposite I guess) has gone on the huff because theres a rationale behind the way I and other “dyslexiteers” process information.
    Its not being stupid, its lateral thinking and can become a highly developed system as result of having to cope with certain things other people take for granted.
    Reading aloud at school (terrifying) way back, I had evolved a hurdling style, going like the clappers through a Shakespearean soliloquy with my Scottish burr, only to hear the teacher say sarcastically. ” Could you not go a bit faster” Missing the intent of the remark, I responded, and of course received six of the best from her sweetness and light, for my apparent insolence…
    Mere bagatel in comparison to the walking letters on the uni exam papers, and a lifetime of huge depressions caused by feeling like a child of a lesser god .
    We are not, we can walk the road less travelled and that doesn’t mean having a life less lived.
    One last quip about anagram trip wires on spellcheck.
    I’ve been texting and encouraging a tubby friend to eat less carbs.
    Last reply from her was ” But I’ve never eaten crustaceans”

  • Calla

    My 7 year old granddaughter reverses letters when printing and has difficulty writing her letters on the line. She writes ‘b’ for ‘d’ etc. Explaining her error or showing her the correct way doesn’t seem to help. I had her read to me and she seemed to do OK with just a little help. Should I be concerned this is more than just a “penmanship” issue? She is very artistic and also sensitive emotionally.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      These could be signs of dyslexia. Explaining the error to her won’t help because the error comes from the way her brain processes information. That means that she may not be perceiving the letters in the same way you would expect. One aspect of dyslexia is that perceptions are often inaccurate, and if the child is frustrated or upset, the misperceptions only get worse.

      We use clay modeling of letters to help develop a consistent understanding of the letters. The 3-d media along with combining tactile and kinesthetic sensory input helps strengthen the memory of the letter and the ability to perceive it correctly in the future.

    • Jackie H

      Switching d and b offs very common in all kids that age. Do not correct her!! (Bad for self-esteem. She’ll figure it out soon enough!)

    • Sam

      A tip that somebody showed me was to put my thumbs up. The left hand will represent as a ‘b’ and the right will represent as a ‘d’. Start from the space before the you’re left hand and imagine thats where the alphabet starts, after ‘a’ if ‘b’ which will be your left hand in a thumps up position the after that use the empty space between you’re hands to imagine a ‘c’ after that is ‘d’ which would be youre right hand.

      Does that make any sense?

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        Dyslexic children (and adults) typically have difficulty remembering left vs. right, so tricks involving holding up hands generally don’t work and only add to confusion. Ron Davis calls these “old solutions” because they are ways to cope that may seem to work, but actually can make it more difficult because the child simply has more she needs to remember.

    • Michelle T

      I really struggled conceptually with b d p and q. I have very good 3 dimensional and spacial thinking, so I see them as the same form. When adults would tell me they were different it would not stick because I so clearly saw them as the same shape. (If you threw paperclips on the floor, the ones that flipped upside down and backward would still be paperclips, right?) I recommend you acknowledge that they are keenly seeing these shapes as they really ARE, the same shape in different flipped, rotated, and mirrored manifestations. Point out though that for LETTERS, the way they are facing is very important so we just have to memorize them in this specific configuration so we will know what sound is intended. I also don’t do left/right well so the b d hand trick would not work. However, as a visual learner the word “bed” was key to my memorizing the correct configuration for the letters. I would say it out loud and look at the word on a flashcard often. Then when I was writing and needed to recall the correct way to write the shape for the letter I intended, I could remember the word bed. B comes first in the alphabet and first in the word bed. D is second and they face each other.

  • Brian

    I’m 45 and I’ve had this my whole life. It has made my life quite difficult. I quit school in the tenth grade.
    The teachers just did not understand what I was going through and I was diagnosed in the third grade. Technology has really improved my spelling however my vocabulary is limited. I will still work my self up for days if not weeks before a group training at work knowing I may be asked to read something out load. I can not do this. As I struggle to read and comprehend then to speak it. Thats never going to happen. This was a real struggle trying to help kids in say 6th grade with homework when they had a higher reading level then me. With that said they made through just fine and they understand the dyslexia. Speaking of it being a gift, I work with numbers barcodes and other numerical codes and due to the way I had to learn numbers I start backwards. I can pick out a mistake in no time. Glade I found ur site

  • Alexia B

    I have diffulty in my vision and spelling, sometimes reading, but my vision is sharp and that’s weird, I’m a teen right now. All of the things up there explain what I do. One thing that happens alot is I know what I’m going to say but I can’t say it then I forget and don’t complete what I’m going to say. Last time I was in a store my grandmother told me to get a item and showed me what it looked like, I was so confused because everything on the isle was green so I just picked up anything green, after doing that 2 times she called me dumb and went to get it herself. What’s wrong with me, I’m confused if I am or not dyslexic?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The problems you describe can be associated with dyslexia. Dyslexics tend to be nonverbal thinkers and can have difficulty at times remembering words, as well as sometimes confusing word meaning. The problem is that the dyslexic person will misunderstand or mishear a word, form the wrong picture in their mind — and then not be able to mentally replay the words because all that is left is the wrong picture.

    • Poppy H

      I’m about to turn 44. And I’m probably smarter than average. I used to be just like you and thought I was deeply stupid at your age. We just think differently than everyone else. Fake it until you make it 😉 Eventually you will figure out your own tricks to solve problems in a way that only makes sense to you.
      I think I’m smarter because when I read I have to read every single word slowly so that it sticks. Before I figured that out when I read the words would quite literally float of the page or my mind just floats away.
      When someone asks me to do something or is explaining something….I just have to listen very carefully. Once….I just my brain to figure out what it hear in a couple of minutes or more, depending.
      Oh! And the only annoying thing about being dyslexic…..I’m going to be 44 and there will still be those that think they will be the one to teach me left from right! That stupid making an L with the left hand 😉

  • Val L

    My 5 year old granddaughter consistently copies names and letters in a mirror image ie, k isn reversed, and when viewed in a mirror, all letters are correctly formed, in the correct order. Is this a sign of dyslexia, and if so, should we be doing something about it? She starts kindergarten in the fall.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Reversals of letters are very common in young children, and would not be significant unless associated with other difficulties. We use clay modeling of letters to help children master the alphabet, including directionality.

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