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 April 21, 2019 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Nazia

    Hi dear
    My son is 5yr 7month old …he is good in reading and speaking also good …But problem is in writing ..griping the pen …he doesn’t want to write ..when he mixed up with the children ..he plays ..As he unable to communicate with them ..sometimes children get irritate ..sometimes he gets so hyper …if we dnt buy a toys or he wanted something …But we ignore to give tht..I m really worried about him .

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Nazia, it sounds like your son’s difficulties might be normal for his age — perhaps he is not yet ready to handle a pen or pencil. The approach we use of modeling letters with plasticine clay is also a good way to help build hand strength and small motor skills in young children — so that would be a good way to start.

  • Joey B

    I’m a 33 year old construction worker and just realized that I have been dyslexic my hole life …after a coworker asked if I was dyslexic or something because I feared riting on a sign cuz my writing is sloppy ..everything above defines me… my son is 8 and beginning to go beyond me in reading and writing is frustrating …I can read upside down right side up backwards sideways every way I read it it’s the same it’s like the words jumping around …anyway this has taken me an hour to write with spell check on my side I just wanted to write something it’s great to kno it’s not just me

  • Nana

    My granddaughter was slow to talk. She was almost 2 before she communicated well. She was unable to recognize letters and numbers in pre-K. She was promoted to kindergarten but struggled with any letter and word recognition. She can do anything that is artistic. She is very bright and can draw and color and has a great perspective of drawing. She can copy letters and numbers but doesn’t recognize them. She repeated kindergarten with hopes that she needed another year to mature. The second year of kindergarten she did a little better but still had trouble with reading and letters. These years were in private school. We had her tested and she was high in artistic and problem solving but low in compression. We had her vision tested and was good. In first grade she was transferred to public school in efforts to help her. She struggled but passed. Now she is to attend second grade. I am concerned that she will not be able to keep up. She will be tested in second grade for dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Any suggestions?

  • Jay N

    I have dyslexia and it is not fun. It makes me work twice as hard and work twice as long as anybody in my classes. I am 13 and you probably can see it in my wrighting. I am super good at math but not word problems. I had to seach up 12 words just in this comment to spell them right. It is supper hard to spell new words and most of the time I miss spell the most common words their, the . watch. Almost ever day people ask me why is your hand wrighting so missly and I say i have dyslexia. They are like what is that I say I could tell you but I don’t know how to tell you.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Jay, I know that things are very hard for you, and at age 13 it certainly can seem like a battle that will never end. But there are effective strategies which make things easier — that is why we talk about dyslexia being a gift. Because we help people tap into their inner strengths and also use that to overcome their difficulties. Our approach is different because rather than trying to teach dyslexics using approaches that make sense to non-dyslexic teachers, we use strategies geared to the ways that dyslexics think and learn. So please have faith– you can and will be able to do anything that you set your mind to.

  • Issabella

    I have 26 of these symptoms! I often have trouble reading, taking notes, and reading aloud. I am good at math but I have difficulty counting money(especially in front of people) and doing word problem. I often get confused when given too many instructions, every thing has to be written down or in a list for me to remember it. Most of the time I forget what I am talking about mid sentence or I can’t come up with a word and I get frustrated. I have to reread everything more the twice. I jump to different lines or even different paragraphs. Even when I do reread things they still don’t make since. I learn the best with hands on experiences or visually. When typing on a computer I get b and d, m and w, and g and j mixed up. I also get g and j mixed up when people try to tell me how to spell something. I am a terrible speller. I often miss spell commonly used words like who and how for example. I literally can’t wven think of how to even start spelling them. I even mix up the letters in my name. It took me forever to learn how to spell my middle name. I always put the a before the e. And I never know how to spell words like piece and recess. I get Cs and Ss mixed up. And the whole I before e thing just confuses me. When reading things I often see words that aren’t even there. I am a straight As student but school is still hard for me sometimes. (I am a sophomore in high school) I have taken many tests and they all come back with moderate to sever dyslexia. I have tested 67% and 64% dyslexic. Can dyslexia be genetic? Because my mom is also somewhat dyslexic. Do you think I am dyslexic?

  • Mimi

    My son is 13 years old. He has learning difficulties, he struggles mostly with reading, spellings, comprehending and writing he can’t even read his own hand writing. I sent him for evaluation of learning difficulties by a school psychologist, she ruled out dyslexia. Oral he is very good and speaks fluently and has a good grammar. What could this be

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Mimi, we would consider those difficulties to all be consistent with dyslexia. Did the school psychologist tell you why she “ruled out” dyslexia? Sometimes the student simply doesn’t perform poorly enough on tests to meet the arbitrary low-level needed to qualify for services; sometimes evaluators are using inappropriate criteria to define dyslexia- for example, some might define dyslexia very narrowly to cover only students with very weak phonetic decoding skills, which can miss the students who are struggling with reading fluency and comprehension.

  • Anurag

    Please share the method to cure the person suffering from these kind of symptoms. Actually I have observed such symptoms in my nephew and I want to help him.
    Please give me suggestions.
    Thank you

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The methods we use to correct dyslexia are described in detail in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia.

      Dyslexia is not a disease,so there is no “cure”. Rather, dyslexia is a learning difference that can be effectively addressed with strategies geared to the individual’s learning strengths.

  • Alyx :)

    Hi, I’m nearly 21 and just beginning to realize how jumbled things get. I mess up popular phrases all the time because I switch the words around. I can’t recall any examples at the moment but I do it on a daily basis. I will do it with regular sentences too, words will just be placed wrong, it makes sense when read but it’s still wrong and sounds weird. I’ll reread it twice and not see the error until after it’s been sent.

    Also lists pose a difficult time for me; I get everything confused and can never follow the list all the way down. I have to cover up the rest of the words in the list and read it one at a time or my eyes get lost and don’t know where to look and I get confused. I’ve also noticed at random times I’ll completely forget how to spell the easiest most common words that we use everyday. This happens maybe once a week, maybe less, but still frustrates me. The list thing is any time I see a list of words, organized or not. Like this whole article was difficult for me to process and I had to pause and restart several times because I got lost and couldn’t find where I was at.

    Do you think this may be signs of dyslexia? I don’t have insurance or the money to see a doctor about it so id like to at least be somewhat positive about what I struggle with if that makes sense.

    Thank you <3

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Alyx, dyslexia is not a medical condition, so not something that a regular medical doctor would diagnose and treat. It is an inborn difference in the way that you think and learn, and the way that your brain processes information. All of the difficulties you describe can be addressed — the key is in developing a better understanding of how your mind works and why the symptoms arise, and then resolving the underlying causes in a way that harmonizes with your mental strengths.

      Our approach is described in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia — and reading or listening to the book is a good way to get started if you want to understand more.

  • Richard S

    Hi Nina, if you confuse letters right or left, that means that you have a form of dyslexia, as so many of us do. Although there are fewer girls than boys with this symptom, there are so many. Be of good cheer, because you can work through all of these difficulties as most of us have. Always seek help from an understanding teacher that you trust, as they are often able to lead you to a professional (or special teacher) that can help you out in more ways. Keep up the good work!

  • Nina l

    I am 16 and i am not good at math especially word problems, I have trouble talking to others because I mix up my words or I say the wrong things that confuse other people and make me look and sound dumb which is why I have low self esteem . And I sometimes do confuse right and left,I also I have to recount sometimes because I feel like I didn’t count my money or things right. I like writing but it’s sometimes hard to write them out the way I would want it to be. I don’t like sports because I feel like i am not good at playing then except catch or tennis, but I, not very good at tennis. I am a quiet teen I don’t like to talk much because it takes me a bit to pronounce and talk and because I am shy. I am a slow learner, I learn better from experience or doing it physically but I forget later on. I have braces which makes it difficult to pronounce some words without slurring a bit, I think that that is why I can’t form sentences correctly sometimes. But I have started to see that I should have been able to pronounce words better by now either I’m dyslexic or just stupid.

    I got about half of these symptoms which worry’s me a lot, am I dyslexic?

    • Aj Lopez

      Hey feel ya I just fout out tht I was dyslexia just now n it came across from me before but it just never domed on me to look in to it in till now. This whole year I’ve been finding out answers abt myself n why I fill so different around everybody I’m 16 n I like math but it’s kinda difficult counting money especially in front of somebody because I don’t want them to think tht I’m slow or something n thts when my anxiety starts up. I go through depression a lot n get stressed out every day. I rarely talk the people I live with because they don’t understand or not on the same or type level of mindset tht I’m on. I’m a class clown n trouble maker but i try so hard to not cause trouble a lot so I just class clown a lot but sometimes I’m quiet most of the time because I can’t find no one who I’m the same mindset tht I’m on r someone who goes through the same thing tht I’m going through. I’m just go stop here but if u want to talk or something my ears are always open but I do go M.I.A a lot but yea depressed n stuff. It’s on a friendly type level it doesn’t matter I just need someone whi understands wht I’m going through n it’s rough . We teenagers n it’s not like we can go up to friends n easily talk to them because they don’t understand.

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