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 June 19, 2019 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Jane M

    My son is grown up now. He was never officially diagnosed as dyslexic but his learning was different to our other three boys. Becoming a reader was a huge effort. The words ‘and’ and ‘the’ had to be presented a minimum of 600 times each before he could finally remember each of these words. Many times when I was about to do school work with him (Mike was home schooled just like our other three ) he would say to me he already knew it. How common would this comment be?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      I think that would be a very common statement. The problem when dyslexic kids struggle over small words like “and” and “the” is not that they don’t know the words, but that they have become disoriented because they don’t know what the word means in the sentence or passage. Dyslexics tend to think in pictures; words like “dog” or “apple” have pictures that easily come to mind, but what’s “the” look like? That’s why we model all those small words in clay.
      model of the word and model of word, the

  • Zandy

    My son alwa get confused when we ask him to do something, we have to tell him more than twice before he act and he wil stand and not knowing what we said he will round staring and keep saying mum he want me to fill repeat again, he good in soccer, drawing even at school they don’t complain with his school work, but like to disturb others

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Dyslexia stems from a problem with making sense of the sounds of language, so your son’s behavior definitely could be tied to dyslexia. It may take him longer to connect up words in his mind with word meanings, so he probably really doesn’t understand what is being said or asked of him.

  • sarah

    i am in gr 10 and i have dyslexia and i get good marks in school but i have a heard time reading and spelling and alot of the thing u put on this list what do i do

  • Crystal A

    My daughter is 6 yrs old and she is in 1st grade when she was in kindergarten she would but her letter back words and she still does it and she has trouble reading writing sounding out but for math science social studies music p.e. She does really good she stresses out really fast what can I do to help her .

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      For age 6, we recommend the Davis Young Learners Kit It is geared to the developmental needs of younger children, and includes techniques you can teach to relieve feelings of stress. Stress is a real problem and will definitely make dyslexia symptoms worse, so it’s important to be introducing letters and beginning reading skills in a calm and playful manner.

  • Paras

    I thought to share my experience and if it help. I am an Adult who is its late 30ish.
    I have dyslexia all my life but did not know until now. I always had problem seeing letters and numbers clearly but did not notice that this could be a problem, especially looking white digital board which luckily I encounter only at final year of post graduation makes me dizzy and almost impossible to focus.
    Looking back to those year, I feel it was good that I did not know I have this problem even though I have struggled and had to work harder than my peer but I have more than what I could have with knowing the problem.
    I always have to arrange my work completely different than other kids and they find it over doing,
    – making thing in order which I can understand clearly and with less effort.
    – it was difficult to read clearly so I used to write as I read to make it understand and grasp. I know it may be sounding absurd but I did that all my study and do it even now.
    – using black screen with white letter help to read better compared to other way.
    however one thing which I never thought or looks and my speech. I always and still slip letters in sentence make thing funny and sometime embarrassing.
    also finding problem with reading more than usual and that’s when I came to know about dyslexia.
    but don’t know should I thank for not knowing or sad for not diagnosing at earlier.

  • Alyssa

    My 6 year old forget everything about reading he says the words do circles and he can’t focus he stares off into space he can’t remember sounds and letters so can’t read like….. at all he forgot the ABC’s his teacher says she isn’t concerned I am I am very concerned what do I do

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Alyssa — we have a kit that is designed to help parents work with their kids at this age — it provides a gentle, playful introduction to letters and words that is appropriate for all young children, and can help the child transition into becoming a reader. You can learn more about this here: https://shop.dyslexia.com/dylkit

  • Nadeane P

    My daughter has had trouble concentrating and learning throughout her primary and secondary education.
    She has low self esteem and says everything just doesn’t make sense on the page. She panics and can’t focus on exams and says I don’t understand how hard it is for her to concentrate.
    She would like to go to university and atudy nursing. How can I help her?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The Davis Dyslexia approach begins with learning techniques for improving attention focus along with mental relaxation techniques – this is something not included with traditional forms of tutoring or remediation. So all the symptoms she describes — difficulty concentrating, trouble making sense of words on the page, panicking and losing focus on exams — are problems that will be directly addressed with a Davis program. If you live anywhere near a Davis Facilitator, I’d encourage you to arrange a consultation for your daughter.

  • Patricia

    My son was diagnosed with dyslexia while in elementary school. Accommodations were made for his studies throughout his senior year. He is now in college and is required to take a second language, in which he is struggling and becoming very frustrated. He said its hard to enough for him to learn English, and now he’s required to learn a new language. We spoke with the Office of Disability at the college and they are asking for documentation from his high school such as a 504 plan. Upon calling and talking to somebody at the administrative office they told me being he graduated a few years back that they probably don’t have any of those records. So now what can I do to help my son so that he doesn’t struggle in college or drop out?

    • Alan

      You son does not have a disability he has dyslexia. Chances are he can read this paragraph faster than if it was spelled correctly.

      “Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.
      i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it! ”

      So what does that mean, it could be that his mind organizes things differently. It could be he sees things in spacial orientation instead of absolute orientation. Has he taken advanced math classes? He may have a career in science or engineering. I have dyslexia but have discover that I have a phenomenal aptitude for math and engineering and a phenomenally poor aptitude for composition. I have a MSEE degree and I am a member of Tau Beta Pi (Engineering Honorary Society), Eta Kappa Nu (Electrical Engineering Honorary Society) and Pi Mu Epsilon (Math Honary Society). In any other major I would been an average student, in engineering I was a honor student. I believe it was my dyslexia that enabled me to be an honor student in engineering. As my best friend Jay would say, “For the love of God, do not let the Office of Disability evaluate your son. They don’t have a clue.”

  • Pranjal S

    I am a student and i have always stress.when I start study I cannot concentrate on study.

  • Kelly H

    I have major issues doing my job at work. I have told my supervisor I have dyslexia. I have been turn down for jobs because of expressing my issue. I need a true test that shows I have dyslexia so I can list it as a disability and get so help and be left alone and not bullied by my supervisor.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kelly, you can use this website to find help in your state: http://www.ndrn.org/ (National Disability Rights Network)

    • Heather

      In Quebec it is seen as a learning problem, so since it isn’t a handicap no code for extra money for help in school. My brother is a teacher and I am a special care counsellor, my son is in level 5 ( grade 11 last one in high school here) We all are dyslexic. My co worker knows because I will have her proof read important files (written not in my mother tongue). When needed. I would just let your strong points shine and if asked to be secretary for a meeting or something offer your service doing another part of the job. Something’s extra work is needed. Both my brother and I will do homework to be more prepared so we don’t look dumb. Like write out words so we can check how they are spelled. I have a list of most used words that help me and save me time. Little tricks can help a lot. Good luck.

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