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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  • Debra C

    I’m an adult, 60. I’ve wondered for year’s if I was dyslexic. Is there a test that I can take to find out?

  • Dev

    I get confused between small letter
    d & b,
    p & 9,
    and number 3 , while writing .
    Do I have dyslexia ?

  • Franca

    My child is 5yrs old and posses most of the symptoms of dyslexia.how can I help as a parent.pls tell me

  • Robert S

    At 63 I suppose it does not really matter if I am dyslexic any more. In fact I did not know I was until my elder son was classified as a dyslexic – and he said “…. you see I am just like you!” (He was chuffed – he got extra time for exams – not that he really needed it.)
    Anyway computers and spell checks now take the fun out of dyslexia – I used to come up with whoppers but I still leave the end of words – like writing “the” when I mean “they”. (I read it back and see no problem…)
    My question: is Dyslexia hereditary or a learned behaviour? My son is creative, as I am – my younger boy is more grounded.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Dyslexia is both: it is an inherited tendency that influences the way a child will think and learn, but each child will develop on their own, and their development will be influenced by their environment and life experiences. So each person will also have their own unique set of characteristics.

  • Devin D

    I apperentaly have most of the trates statd up there so I dont know if I’m Dyslexic or not

  • Erica S

    Hi my son is seven and in grade 2 he cannot read or spell we live in the Bahamas I am not aware of any therapist were we live

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Erica, as your son is only age 7, I’d encourage you to consider buying a Davis Young Learner’s kit — https://shop.dyslexia.com/dylkit — you can work with your son at home to gently introduce the Davis strategies and see whether that helps him gain some basic skills. I’d add that many Davis Facilitators are willing to travel to provide programs, and the Bahamas is an attractive travel destination — so I’m sure you could find someone willing to come. But age 7 is too young for a standard 5-day dyslexia program, so probably not cost-effective to bring a facilitator to you until your child is somewhat older.

  • Mrs Patricia G

    I have a grandson who has just been diagnosed at 13 in USA how come school has not noticed in his work although A grade maths. I want to give him help .could you please give me some advise. I feel he has enough to cope with also at puberty stage. thanks.

  • Britt

    Hello, I’m 32 years old and always had problems… it seems now I’m starting to realize a lot of it falls under the dyslexia category. I was never diagnosed and honestly my family never payed enough attention to notice. Anyways, I never completed high school because it became very difficult with my problems. I’m now trying to get my GED but even now it’s hard. Is there a way to help myself with completing my GED?

    • Tommy

      What are the chances that I am on reading an article that I qualify for 80% of the listed problems, and here you are posting a comment which I expected to be from 5 years ago. What I found was the best way for me to get through community college was to take classes online. I didn’t have to worry about waking up and thinking of ways to avoid going and coming up with excuses. I can’t stand being in a classroom. I enjoyed working at home in my own comfort. I actually ended up doing rather well. When in a classroom my grades tank, my attentions wanders off. But when I have to study the material myself I am more focused and I have learned how to find the key information needed to homework and tests. Online classes I managed to get only A’s and B’s and next month I am applying to a 4 year university to complete my academic journey. Give an online class a go, it might work just as well for you as it did for me. Good luck.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Britt, a Davis program can help address the barriers that make school & testing so difficult, and it works at any age. So a good first step might be to consult with a Davis Facilitator to discuss your goals and learn more about how you might benefit from a program.

  • Lorraine M

    Can Dyslexia in a 40 year old man be part of the reason for very short temper and the ability to completely lose control with anger outbursts often coming from nowhere 0 too 100 in 5 seconds with the result often being violence towards himself ?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Lorraine, the frustration and disorientation tied to dyslexia can definitely be a contributing factor to anger management problems. So yes — that is something to consider, and it may well be that other forms of therapy would not be helpful unless the dyslexia is also addressed.

    • Simon b

      I heard on the radio chat show,that men in there 40’s suffer like this, it’s the male version of the peri menopause women have..!! All the best.

  • Aniel

    Hi, My son is 10. His reading is not that bad, but he really struggles to spell. He is disorganized and stressed out most of the time. What can I do to help him with spelling. And to relax when he reads. we live in South Africa and I am not aware of a therapist who does your therapy here. Any online help?

    Many thanks

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Aniel, there are several licensed Davis providers in South Africa. You will find them listed here:

    • Kathleen M

      Therapy? I hope you don’t mean that! Dyslexia is a special way of learning. He needs to learn to decode. There’s nothing you can do to help with the spelling. He will spell phonetically. Let him be and he will succeed. Dyslexia people are highly intelligent because they learn different! Embrace him!

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        Kathleen, I love your positive attitude — but we can and do help dyslexic children become good spellers all the time. Very often there are profound differences before and after a Davis program, because we address the underlying disorientation that causes students to misperceive letters and words in print, and give strategies to enable visualization of the whole word, keeping the letters in sequence. We can’t do anything about the complexity of English spelling — so it does mean that the person is still going to have to study to learn to spell — but we definitely can eliminate the barriers that were standing in the way of learning.

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