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 August 26, 2019 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Shamieka

    I have notice 2 of my boys have it so far . My 9yr old is very smart likes to draw and math that’s not in word form. He writes answers backwards like cat tac . Writes d and b backwards as well as numbers . He complains about his eyes . I had him tested but not for dyslexia . More of learning behavior . His teachers say dyslexia for him this school year . My 8 year old son also writes numbers and letters backward . I found out last year his dad is dyslexia and he was ashamed and never told me . I have a hard time with spelling and reading and never thought I could possibly be dyslexic as well please help

  • Graeme

    I once heard that people with dyslexia have trouble knowing the seasons and months, is this true?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      In some cases dyslexic individuals can have difficulty remembering the names and sequence of months of the year.

  • Ayegba F

    I teach in a college in my country. I take those in years 2 and 3. It frustrates me and make me sad when at the end of the session, you have students who are not able to score one in their assessments. I really do want to help these students but don’t know how.

  • Isabella

    I am a seventeen year old girl who matches up with almost all of the descriptions above aside the points made about reading and writing. I don’t mix up words or phrases, but I am very behind on math, and i have been all my life. I also lose track of time, where I am, and even my sense of reality. I have jumbled thoughts and very simple things seems very confusing. Could I have Dyslexia, or am I just dumb?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Isabella, you definitely are not “dumb”. The problems you describe of losing track of time, sense of reality, and jumbled thoughts are signs of disorientation. Our approach provides the tools to recognize and control disorientation; once that is learned we can address the root cause of disorientation. Disorientation is natural response to confusion, so the key to resolving problems is to find the sources of confusion and work to clear those up.

  • Amy

    My daughter has just turned six in August. She is now in year 2, and is still not using her phonics such as diagraphs to spell. Her reading level is slightly behind her peers but nothing that is really standing out to think there is a problem. When she is reading for example she will say was for the word saw and write 92 for 29. Is it to early to diagnose at age 6? She gets very frustrated and cannot remember things learnt from the previous week such as an adjective, but finds topic homework about animals very interesting and tends to remember facts learnt in school. I worry sick about her but everyone such as her teachers just say she’s a late developer. Any help or tips would be appreciated. How do you go about assessments?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Amy, we do not provide formal diagnostic testing. We provide program-specific screening for children age 8 and over. However, we can provide tools to assist a parent of a 6-year-old to work with their own child. Davis Facilitators provide a parent-participation program called the Davis Reading Program for Young Learners; and you can purchase a kit for home use here: https://shop.dyslexia.com/dylkit

      This is a gradual, playful approach geared to the attention span and developmental needs of younger children, but will provide the child with the basic tools to build a strong foundation for reading. The Davis focusing techniques will help address problems with reversals and transpositions.

  • T Bearden

    Being dyslexic has its good sides. That’s what needs to be capitalized on. I’ll out work anyone put in front of me. The creative side that I’ve been blessed with surprises people that know me well. I never give up and although a little slow will stay on task as long as it takes. Being Dyslexic gives me a upper hand on others in many ways. I look at it as a gift.

    • Sue M

      I totally agree…… for a lot of years I was treated as left handed thick as…….. I was tested in my 40’s at collage as they thought I might be dyslexic. It was such a relief as I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. With the right help I went to university gained a lot of ology qualifications……… which was proof for me my teachers were completely wrong I just learn in a different way to others.

  • Heather P

    My son is almost 6 and is ahead in his class by almost two grade levels. However he confuses numbers and letters and will say or write them in place of one that looks similar and he also reads well at second grade level but sometimes reads words backwards.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Heather, at age 6 occasional symbol confusion or reversals is still developmentally normal, but it could also be a sign of disorientation associated with dyslexia. The Davis focusing tools and clay modeling would resolve this problem. Because your son is ahead in his class, you would probably be successful working on your own with him. You can learn more about this kit here: https://shop.dyslexia.com/dylkit

  • Francis

    I learned that I am dyslexic at the age of 30. I did not know it was dyslexia. There were minor struggles during school and at university but somehow managed to get passed it. I failed algebra and business math thrice. At work, I still suffer these symptoms. However, being dyslexic really have advantages to people to doesn’t have this gift. You can play several musical instruments, finding out most logical and simple solutions and what not. My only key on coping this is to have lots of patience, keep on learning and trying new things that can challenge you and figure out ways to make it simple. Like my previous boss said, dyslexics are over achievers.

  • Atianza A

    i have daughter 5 years old and still cant know each alphabet and confuse every instruction i give to her. Also she always wear her shoes wrongly..is it dyslexia or normal for child around her age. The teachers also mad at her because she didnt know the write properly..

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      At age 5 these could be early indications of dyslexia, or it could also be part of the normal course of development. Here’s an article with helpful suggestions for building early learning skills for young children: Getting Ready for School

    • Tori

      Five is too young to worry as all children develop differently. The teacher should not be upset as that will damage your child’s confidence. The best thing you can do is develop talent and find ways to enjoy learning. For example finding more interesting books to read and then talk about them.

  • Sara

    can dyslexia be treated or fixed at a much later stage ? say 39, that’s when i discovered what i have been suffering form all my life. At school, college and university. Somehow i managed to survive but never thrived.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sara, Davis methods are effective at any age. Ron Davis actually was age 39 when he discovered the core technique that resolved his own dyslexia – and Davis Facilitators sometimes work with clients who are in their 60’s or 70’s or even older. So really the only issue is whether you have the motivation.

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