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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  • Aaron

    Often when reading I lose my place and find myself re-reading the same sentence over and over, and miss whole lines of writing half the time. I also find it hard to read things out loud, part of the reason being I can’t read ahead and still reply at a decent time.
    I can’t exactly describe what I see, but sometimes the letters just skip? Does that make sense?
    Are these signs of being dyslexic, or is this normal?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The problems you describe would be very consistent with dyslexia

      • Ann

        I’m 46 years old I’m having a difficult time with adjusting to new things, talking to people keeping track of the day,month and time it’s frustrating for me to be motivated and deal with the fact people misunderstood of who I am and seem to take things the wrong way when I speak and need advice of how to overcome the fear of crowded people and learn how have logic thinking and problem solving. Ann

  • Louise G

    I used to be sent to the head masters office for not learning my x s table. I new the tables in order but if given the sum in a randem order I could not do the maths. I was made to feel like a stupid person and I was worthless.
    Whilst at college some years later I was diagnosed with number dyslexia, they said my word skills where ok

    • Cris

      I was accused of being lazy ,dumb and all sorts of things. I’m51 and have just been diagnosed. I’ve been accused of not caring about other people’s feelings, because I loose everything am iin organized and loos track of time ,and am late frequently. All my life I’ve tried to cover all my symptoms up. Went out of my way to make people happy and to try my very best to fix my symptoms., because I was told all of my childhood what an awful person I was I be spent countless years in therapy to fix what I thought was a character flaw, thinking of I just tried harder or cared more that I could be acceptable I wish Mr. Davis would write a book on recovery for Abused dyslexic adults ,people who were diagnosed later suffer horribly.
      People who can read and or have a high IQ more than ones who can’t read, because they think there’s nothing wrong with you, so you don’t care and aren’t trying when the majority did and do. I’m writing this because I want other people to know they aren’t alone. There needs to be more support in the community for people like us and our kids who so much of the time are Dyslexic too. Make a list of all your talents, we have many too, we are gifted in so many things and there are genius among us many famous brilliant people are dyslexic. We deserve to be treated better and children need to be recognized and helped and not discriminate against if they were blind or deaf they wouldn’t be,they would be helped. Why is it so hard to get help ?

  • Sierra KG

    Hi, I have Asperger’s Syndrom. It’s the high functioning case. I excel in school with science, theater, chorus, and history. I make all A’s and B’s and I struggle with some math and I mess up when doing things for English. I actually have poor spelling skills and need to use a spell check when doing work. I’m just curious, could a child like me, possibly have Dyslexia?

  • Tammy K

    My daughter was born 13 weeks early and so was delayed in everything as a small child. I noticed when she was 2 years old that if I pointed to an animal in a book and asked, “What is this?” she could not tell me. But if gave her a book and told her to find the elephant, dog, horse, etc, she could easily find it. During her early school years she had a lot of difficulty with spelling and handwriting. She was diagnosed as ADHD in 1st grade. She was always extremely observant and had a fabulous memory for things we had done and places we had visited. Each year of school was more difficult that the previous and when she was in 8th grade, she failed the first semester of school. This was the first time she actually failed. Up until then we just did hours and hours of homework every night. But that was no longer enough. The school tested her for dyslexia and bingo, we had a name for the problem. With simple accommodations she is doing very well. She has already completed the first year of nursing school – with lots of studying and tears – but she will make it. There is hope. These kids are very smart, they just sometimes can’t seem to get it out. Persistence is the great equalizer!

  • Tanzeena K

    My son is almost 11 years old. He understand every material taught in school clearly, usually no need to repeat anything to make him understand. He is excellent in maths. He scores high in fill in the blanks, true false, spellings but whenever it comes to writing question answers, regardless short or long, he is lost. He has difficulty articulating his knowledge or ideas in pen and paper and complains about mixing up. He is doing poorly in creative writing too. He is interested in science and environment. Does this means he is dyslexic?

  • Madison

    I am 16 years old and I have nearly all the traits related to dyslexia. I really struggle to explain things to people verbally, I loose track of time really easily, I have trouble understanding questions and then phrasing the answer correctly. Does this mean that I may have dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Madison, “dyslexia” is just a word used to describe a pattern of symptoms or difficulties. So if you experience dyslexic traits, then yes, you may be dyslexic. Dyslexia is not a disease, but it means that you think and learn in a different way.

  • Alice

    I am tutoring a year 3 student who is very chatty and can verbally spell out words quite easily, though he makes some simple spelling errors when writing and still forgets capital letters quite often, though I don’t think that’s particularly unusual. However, I recently discovered that his out loud reading ability is very poor in comparison to his other English abilities. He speaks in a very slow, quiet, mumbling voice, and struggles to pronounce simple words and often gives up. Even when I ask him to just sound out each individual letter of a word, he has difficulties and seems to miss letters. He also skips over or mixes up words like “the” and “a”. Should I be concerned?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Alice, this is a very common pattern for dyslexia. How are his reading comprehension skills when he is not reading aloud? Dyslexics who become good readers generally process word meaning first, based on word recognition rather than phonic decoding. Emphasizing sounding-out strategies would only make things worse — so you should not ask him to sound things out. You might find it helpful to read The Gift of Dyslexia to get a better understanding of his reading profile and also to learn about effective strategies to help your student.


    I have dyslexia and i hate the thought of we need to fix it, if you research dyslexia its amazing way of thinking. i am 41 and wasnt diagnosed till i was in my 30s. I spend most of my life prioir to then trying to find way to fix my thinking! Always feeling something was wrong with me because i couldnt deal with stuff like everyone else. But now I know thats not the case at all! my brain is just wired differently, i think differently from normal people thats all it is. Nothing is WRONG with me and i dont need to be fixed. I excel in many aspects of life because of my dyslexia . I write this because I want others to be proud of their dyslexia and learn to enjoy that they are different NOT MENTALLY that is very important to know THIS IS NOT A MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE it may create a few, but that is not the cause. Once you embrace that you can then begin to find solutions to the problems that can come from it, ITS LIKELY YOU HAVE ALREADY WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING and your life will become less stressed because you understand yourself better, which will enable you to feel like you have more control in your life. But you have to be brave and stop hiding and apologising to others for your out of the norm way of thinking. It is not easy but it is worth it.

    • Cris

      About 2 months ago I would have never guessed that all my issues were caused by Dyslexia. I really thought I was crazy and an awlful person . I would have never have been diagnosed If I hadn’t of found this article and told my therapist . I would’ve never thought I could even entertain the Idea of not needing to be fixed, or of being proud of the way my brain works. Thank you so much for posting .I think.I’m gonna be brave now.

  • Demetra

    My son is eleven. His maths teacher said he needs to practise daily with extra maths and he will be ok. My so feels pressured. I he understand them one day and the next day. He writes the explanation without the equation.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Daily practice won’t help if there are underlying gaps in understanding. It is much more important to help your son understand the math concepts and the symbols in equations, as those are often the source of the problems.

  • Skyla

    If I know im dyslexia and my parents don’t what should I do what if they don’t believe I am what if they think im lying to get attention

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