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

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  • Sherrie

    So as I was reading this, I was in tears. I have never been diagnosed with dyslexia, but everything listed here, told my story of who I am. I have thought you was just retarded and no one understood what I was always trying to say. I couldn’t figure why I was getting headaches or nausea when I was reading. I had always been in speech therapy as a child, but quickly grew aggravated with the teacher. She didnt understand me either. I am 40 now and I dont believe this was a thing back then. How would I go about being tested for this?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sherrie, formal diagnostic testing for dyslexia is usually done by educational psychologists or neurologists. The testing can be quite costly. It’s important to understand that you can get help for your current difficulties without a formal diagnosis.

  • Mary

    I work in a role where report writing is the daily demand of the job.
    I do struggle with grammar and word formation.
    I be never been formally diagnosed for dyslexia, could the reasons above be signs of me being dyslexic?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Mary, dyslexic people often have difficulty with grammar and word formation, but those problems would be in combination with other signs or traits that are tied to dyslexia. That is why this page has a longer list of symptoms. You might want to work through the survey at https://www.testdyslexia.com/ to get a better sense of your overall learning style.

  • renu s

    my daughter is 5yrs old.. she has problem in writing ‘d and b’ and rest all the numbers and alphabets like their mirror images… otherwise she is very mature than the children of her age, very intelligent
    is this the sign of dyslexia?? how it can b cured

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Letter reversals are very common in young children up to about age 7. So it can simply be an issue of development and maturity rather than a sign of dyslexia. We would help young children, age 5, to develop letter recognition and writing skills by modeling all the letters of the alphabet in clay.

  • Adeola

    My son is 10 but can hardly solve any of his school work. He depends on me or his junior sister in the same class with him for answers. But he can watch and explain films well. Sometimes, I pay serious attention when he is narrating some films like “Batman, Spiderman and most cartoon films. I let him do his best and support him for the rest.

  • Bunmi

    My son is about 13, he has difficulty differentiating between d and b, and we discovered it took him time to start reading. Then I saw a documentary on dyslexia. We continued to show love and support. He reads better now and really enjoys mathematics, though his reading ability is not optimum. He usually assumes words… Say…. Reading out contention for contending( looks like he’d rather skip the ending of words). However, he likes to read novels. And comprehension while reading is average- very good. He can relay almost everything he reads in a passage
    I am open to ways of helping him. If truly these are signs of dyslexia.

  • todd c

    My worst problem is my job as a server. I’m expected to remember repeat customer orders but faces and people just don’t stick in my mind. I get to work 30 min ahead of time and sit and read to strengthen my mind before I head in.

    • Brendon

      Wow. I thought I was the only one who did that. I’m also have ASD and there is a lot of overlap with behaviour issues like time management… all I can say is thank God for digital age as reading clocks is no longer a problem and google helps with my spelling.

  • Carter

    Today my daughter and I were texting and for the life of her she could not get the numbers correct from a phone number ever after sending it she was repeating it backwards and after actually talking to her she told me that all she could see was 0304, when actually it was 3040. She said she looked at it like 50 times. My dad was diagnosed with it early in his childhood. So in wonder did it skip a generation and is now affecting my daughter, she’s 24 next month. She works in the business department of a well known bank, and deals with accounts 1 million dollars or more. Always been a great student.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      This is a very classic indication of disorientation. Basically, she is seeing what her mind sees, and not what her eyes see. Fortunately, it is also very easy to resolve. Is this a frequent problem for her?

  • rose

    It takes me a while to process sentences and I sometimes say my sentences jumbled up. I jumble up my g’s d’s and p’s and 8’s with x’s. I also zone out very very often. I am top set maths but bottom set comprehension.

  • Cristyn

    Can you please tell me if these situations are signs of dyslexia?

    It took me 8/7 years to learn how to tie my shoes.
    I write my S’s and 5’s backward, and I still do to this day.
    I hold my pencil normally, and yet my handwriting is fast and sloppy.
    I always feel lost and confused every time I look at a normal clock, a long book, or a math equation.
    Everyone tells me I’m smart for my age, but my self-esteem always says otherwise.
    Some days in high school, I crack jokes and always make a comment and other days, I never make a sound.

    Thank you for reading!

  • Samantha

    I struggle often when spelling “z-score” and write “z-csore” repeatedly or sometimes simple words. In math, I always have trouble seeing long sets of numbers or data that are close together (specially times new Roman). I sometimes get confused with my 6s and 9s and I also get really low scores when it comes to reading comprehension in which I often have to reread things 3 times to understand. Is this a sign of dyslexia? I think I do but my parents think I’m just saying it because I want attention.

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