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 September 17, 2019 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Eera

    I’m 17 and I show none except the speech symptom. I have difficulty in saying sentences quickly. I misspell words or jumble them, and at times I forget how to convert my thoughts into words. Also, in class, I am shy and timid and I barely talk to strangers but I make friends easily. I bring appreciable marks in tests and I have absolutely no problem with reading and writing. We are taught to speak in English from an early age and since then I have always struggled to speak fluently. I speak slowly in short phrases and always have a tough time saying words like “English speaking” where ‘sh’ and ‘s’ are said together and many more, but that’s only when I am speaking fast. I feel very embarrassed and nervous when I start to speak as I know that I would mispronounce words for sure. Do I have dyslexia or is it just my nervousness that stops me? How can I improve my speaking skills?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Eera, the techniques we use for dyslexia can also help with the type of speech problems you describe (such as forgetting how to convert your thoughts into words). This would include the tools for mental focus and relaxation. These techniques are explained in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia.

  • Trinity B

    Good Day, Im 13 and i struggle with reading very bad i dont get the right scors because i over think stuff. I can make my own paper or whatever and that would be good. When i have to read things i can memorize what i read it just does not come to me like i was to make the story. Does that show that i have Dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The core symptom of dyslexia is struggling with reading. If you have 10 or more of the traits listed this page, you probably also have a dyslexic learning style.

  • Mark L

    It’s not a learning disability, it’s a teaching disability.

    • Trinity B

      It kind of is because your brain cant think like others can and you struggle more. Its learning because of u cant learn what happeneds or it dosnt stick with your brain like other stuff would .

  • Samantha G

    I got most signs of dyslexia (I asked here in this website) and it is very hard for me to read. I don’t know if telling The administration in my school would be the best idea. I am currently taking an AP class and I want to ask for additional time in the final exam but I am afraid that if I do I will be put in intensive reading.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Samantha, if you want accommodations such as extra time on tests it requires more than simply telling the administration that you think you are dyslexic. You would need formal testing and documentation. So your first step might be to talk to a school counselor to learn what the process is at your school — how long does it take? Will the school provide the testing? Would you be allowed to remain in the AP class? (You do have some legal rights that come into play, but schools don’t always follow the letter of the law.)

      Also, would your AP teacher be in any way sympathetic? Sometimes you can work out informal accommodations with teachers. So you might talk to the teacher and explain that you really enjoy being in the class and you want to learn, but reading is difficult for you and you read very slowly — and ask if the teacher would be willing to make some adjustments for you. But keep in mind that without a diagnosis, you won’t qualify for extra time on the AP exam itself — if your school requires all AP students to also take the official AP exam, your teacher may feel that it is important to test you under conditions similar to the exam.

    • marina

      As someone who has dyslexia (I’m decent at reading, but 5th grade spelling level) and took two years of AP English in High School (plus dropped out of AP Calculus), I would highly recommend pursuing testing for dyslexia, but not necessarily asking for accommodations.

      A large part of AP testing is the quick time pace, and the coursework leading up to the exam is very heavy (aka, extra time will just lead to continually being behind)…likewise, you have to get a C or higher in the course to get credit (unlike regular courses where a D still counts, I received a D one semester and had to make the course up by taking english 101 at the local college over the summer in order to get the AP credit at my high school….even though I had already passed the AP exam for the course). I did enjoying having the extra mental stimulation in AP, but honestly it way more intense then just taking the class once you get to college (I truly believe trying to start college with a bunch of courses already done via AP is a waste of energy that creates unnecessary stress for teenagers, and college really care about your GPA & SAT scores a million times more then you taking AP courses). Despite being much more inclined towards math, I made it three weeks before I was so far behind and had no chance of catching up (we had to learn to use a new type of graphing calculator, and I didn’t catch on fast….I’m very glad I didn’t try to stick AP Calculus out). If you are doing okay in the course at this point in the school year, defiantly stick it out, but I also think you should just try taking the exam without extra time (the worse thing that happens is you will repeat the course in college and it will be extra easy….there is no black mark on your record for taking AP and not passing the course, I knew people who got A’s in the class, but didn’t pass the exam).
      Despite thinking you should just stick it out, I do think you should pursue testing to see if you have dyslexia. Once you get to college, you are just a small fish in a huge pond, and having disability accommodations from the get go will make things much smoother (sometimes all it takes is taking a slightly lighter corse load, or help with note-taking). You are also likely starting to hit walls where your various natural adaptations to dealing with your learning issues are no longer enough (if it doesn’t happen in high school, it will very likely happen in college), knowing your learning issue, and how to accommodate and work with it will allow you to get through this (many flunk out or develop mental health issues when trying to get over this hurdle without help). However, learning disability testing is often very expensive (it takes 6+ hours of testing, plus the time for the professional to analyze the test). If it isn’t something that your school district covers (regular medical insurance won’t likely cover it given your age and success in school), then contact whatever college you plan on attending as soon as you are enrolled about your concerns about learning disabilities (personally I didn’t try to have my dyslexia testing re-done, I originally had it done in 1st grade but have never pursued it being accommodated or noted due to being decent at reading, but I did end up going through ADHD testing via the counseling center at my college….you normally do the testing with psychology/counseling department and then take the results to the disability resource office for the actual accommodations).

      Sorry for the long rant, but just remember a lot have people have been in your seat. Being aware of your limitations and working towards adapting are the most important things. Just remember, if you are able to take AP classes, you are lucky to have already made it much farther than most with learning disabilities. Be pro-active about getting help where you actually need it (don’t over do it on accommodations however, just remember that most actual jobs don’t come with accommodations), spend time thinking about your strengths and weaknesses (and think about realistic goals for the future, just because you have issues reading doesn’t mean you have to go into a STEM field, but it also means that maybe studying French Lit. at Cambridge might not be realistic), and don’t put too much pressure on yourself over school (being a teenager is hard enough). Also random suggestion (though maybe it won’t apply to you), but taking summer school courses or pursuing a college with the quarter system (and smaller class sizes for that mater) is very helpful for learning disabilities (in my opinion), you are able to focus on only a few subjects at once while getting daily reinforcement on the material, plus you are much more likely to have an actual relationship with your instructor/fellow classmates which helps in allowing your instructor to be aware of your learning needs and allows you to have consistent study partners/groups that are way more productive then re-reading notes when you have dyslexia.

      Sorry again for creating so much to read, good luck with your education and be proud of all you’ve accomplished.

  • Alan M

    I learnt to read eventually when I was 11 years old, very suddenly. in the summer holiday before going to secondary school, I now think that the humiliation I went through prior to has continued to greatly effected my self confidence. I never really mastered English spelling, I got by in my work as I had a secretary who I could dictate Anything I needed written, until liberation came with the advent of word processing. Never mentioned I was dyslexic until the very final years of my career. My wife learnt English when she was 14, yet even nowadays I often ask her for correct spelling. More recently I have realised that dyslexia has effected more than just my reading and spelling abilities. The confusion between two related options, Left v Right, 11.00am v 1.00pm, I once worked with two men Baker and Baxter and the times I called them by the wrong name became a joke. People often think I am stand-offish, while I think I am shy. As a student (I got to university at age 24 in 1969) I was very active in the student movement of the 1970s and after a short time became able to speak to large crowds, up to 1,000 people reasonably well but never felt confident. Seem to be immune to ‘group thought’ attending conferences or group meetings I sit in wounder as speakers spout BS, which is picked up enthusiastically by subsequent speakers one after the other, why I just sit there seeing it as group self delusion. Later these ‘enthusiasts’ either seem to totally forget their enthusiasm, especially so if the enthusiasts have gone on to make a poor decision, which is the most likely under these circumstances. Now retired and have come to realise how dyslexia has effected me far more widely than just reading and writing, presumably getting over illiteracy was such a major event in my life that all the other difficulties associated with my dyslexia seemed minor and due to clumsyness, lack of ability or lack of the social graces. Really wish I could have know more about dyslexia when I was young, it would have helped save me from much bother and embaressment.

    • marina

      I think you point out an excellent positive that comes with being dyslexic, you see the big picture and because of that haven’t been susceptive to certain things. Although being dyslexic (or having a learning disabilitiy in general) comes with a lot of extra struggles and failures, at least it normally prevent you from doing stupid things like cashing out your retirement account to invest in a pyramid scheme (which is something that many traditionally smart people still seem to fall for). I hate the whole disabilities are a superpower mantra, they aren’t, that is why most people with learning disabilities struggle with mental health issues at some point in their life, but occasionally you do have to remind yourself that there are some small upsides.

      As for the left/right thing, I still consider the day I learned the “make and L with your hand” trick as one of the most pivotal in my life.

  • Vaidehi R

    I want help for my child I m in Mumbai

  • Jeff

    I’m 13, and contain a lot of these symptoms. I’ve had things like this for a long time. How do I tell my parents, they say I just don’t read enough, but I read everyday. They say I don’t write, but I do enjoy writing. (Especially there is google correct, without it the paper would be filled with miss spelling) What do I do?

  • Sally M

    My Son is very clever and is in his 3rd year at Uni taking a degree . Despite being clever in his studies, he cannot say the alphabet , or the months of the year in order and only tonight asked me the difference between afternoon and evening, he said he has never been able to work it out. He also has problems with the different uses of words such as of, off, there, their etc. Is tis a form of dyslexia

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The Davis Dyslexia program is targeted to address all of the issues you describe. We start with alphabet mastery, focusing on letter shape and sequence, until the person can easily say the alphabet backwards as well as forwards. When appropriate, we work on concepts like time, sequence, before and after. The core of the programming involves mastery of the meaning as well as spelling of all the small function words of language — of, off, there, their would all be included on the list for symbol mastery. So yes — these are all problems associated with dyslexia and if your son wants help, then it would be worthwhile for him to consult with a Davis Facilitator.

  • Rex G

    I’m 78, graduated 793rd out of 793 in high school. I was an all state picher, in Sports Illustrated Oct. “56 issue, served 4 years in the Navy as a radarman, was a Tulsa cop, an insurance claims adjuster, a failed asphalt paving contractor, became a salesman for an export crating company that went broke. Started my own crating company with $3000.00, no credit, no bank in 1979 when interest rates were 21 percent, and a national truck strike was in force. 30 years later, sold the company for $5,000,000.00 I was the class clown, teachers told me I was smart,but lazy, I’m always being told that I should write a book about my life–duh, I’ve just read the above and found I am dyslexic-damn, if I had known earlier I wouldn’t have had all this fun. Played golf with Lee Travino, pool with Willie Mosconi, riden elephants in tha Zambezi, scuba dived in Tahiti, seen tha world with a beautiful woman, lived my dreams and fantasies. Feel sorry for all you “Normal suckers”.

    • Cara

      Oh, Rex, you just made my day! I am learning more and more about dyslexic attributes since my daughter was diagnosed. There has always been something special about her- she sees the world through a different lens. I hope she has as wonderful of a life as you have! I fully anticipate she will not be a ‘normal sucker’ by any stretch of the imagination.

      • marina

        One of the biggest fallacies of late is equating academic achievement to success, and not associating happiness with success. Thank you for recognizing that your daughter can be successful (which should be defined as being a happy positive member of society, whatever that is to her) being her own unique self.
        I will say, there are unique challenges to being female and having learning quirks. Women are expected to multitask, be organized, and not rock the boat to much (even at a young age, we are supposed to be logical and neat), even with great support and innate confidence, society at large causes all the little failures to hurt us in a way that is hard to avoid.
        Please be supportive of your daughter failing, even if she is technically smart (just because she in theory might be able to find a way to adapt, doesn’t mean she needs to, learning to not sweat the small stuff is pivotal to being happy with a learning disability). Be proud of her efforts. Also try not to model that women are tidy, remember all the important dates, and always have their hair and makeup done….honestly all the small expectations for women make adulthood way more stressful than school ever was (this is despite having a fairly feminism filled childhood….a lot of this stuff is still very ingrained in society). I’m judged way more for not getting Christmas cards out than I ever was for failing a spelling test, I wish your daughter the same sort of amazing life Rex seems to have had, but be aware that being female presents unique challenges that are hard to avoid.

  • Olivia

    Hi, I’m a 16 year old in my junior year of high school, and I read these symptoms and I have most of them I would say, based on what I know about myself and what my parents tell me. How do I fully know if I have dyslexia

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Dyslexia is not something you either have or don’t have — it is a pattern of thinking and learning that occurs along a spectrum. That is, a person can be a little bit dyslexic or a lot dyslexic. If you have most of the symptoms, then you have a dyslexic learning style. That might or might not qualify for a formal “diagnosis” depending on the specific pattern of symptoms and level of severity. Our interactive tool at https://www.testdyslexia.com/ can help you understand your learning style somewhat better.

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