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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  • M

    My little brother finds it difficult to read, and isn’t doing too well in school, he once told me he gets confused with his b’s and p’s. He always tells me he feels dumb in school, and he is known as the “quite one” in class, but he’s the funny one at home. I just wanted to know if he has dyslexia.

  • Alex C

    I have ADHD but I marked on a sheet of paper how many I fall under and I got 17 and 1/2. I stutter while presenting, I add words and stutter while reading out loud, I mix up b d p q and how to write s z 3, I have a very hard time telling left from right, and have a hard time writing down information without directly copying it. but I love to read and write. do I have dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      There is a lot of overlap between ADHD & dyslexia. All of your symptoms can be explained as being tied to a nonverbal thinking pattern and disorientation.

  • Michelle

    I have an 8 year old son. He struggles with reading and confuses his b,d,q,p letters. He tests well if the teacher reads to him and struggles on his own. I see that he has some of the traits listed above. He daydreams, has to be told several times to do something. He doesn’t care that he can’t read well or the wpm 2nd grade requires. He’s already been retained once and the teacher is saying he won’t make it in 3rd grade. Any suggestions?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Are you sure that your son doesn’t care about his reading? The Davis methods would address the problems you are describing — the letter confusion, the daydreaming (a sign of disorientation) — but your son is just at the borderline age for a standard Davis Dyslexia Correction program, and Davis Facilitators would assess for motivation before accepting him as a client. So a child who says honestly that he doesn’t care about improving his reading simply is not yet ready for the tools we offer. But sometimes children feel ashamed and embarrassed so they will say they don’t care when in fact they very much want help — they just are afraid to admit it.

      Do you have any other options for schooling? Such as homeschooling or a school with a more flexible and less rigid approach to primary level education? Your son clearly needs help but he might do better with a more gentle approach, paced to his needs. If you want to work at home with him, even though he is age 8, you might find that a Davis Reading Program for Young Learners would be more appropriate for him right now.

  • Emalak

    I’m trying to find out why there are conflicting definitions of Dyslexia and ADHA (the ‘Inattentive’ type). From what I have read up on, Inattentive ADHD (the other type being called ‘Hyper Impulsive’) has the same symptoms that are thought of by some as also being dyslexic symptoms, such as:

    Easily distracted

    Difficulty focusing



    Trouble following instructions

    Easily bored

    Many websites such as the NHS website, say that dyslexia only refers to reading writing and spelling learning difficulties.

    How does the latest research define the difference between Dyslexia and ADHD? Are people confusing Inattentive ADHD for Dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      We see the symptoms of inattentive type ADHD as overlapping with dyslexia and feel that they are commonly confused. That is why tools addressed to attention focus (orientation counseling, energy dial) are an integral part of every Davis program. We know that attentional states impact perception, and when a person’s attention isn’t properly focused, they are more likely to misperceive print — such as confusing letters or letter order, or having the impression that print is moving on the page. Additionally, the various symptoms you have listed (such as distractibility, boredom, and daydreaming) can also be common symptoms of reading difficulties. A child sitting at a desk in a classroom with a book that he can’t make sense of is going to naturally have his attention wander or become bored.

      So yes, we do agree that these two labels are often confused and misdiagnosis is common.

  • Nathan H

    I struggle with nearly all these symptoms, and am not to sure if I’m dyslexic or not. I have always struggled reading and spelling especially. I often cant bother looking at a screen for more than 5 minutes. I also tend to merge words together, or even say something completely different then what I am trying to read. I went through 3 years of speech therapy so i got a little better but still struggle. Does it seem like dyslexia or just straight up a struggle?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      “Dyslexia” is a word used to describe struggling with reading and spelling when there is no other explanation (such as poor eyesight or lack of education). So yes, what you describe is the same as dyslexia. I think the key word is “struggle”.

  • Judith T

    I am in Canada, My Son sent this to be and it is interesting . Would like to learn more. Will do the on line test .Can this be inherited.

  • Dave H

    I am writing this to share my life expernce in dealing with dyslexia. There is hope, I graduated from High School with a point grade average of .08 (D-) . I knew I was not dumb, just could not retain what I was reading. It was only after a friend took the time with me reading together that I finally got it. I went onto college barely passed English and written tests were challenging . But when it came to business courses I was able to excel I was on an equal playing field with everybody else. I was able to get a business degree and ended my career in international sales management and a great successful career. But most important point I want to make is that dyslexia hindered my ability to learn but it also was a blessing . My brain made adjustments in how I learned things and I developed other mental skill that most people donot have. Examples, thinking out of the box to solve problems, learning to deal with al different type of people, street smart and believing in yourself. We all have ups and downs in life but when your dyslexia you learned at an early age disappointment and failure, but it better prepares you for real life problem and how to deal with them…it’s a gift don’t let it be a crutch . Good luck in life

    • Aimee

      My daughter is in 8th grade and severely dyslexic. She’s hurting right now comparing herself to her peers. Nothing I can say can make it better. I’ve been focused on getting her tools that will empower her. I’ll be sure to have her read your response when she gets home from school today. Your words actually made me tear up. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Aleona

      Wow, I wish I could get in touch with you and put you in touch with my son. You would.bd such an inspiration.

  • Phil

    WOW this is so true. I have had this all my life. I am 51 today and own my own business. I still to this day check my numbers 3 times when it comes to math. I have lost money at times because I rush not knowing the full understanding of bidding on jobs for work. I still have to read a story a couple of times to understand things.

    • Julie

      My daughter dyslexia sounds a lot like your problem. I admire both of you for your strength ….. moving along everyday with the challenges you both face. Please try not to rush. rushing hurts people no matter what condition they have. Take care Phil.

  • Monique T

    I am confused about my learning disability condition. I am not sure I have dyslexia.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You might find it helpful to complete the survey at https://www.testdyslexia.com/ It is based on the same lists of traits that are on this page, but the interactive survey will provide a report at the end that will help you better understand your overall learning pattern.

  • Suryakant

    Firstly, I don’t know why but I just skipped the longer comments.
    I can read, but read slow, it causes a lot of issues for time based exams.
    How do I overcome it? If I ask my friends, they are like read books… to which I feel, if that was easy wouldn’t I have done that already.
    I am currently 25. Till now I have efficiently managed missing reading few questions on tests and getting rest accurate. But I feel this needs to be managed, I can’t keep doing that for rest of my life.
    Please help me out.

    Also, I type really slow. Not sure if both come together.
    Also, Fun Fact, I had a TOEFL score of 100 mostly based on my listening and speaking skills.

    • Raycy

      Im am older person with this so had to figure out what works for me. If I’m reading or typing I look at the sentence as a group not one word at a time. I also started having a little fun with my dyslexia. Finding out I can read backwards and upside down. Also with numbers I look at in a group and break it down into a group of four at a time if there is a string of numbers. Not sure if any of this help.

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