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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  • Wendy

    Thank you for your research. I have about 27 of your signs for dyslexia.

    Recently the Education Leader at my workplace (I’m an Early Childhood Educator) gently suggested that I may have a learning disability like dyslexia. She had noticed that I had severe problems with translating the educational plans I have developed in my mind into the written form, especially in templates created by other people. Fortunately for me she is helping me find other ways to share these plans.She held unrecorded teaching plans in high regard as highly creative and unique and wanted to help me share them with my colleagues. Further to this, I struggle with most organisational skills and become very stressed when following written or verbal instructions, especially under pressure of time. I am 61 and have just withdrawn from University after 4 years of study because I was so stressed. I had to read everything over and over and still couldn’t remember it. What bothered me terribly was that when I read it, I understood it, but then it had vanished. In my mind. Even now, I can see the text on the page, complete with coloured headings. I can spell and read out loud, in fact, I prefer to read out loud so I previously thought that I might not have dyslexia.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Wendy, the methods we use will help at any age, and would help you with organizational skills and managing stress, as well as resolving the problems you have with reading comprehension. I’d encourage you to consult with a Davis Facilitator if you are interested in getting the help you need to be able to resume your University studies.

  • Brendan

    I did the test and it appears that I may have dyslexia after identifying nearly all of the traits listed above. I knew that I wasn’t normal and that I have issues. It would be awesome to network with other people that have stratergies in dealing with some of the traits ie learning and how best to absorb information and concentrate.

  • Robin T

    Hello I am the parent of an 8 year old who was assessed as having the signs of dyslexia…but could not be formally diagnosed due to his age. What is the age when a child can be formally diagnosed. I went “toe to toe” with the school about placing him on an IEP and the ONLY reason I permitted is due to the assessment which indicated the signs of dyslexia. They has “verbally” stated all of the issues which blatantly points to dyslexia but WILL NOT say the word at all. He is in reading intervention where they use the Wilson method. He is also in a reading program for dyslexia students that use the orton gillingham method. He was assess when he was almost 7…would it behoove me to do it again?. I want to have clinical, documented confirmation that he is dyslexic in order to have the school provide more “specialized” services to him to address the dyslexia…if that is confirmed. I refuse to have my son dragging around an IEP for the rest of his education “career” and they don’t address the issue in a more specialized way in order for him to “manage” the diagnosis as well as “improve’

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Robin, a child can definitely be formally diagnosed at age 8 — so that isn’t the problem — its more like you are getting the typical runaround from a school that doesn’t want to offer services. But it doesn’t matter what the school calls it – if you had the IEP and the word “dyslexia” – you’d get the same thing that you are already getting — the Wilson & Orton Gillingham tutoring, because that’s what US schools use for dyslexia. If your son isn’t doing well with those approaches, then look into Davis — we follow a very different approach, geared to building on dyslexic strengths and using them as a strong foundation for reading. (You don’t need a formal diagnosis for Davis –a Davis facilitator would look at the symptoms and specific areas of difficulty, and focus on providing tools to address those, no matter what official label is attached to those learning needs.)

  • Amie L

    I am 64. Speak Spanish and English. Grammar is something of a mystery to me. As I have aged things are worse. I have never been tested for Dyslexia, but my Calculus professor in college, thought that is what I had, since I could not pass his class (took it 2 times). I changed number, etc. etc. he finally gave me a D. If I make a mess on my dinner table, or a room in my house, usually my daughter has to come and clear it out for me. Driving can be a stressful! I have become some what anxious about things, like going through a car wash.
    When I was young I was given an old fashion camera where I had to measure the light depending on the type of film. Well, never got a picture that was good, or it was to dark or to with too much light!! yeap transposed the numbers when I entered them in the camera!! Nothing better than a digital camera!!

    • Ollie

      I have a similar issue,

      I am 25, I speak Spanish and English, I never fully grasped the grammar of any of it, I just sort of kept practicing, kept getting it wrong, but thats how i learn.
      I have never been able to learn through text books.

      Memory & cognition – I could not relay an instruction i heard 10 seconds ago.. let alone number sequences.
      However once I have learned it and I understand then I will never forget it.

      Makes working difficult, however if people are understanding then it really does help.

  • Kia

    With my dyslexia it wasn’t diagnosed until late, so I think that’s what made it harder because I went through so many years just thinking I was dumb, another annoying thing was that everyone wanted to help me but the thing is I’d gone through so many years struggling and thinking I was stupid and thick so I didn’t need help now because I’d gone through years without any.
    Dyslexia made me an emotional mess
    But now I’m learning to control everything

  • momodou

    I have a problem that some/often makes me feel down about my social life with people. Has i read about “Dyslexia” I am surprise that I found one or part of that things that i am having challenges with in my life. This whole time I am suffering from this without knowledge and it is getting worse. I am very happy to fine something like this. I am a student please help me

    • Martin KG

      Hi Momodou,

      Knowing that you are dyslexic is the first step, the second step is accepting it. Dyslexia cannot be cured, it stays with you for life. Importantly and this is really important, you are not dumb or stupid, typically you are above average intelligence. But you can achieve academically so please don’t give up hope. I am dyslexic and did not excel at school, but I graduated from some of the best universities in the world (I live in London). I have masters degrees from the London School of Economics, University College London, Imperial College London, University of Oxford and I am currently studying at the University of Cambridge. Depending on which world university tables you look at I have been to four of the top ten universities in the world.

      So my advice is to understand how dyslexia impacts your life and accept it, embrace it, while there are disadvantages there are also advantages. You can succeed.

  • Ivan Rogers

    I’m not sure if this will help but I will add some insight: I was clinically diagnosed in the 50’s as being dyslexic. The school system had not developed any criteria to teach those with dyslexia. Learning in the traditional sense was a constant battle for me as a child.
    There were three things that standout in my mind that helped me; 1. Realizing if I read outloud to myself that my comperhention increased. I felt that if reading outloud helped what if I recorded what I just read and listened to the recording what would happen. My gardes improved even more and learning became easier.; 2. Learning to type helped thereby allowing me to progress with computers; 3. But the one thing I believed help more than anything else was when I learned (self taught) to wright computer programs. Computer programming is logical thinking, you are so focused in the develolment of an outcome that one loses a sense of time; it’s like working a puzzle and being obsessed in the completed task. I honestly believe that the brain rewires itself if constantly challenged.
    I am 68 today but was able to retire at 52, my point is those with Dyslexia are not stupid just challenged…

    • Summer

      Thank you for this I am 34 and I have had a lot of problems never even thought they were anything but a comprehension problem but it didn’t explain my math skills I lack and I still don’t know my left from right if someone says turn left I have to stop and think I right with my right hand so I feel for the right then I know my left is the other then with jobs they want to put you in front of a computer before you work I never remember what I just did so I always just go out and do better hands on I always thought it was just me but now I know Its not and I have never been tested but in this. It says a adult has 10 or more traits I stopped counting at 25 then I took a dylexia test online and said I have severe to moderate when I was in special ed in school there was a girl with dyslexia in my class and we used to write notes in our language I never much even understood how I knew what we wrote and no one else can until now I wished I could find her but I can’t I have tried this is a eye opener and when I told my mom what I found she laughed at me I cried but thanks to my husband he has helped with me he and my two kids are great to me it also took me 7 tries at my driver licence test the last try my husband goes in and says is there anyway she can have it read to her and they gave me head phone recorder I passed with flying colors but lesson in this is don’t give up I almost did but my husband would not let me and you know how you fill out applications to jobs and you answer the questionnaire I am now embarrassed because I never got those jobs and I can now understand why those types of jobs are not for me I guess lol but now that i know I feel weird about myself I feel stupid though my kids are smarter than me and Im not sure if knowing was a good thing or not but it does explain a lot from my life I just figured was normal

      • Migwi N

        If you are expecting a dyslexic people to read your comments, please keep them short but I won’t because of how happy to finally put a word to this condition I considered my unexplained shortcoming. I pretty much hate reading texts especially one with very long sentences since I find it hard to keep in my mind all that train of thoughts together. I have read some lines in the above comments severally till I gave up on most and ended skimming through the text perhaps looking for keywords that would capture my attention.
        This condition explains why all my comprehension messages and social media post have spelling mistakes that are hard to notice when writing the message. This also explains why I hate reading novels and also telling stories. I have this weird ability to mess up any story that feels funny in my mind and also notice people’s emotions when they look confused or expected more from my story telling session. I also have more than 1000 ideas going through my mind at any given time, selecting one to focus on is a problem, also if I select one that my mind labels inadequate half way into it, I always make an instant switch into the better idea even when it doesn’t relate with my previous one.
        The text above mentions that most adults have at least 10 symptoms, in my case I don’t have less than 10 of those symptoms. Someone once told me that my active hand it the right hand and that is how I determine my right or left side always. I find it easier to remember emotions or physical thing than words, in fact lots of visual stuffs trigger things in my mind and that is how i remember things.
        I could write a whole page of how I hated my oral interview when doing my driving test, well I failed the test not because I answered wrongly but because i was lost of words to explain the answer. Confusion increased when that lady raised her voice. By the way, If this comment feels confusing and has spelling mistakes, just know that I have read it severally to remove the tons of errors that my mind could notice.

  • Rebecca

    Hello, I think I might be a dyslexic, I have around 10 of those symptoms that I thought were just me. But the thing is, I am in french immersion and I’m IB (French, math and ELA, but I’m dropping out of English IB tho because it’s to much) my parents both helped me so much in my child hood (I have been in french for 11 years and both parents Speak French and I go to a place every year that speaks french as well) can it still be possible I could be a dyslexic?

    • Rebecca

      And to add to that, I actually just found out recently that “there” “their” and “the’re” are actually prenounced differently, so like that’s the reason why I usually don’t mix them up ( yes English is my first language and I am 16)

      • Geraldine

        I am also dyslexic but was unable to be concretely diagnosed because I have been speaking French, English, and Portuguese since the age of 6. They said that it was hard to tell as there were so many other factors to take into account as I speak the 3 languages since a young age. I am now 20, I still find myself mixing words, I can speak languages very easily but grammatically I suck. When i was smaller i had all of the above, therefore I always had to just put in extra effort in school, but I got used to it, I became organized and very determined. I did the IB too, was able to do English literature high. It just takes determination and patience, a lot of patience. I was an athlete and love art so I would do that (still do) to relax and do something I actually liked after the hours of maths that I had to do. Hoped this helped 🙂

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Rebecca, it sounds like you have a very demanding school schedule — so it is not clear whether you could have symptoms of dyslexia or if the problem is simply that the school expectations are overwhelming. You might want to complete the survey at https://www.testdyslexia.com/ It is based on pretty much the same traits listed on this page, but the survey will give you the option of marking how frequently you experience each problem, and in the end will give you a result in a chart form that will give an indication of severity in different areas. That will give you a better overall picture of whether the problem is dyslexia, or simply being in over your head in a difficult educational environment.

  • Audrey

    I have only begun looking into this but a lot of these traits are fitting to me… I don’t know if I have dyslexia though. I sometimes read words as other words like “toyota” instead of “tokyo” happened just the other day and I have to reread things quite a few times to actually understand what’s being said. Also, I mess up homophones a lot; “they’re”, “their”, “there” for example! I oftentimes hear things that were never actually spoken. I daydream/space out a lot and sometimes have to snap back quite a few times before I can finally do something because I space out a lot quite often. Do I have dyslexia? How can I be tested for it?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Audrey, everything you describe are common symptoms of dyslexia. Dyslexia is not a disease but rather a different pattern of thinking and learning. Dyslexic symptoms vary from one individual to the next and occur along a spectrum. If you feel the symptom you describe are a problem for you, then you can get help — but a formal diagnosis is not required for help. If you feel your symptoms are severe enough that you need accommodations or extra support in a workplace or educational setting, then you might benefit from formal testing.

  • Donna P

    My son, age 35, is struggling with most “signs” of dyslexia. We moved from California to Washington state and I am desperately looking for professional assistance for him. In school, they “graduated” him with a diploma, etc. but they just “push” the kids through to make room for another student. The school graduated him because he attained a certain grade level! I don’t know where to begin and of course, like all parents, to have our child overcome problems set before them.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Donna, Davis program for dyslexia and other life challenges (such as ADHD) can help at any age — so the fact that your son is now a 35-year-old adult is no barrier. However, the motivation for a program needs to come from him. You can use the resources at https://www.davismethod.org/ to find a facilitator in your state, but it’s best if he makes the call and arranges the initial appointment for consultation.

    • Kevin

      I wish him and you luck Donna. Make sure he knows he can achieve anything he wants.

      I will be 54 in March and I was never diagnosed during my school years. It put me behind and I never really recovered.

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