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 16, 2019 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  http://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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    Past one year I am telling my son read and write words by seeing text book, while reading and writing misplacing or mixing words. When I consult with doctor they told that he has both dislexia and disgraphia. He will be very slow learner, but one thing in other activities he is has excellent performance except reading and writing. After consulting doctors told that he will be very slow learner. If any one is having solution please help in this regard.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Dyslexic children are not slow learners. They learn in different ways, and they will learn very quickly when they have the opportunity to learn in ways geared to their natural strengths. The problem is that most schools do not teach the way that they learn.

      You can help your son by better understanding his learning style and using strategies like the ones explained on this website to help him learn in ways that are natural to him and do not cause frustration.

      • Morne

        Hi , we are battling with our son Shaun who is according to the checklists then dyslexic, seems I also have some of the traits , so it’s genetic it seems , he is 11 soon , his grades have tumbled drastically in the last 3 months , we need help to get him back on track .
        Thanks Morne

        • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

          I’d encourage you to arrange a consultation with a Davis Facilitator, if possible. That can help determine whether a Davis program would address Shaun’s needs.

      • Julie

        Dyslexia truly can be a gift . My daughter is now 23 yrs old and Dyslexic. That Diagnosis does not have to cripple you. Once we learned that was the issue… I was the mom pushing for exceptions and to do the outlined assistance that the doctor ordered. By the time my daughter was 12 or 13 … she insisted that I do not ask for exceptions. She knew that I had raised her to work hard but she was angry that she had to explain things to her peers. The exceptions, although helpful… made her feel even more self conscience and as she put it.. ” it makes me feel stupid and I am not stupid”. She vowed to stay up till 2am reading and rereading until her schoolwork was not only completed… but done very well. That brought tears to my eyes and made me realize.. that as her mom… I needed to step up my game. So, if she stayed up… then my job was to be right there with her. We did …as I explained to her … WE are a team . We wont give up and we wont give in. I told her … When there is the will… there will be a way and we will find it together.. no matter what. She never gave up nor did i give up on her. I told her… if I dont know how to do something… then we will find someone that does.

        She just Graduated with not 1… But 2 Engineering degrees… and did it with honors… and she did it with Dyslexia.

        Knowing that her mom was NEVER gonna give up on her … it allowed her to train her brain to never give up on herself. My job as her mom was to give her something even more valuable than what her teachers ever could give her… an inner strength, determination, and the will to believe she could do whatever she wanted with her life.

        On her graduation announcements.. We had them printed with the first lines of the poem ” Our greatest Fear” by Marianne Williamson.

        “Our greatest fear… is NOT that we are inadequate…. Our Greatest Fear… Is that we are powerful beyond measure”.

        Never tell someone what they cant do… tell them what they CAN DO.

  • Brenda H

    I have two things I want to discuss. First I read very slowly.I don’t sense it at all when reading untill I look at a clock and what I thought was 20 minutes; is really an hour. Second I am 67 now and my sense of time and time management has gotten a lot harder to manage. When I am in the zone, time disappears. Then I am surprised at how much time has passed.

  • Colm

    Society’s got a little better at understanding dyslexia however if you’ve got a child in the school system it’s very hard to get help as the schools do not want to spend the money if your child manages to get into university there is a lot of support, I myself didn’t get statemented till I was 28, people told me I was stupid and thick ,as you get older you learn strategies which you can apply to the workplace, however you can only depend on yourself to reach your own goals , as people at work have very little knowledge of your disability, so you’ve got to work harder as most companies pay lip service to the Disability Act.

  • Anna

    I have dyslexia and dyspraxia, I’m now 26.
    My teacher noticed it very early (10yrs), so luckily I have been having help ever since.
    Going through middle, high school, college and then university I got assessed at each place ( without showing my prior assessments) and they all showed the same results.
    I did retests at new places because I originally thought I was just a slow learner. But also because my friends, family and colleagues would constantly tell me I was just dumb and making it all up. I personally didn’t want to be singled out by teachers either.
    Now I look back and I am so grateful to the people that helped me find better and alternative ways to learn. I was advised to read and read and read. That is what I did and it helped massively! I recommend it by far as the best help I got. Yes it was very hard but I absolutely love reading now. This does not mean that I am ‘cured’, it just means I have developed working strategies.

    I am now doing my PhD in Biological Sciences. I never mention having dyslexia to people because I don’t see it as an issue. Yet, my supervisors very quickly asked me if I had been tested! I am so glad that people are beginning to realise it is real and not a bad thing, it’s just a thing. I have lots of ‘coping’ mechanisms now that I barely struggle (that’s a lie… I deal with) with my academic life.

    Overall, if you have been told your child has dyslexia or dyspraxia please don’t treat them any different or talk about it like its a negative. My family did this and it just scared me. Treat them the same but provide subtle support ( the less obvious the better!). For example; A yellow ‘ruler’ for reading, reading instead of watching tv, car journey ‘games’ to play around words and family games.

  • Dave E

    Dyslexia does not mean you are not up to the every day world I’m 39 I’m running my own business I can’t read books or read forms but can get by putting every thing in to short sentences and it make sense but have great focus and ambition

  • CC

    Hi im 15 I’ve been in reading help all my life, but I never thought of my self as a dyslexic I just thought maybe im just not a good reader until I noticed more when I got to high school more problems no one else had. Me and my friend joke about being dumb and ig i joke about not caring about my grades bc it helps the fact that I can’t do better than a C but my best friend has an og and he’s really bad for him and ig I wanna help him get out of his life, anyway I was helping him with some of the math I understood and he said im retarded. Am I retarded bc I can’t do things some people can, my parents got me glasses to try to help but the words still blur together and are hard for my brain to process I can’t spell great Grammarly’s my best friend rn and it’s embarrassing I feel stupid?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Most dyslexics are very smart and a Davis Facilitator could determine very quickly whether our program will help you. If you are motivated, then the tools we provided would solve the problem about the words blurring together and help you increase your reading speed and ability to understand. But of course, as you are 15, you will need to have your parents’ support. I hope you feel comfortable telling them how you feel.

      • SS

        I have no difficulty in reading but getting what I read is my problem my doesnt function properly. And sometimes I talk really quickly in front of class. ever since I was in elementary I had difficulty in math like getting how they got it so easily. I wanna learn so bad but my brain doesnt coordinate with me. I also have difficulty in producing sentences I really dont know why. And I have difficulty in pronouncing words with a letter F I dont have that problem when I was a kid it started happening when I was growing up.

  • Ria

    I am dyslexia and I’m working but struggling a lot cause no one understands me I need help

  • stuart w

    Last week I was told my son had dyspraxia, which also exhibited dyslexia, this was described as a disability that could be helped with teaching and reading, unable to tie his shoe laces and poor motor skills, I didn’t realise as a father he suffered so much as I work long hours, heart broken by the schools diagnosis and sending information to the NHS, i have tried to understand what the child really goes through, but everything I hear and compare in this disability is not what the scientists tell me, His reading I supposed to be poor, but he can read large adult words, he does have poor hand writing but this was noticed in primary school yet no teacher ever helped him.

    One common word in dyslexia is poor memory, My son wrote a report for his social studies class which was so accurate his teacher didn’t believe it really happened, The average adult can remember a sequence of 7 numbers, tonight in 5 minutes i tested my sons memory and he achieved 15-18-20 and who knows how far he can go tomorrow, I have this on video, no cheating, he read the sequence so fast I struggled to keep up, I do not see dyspraxia/dyslexia as a disability, I see it as a superpower, who is to say because one person acts or thinks a different way that they are wrong, teachers, employers, governments want us to all act the same, and social attitude makes us weird if we dont get in line, but most billionaires start with ideas that there peers or friends found ridiculous, Is anybody laughing at Steve jobs or Elon Musk now?

    • Ritika

      Absolutely…now we know this is add …that is ADHD…that is dyslexia or dyspraxia…blah blah…but these are just medical terms for the deviation from a mark which they have set…who knows what is normal…if we all are at same level …then what will make us different … Also I feel a lil different is good..

  • Bianca M

    I need help my daughter is finding it difficult to put a sentence together and can’t read well
    Short term memory. Losses focus easily. I need help she is a smart child she just needs help. She’s 9 years old

  • Tione N

    Hello, I have an 11 year old son who I think is exhibiting signs of dyslexia. How do I get him into the Davis program.

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