Test for Dyslexia: 37 Common Traits

Author

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.

General:

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 May 29, 2022 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  https://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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145 comments

  • Ellisyn

    I never was tested as akid
    I was in title 1 which is a special reading ad writing class and it always made me feel so bad
    I hate reading in front of others to this day. I have reread paragraphs or sentences over and over to understand and still struggle at times. You have to break a lot of things down for me to understand and if learning something if you just tell me, I can’t do it. You have to show me and let me do it with your guidance or I will never learn. I can’t think in words. I see pictures for everything and its hard to explain what j see or mean
    I don’t actually mix letters or numbers up so I doubted this was an issue. I’m more likely to mix words up or struggle to think of words I wanna say even if there small.
    bit I counted 17 symptoms above so maybe I was wrong?!

  • Heywood Reynolds

    Browsing over the comments brings up my personal experience with my wife who I believe has had dyslexia lifelong, and I think it regresses with advanced age? Not joking when I say that because I am seriously concerned with being able to cope with it now that we are both disabled. (One son also afflicted so I see the enormity of problems daily now.)

  • Kat Allen

    My child is 13, she used to be so outgoing. She sang, danced and was always smiling. But in the last few years her self esteem had plummeted. She has panic attacks if she has to read out loud in class. She gets nervous that she has confused basic math symbols like + or – in math. Once I reaffirm that she has the sign correct, she is able to do the math easily. She isn’t old enough to drive, but tells me where to turn after being somewhere only once, yet can’t remember mathematical signs she’s been using for more than 8 years? She recalls events, peoples faces, and directions on how to get somewhere well above average, yet struggles with spelling of words she’s been taught in grade 1 ( she is in grade 8 now). She has been called dozy by past teachers, and was diagnosed with adhd in grade 2. I feel some of her teachers think her iq is below average, yet she can reassemble a electronic device without ever taking it apart? How can I help her before she slips through the cracks of our educational system? My breaks when I see her feeling depressed, anxious, and embarrassed by her peers. She never complains, and doesn’t like to discuss these matters. How can I help her with her school work, and feelings of being ‘dumb’?

    • Kirstie Tucker

      Hi Kat. I’m Kirstie, 24 and dyslexic. I read your comment and related so much to what you’re describing and I think your daughter does sound dyslexic. Obviously, dyslexic people struggle with reading, writing, spelling and mixing up symbols but they are also very bright, have incredible visual memories, are creative and are good at problem-solving like in maths. Let your daughter know this all the time, it’ll help so much when it comes to her anxiety; anxiety exasperates dyslexia. I personally recommend going with your daughter to get tested for dyslexia, without her school if they won’t take you seriously. I’m speaking from experience as someone who fell through the system and didn’t get properly tested until I was already an adult, I got the basic free tests and was repetitively told I was ‘borderline dyslexic’. It’s also common for people with Dyslexia to also have ADHD, often one can be mistaken for the other because dyslexia affects people in different ways, at different levels of severality in different areas of how you learn. Most dyslexic children find their own ways to cope, they just need to explore them. Your local GP should be able to recommend screening centres to get tested for dyslexia, otherwise, the NHS website provides a list of testing centres. Initially, the tests can be pricy however there are dyslexia charities that help aid you with the costs such as ‘British Dyslexia Association’. It’s worth getting tested even if it turns out your daughter isn’t dyslexic because your family is going to feel anxious about her struggling with these things until you find some answers. Many people don’t realise this but when you’re tested for dyslexia the tester will look out for other learning disabilities as well; such as Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia and many others. Once you have that all-important piece of paper that confirms her diagnosis it’s so much easier to get the assistance you need for your daughter. Especially surrounding her education, and GCSE’s when they arise. Her school will not be allowed to ignore the issues she’s having. It can be tedious and time-consuming but once you get through the process she’ll be set to apply for any extra assistance or equipment (like a laptop, or learning programmes) she needs to aid her, up until applying for and attending university (if she chooses that path) and even in the workplace in the future. You should be aware that when your daughter is an adult she has to be reassessed for dyslexia because her level of difficulty will likely have changed. Dyslexia isn’t something that goes away but it can be managed. I highly recommend 1-to-1 tutoring, having someone reassure you on a regular basis makes the world of a difference and practising reading out loud… your daughter will probably, like me at her age, hate it, but when it comes to reading allowed in front of others she’ll notice the difference and I think as time goes on, she’ll understand how it really helps. I think what helped me as well was finding people I admire in industries I love and finding out that they’re also dyslexic and reading about their journeys… it made me feel capable and honestly, less lonely when it came to my struggles. I hope you find the answers and help you’re looking for and wish your daughter and family the best in your future. Stay safe! – Kirstie

  • Maya

    I’m currently 14 years old and I don’t know if I’m dyslexic or if I’m faking it.
    I’ve had troubles in the past reading, what I mean by that is rereading messages or a book over and over again, usually over 5 times until I actually get what it means and if I still don’t, I try to pretend and I just get lost in the topic. I lost many friends because I kept asking what they meant in their messages and they got annoyed of it.
    My family yells at me because I don’t understand most phrases. My family usually call me lazy or dumb, sometimes even r*tarded, I do have the rights to say that word because I’m autistic but I don’t feel comfortable saying that word, but they call me that most days and I feel like maybe they don’t know the meaning behind it?? I need a teacher to explain stuff to me in very big details so I can fully understand but I feel like I’m wasting their time by asking for help over simple work stuff:(

    I’m also very behind in math, while everyone in my class is doing algebra, I’m still stuck learning my additions, such as 35+43 or something like that. Is this normal for most people my age?

    I’ve been told that I stutter too much and should get that checked out because I stutter ever 5 words, even in simple words that I can pronounce. I also have troubles reading long words such as discipline, decision, closet, ceiling, shampoo. when I do try to read them, I see discipline as principal/principle, decision as decisive, closet as closest, ceiling is always pronounced see-eye-ling, shampoo as kangaroo. could this possibly be dyslexic or am I still learning?

    I want to get this checked out by a doctor or some sort but my parents won’t let me because they say that I’m just blind.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Maya, all of the symptoms you describe are consistent with dyslexia. It is unfortunate that your parents are not supportive. You definitely can be helped with your learning. Is there a teacher or other adult at your school who might be sympathetic to your needs?

    • Chris

      Maya, I believe you. You’re not faking it. It sounds like you do have a lot of dyslexia symptoms, and also have an abusive family. Many of us have similar experiences – please don’t take the abuse or the dyslexia personally. You are still you – someone who deserves to be here and to be loved, respected, and given a chance.

      Your letter shows that you are intelligent, honest, creative, and proactive. Not many 14 year olds would be reaching out as you have done here. I believe you will do well in life, and wish the best for you.

      For the family:
      Please remember that abusive people are kind until you trust them again, then they are mean again. With people like that, it is important to do these things:
      1. Don’t share your hopes, fears, or secrets with them OR with anyone they talk to – they will use it against you.
      2. Don’t believe what they say about you or your options in life – they are probably incorrect.
      3. Be respectful and kind to them. Occasionally do some small nice thing for them in a casual way.
      4. Avoid pointing out their issues or mistakes – at least until you move out of the house.
      5. Don’t let them use you for emotional entertainment – act like a slightly boring person around them. If they focus on you, put you down, or try to pick a fight, don’t act upset. Avoid responding directly to any rude statements – just redirect the discussion to something else that they are interested in. Not in a rude way – just mention the other thing as if you just thought of it.

      For the dyslexia: Avoid discussing it with anyone in your family or their friends, at least until after you are tested, if possible.
      1. Ask your school counselor for help getting tested. Ask them to keep your request confidential if possible until after you are tested.
      2. Visit this site to see other resources for free testing: https://www.understood.org/articles/en/how-to-get-free-low-cost-evaluation-for-child
      Below are what seem like the best options in the list at that site:
      3. Ask for free testing at https://ldaamerica.org/contact/
      4. Find testing near you: https://www.childrensdyslexiacenters.org/
      5. Find the resource center for your state: https://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/
      6. Find out if there is a “teaching hospital” near you, if so call to see if they will test you for free. https://fortune.com/2021/04/27/top-teaching-hospitals-2021-ibm-watson-health/
      7. Find free health care options near you: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/
      8. Find resources in general: https://www.211.org/

      Best of luck.

  • candace

    my child has more than 10 of these signs and i would like to know how to proceed

    • Lena

      Hi Candice,
      You may want to talk to your local citizens advice for general organisations that can help in terms of pointing you to the right direction for social groups. They may also tell you about free assessment. Just a heads up on what to ask for generally.

  • Brad B

    Dyslexia helped me fail early and often. Every teacher I had told me that I was dumb, lazy, and had no chance of advancing. I learned that I had limits and that the limits cycled in and out. Some things were clear today and confusing tomorrow. I knew that I was smart because many things were obvious to me but difficult to others. In fifth grade I could run any audiovisual equipment in the school that teachers and staff could not run. Even by then fear of failure was not an issue. Oh I had to work harder and longer and make notes so if I could not recall a process I could get back on track.
    I attended one of the most advanced private high school with bad grades but learned more there than college. Graduated with a BS degree. Starred two successful businesses and has a number of articles published. Designed and built 4 homes, a theater, remodeled a number of homes. Designed and built a number of
    advanced packaging machines.
    I attribute these things to my early problems with dyslexia but eliminating fear of failure was a blessing. Not a day goes by that I don’t have dyslexic issues but I will never give up trying to improve and tackle a new project. My daughter is also Dyslexic and the smartest person I have ever known. She benefited from my experiences. Even if you don’t understand the issue try to offer support because we are often our own worst critics.

    • Nereyda N

      Wow! Reading your comment has given me so much hope for my son. He is only 9 yr. old and has challenges. His school can’t seem to diagnose him with dyslexia but all the traits point to dyslexia. He is so smart and knows so much about a lot of different things. The only thing that puts a strain on all is his reading and writing. I hope we can get him the help he needs to support his way of learning.

      • Beth

        My mom always struggled and thought she was thick. Her words. In her 40s she got assessed and told she had dyslexia, furthered her studies as a very mature student. Got her PhD in her 50s. Anything is possible with the right support in place x

  • Grant S

    I was a bright kid, though spelling and reading was an issue, exceptional at patterns and maths where a pattern was discernable. I saw letters upside down reversed, letters within words exchanged. This was 1971, and we were punished (Caned) at the high performing school for making spelling mistakes. I was told I was lazy or careless started to become withdrawn and dread school. In Queensland an educational program had just begun to identify those with dyslexia and learning issues. Later diagnosed with auditory dyslexia, though very good at music. I was diagnosed with dyslexia through this program. With intensive intervention, my reading improved. After 12 months I was well above average reading and comprehension in an academic rated school. I was exceptional at art and won a school competition. I had a number of difficulties with authority and teachers and colleagues at high school, and late in life diagnosed with high functioning autism. After some hiatus I graduated in Architecture (Hons) and have exceptional spacial abilities. I am close to completing an MBA (Masters). The computer age has heralded great opportunities for people with dyslexia and “Aspergers”. Speel check, read aloud, 3D computer programs, gaming and drone flying. In these things like navigation I excel. I am writing for kids who stumble at first with the label dyslexia, and for parents who may think their kid is a dunder head! 2 degrees a diploma and a Masters, may prove that misconception incorrect. This is the time of computers for non nuerotypical’s like Turing, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Jobs and Gates to shine. Your kid may be a genius and all you need is to support them and they will reach their full potential. I remember the times I was caned or isolated due to my non nuerotypical behavior, and there have been many hurdles and chatastrophes……………….however I would not trade who I am and how I think for anything! For the dyslexics and Aspies and other non typical humans, this is our time to shine!

  • David W

    Just want to give a heads up to any and all whom might read the “warning signs” that are listed. As an adult with NASTY dyslexia, and I mean that in the worst way, I can relate to just a few of the things listed. I get the vibe that the website, as helpful as it might be to many, broadly categorizes and attributes many, many psychological traits as dyslexic/dyslexia. I went undiagnosed until I was 22 and I’ll be the first person to tell you that that sucked, pardon my language. Once diagnosed, and given the proper assistance needed to advance myself educationally, I graduated college. I now teach special education and am able to use my, unfortunate (but I see it as a blessing) previous circumstances to mention for one, past learning environments to make my classroom the most optimal learning platform. Have your child professionally tested. DO NOT read heavily into all of these “warning signs” posted by the site, as many many many many of them are overcategorizing typical norms for children.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Davis, this list of common signs was never intended to replace formal testing or evaluation – it is meant to help parents & educators better understand the scope and pattern of dyslexic traits, to get a sense of where to go next. That’s why it says that most dyslexics will have 10 or more traits, and that each person is different.

      I am the parent of a very dyslexic son who had the trait of not being “behind enough” to get help at school, and being labeled lazy, careless, immature, “not trying hard enough,” etc. Along with the poor self-esteem and frustration. Most schools set the bar very low for intervention or support — if the child isn’t failing, or reading isn’t in the bottom 20th percentile — the child doesn’t get help. The brighter the child, the more likely it is that they are able to perform above whatever cutoff the school requires, and at the same time, the higher the frustration level. Many kids like this won’t even qualify for a formal diagnosis of dyslexia — again because they are able to compensate well enough to perform above cutoffs even though they have to struggle to do so.

      When I saw the big picture, I was able to help my son — and things turned around very quickly. One day he was a 6th grader struggling to read at a 3rd-grade level, and within a very short time, he was a confident reader, reaching and exceeding grade level over a period of months. So the knowledge that my son’s pattern of learning difficulties was consistent with dyslexia, and not a matter of laziness, lack of motivation, or a need to try harder made all the difference in the world. But my son’s life would have been a lot better if I could have had this understanding sooner — his struggles started in first grade, and only got worse from there.

    • Louise

      David, I hope readers don’t assume all applies from this list either. I found the article extremely informative and saw myself with many of these. I have been able to tell my family of my findings to prove to them I’m no the ‘idiot child’ they thought of me then and would roll eyes at me during my adulthood. I feel so free now from the labels set on me. I have a grandchild with this now, after reading the article hope to see her get the care she needs.
      Good for you to break free as well and to be there with your tools of knowledge and experience to teach others.

    • Michelle D

      What did you do to get help?

  • angry

    I think this a great list but you’ve made a huge error with this one:

    “Can do arithmetic, but fails word problems; cannot grasp algebra or higher math.”

    Cannot grasp algebra or high math? This is extremely incorrect and harmful. I have done quite well in calculus, physics, and higher levels of math. I very much question if Albert Einstein, who was dyslexic, could not grasp algebra or higher math.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Some dyslexics are quite good with math, but others have great difficulties. Algebra & higher math can be hard because of the symbols used in occasions, and the sequential method of problem-solving. My dyslexic son was quite capable with mental math –but was frustrated in high school when asked to show his work. He used to do his algebra problems by writing down the problem, then leaving some space on the paper and writing down the answer — and then working backwards up the page from the answer to insert all the “steps” to problem solving in-between. Of course, those weren’t the steps he had taken to get the answer — he didn’t need them, as the answer was intuitive to him.

      • Mathew W

        I completely understand the mental math thing. I was diagnosed with double deficit dyslexia, and learning nearly anything, like right now trying to think of the word I want to use, and I just can’t think of it. Learning was hard for me, but if I was allowed to do mental math then it was simple for me. I begged my math teacher and he allowed me to not show my work. I had to come in after school and prove to him that I could do it all mentally and he gave me the test to do in front of him, orally. I told him that I see the problem in my head, and the answer kind of just solves it self. It’s hard to describe with words. I would urge you to talk to your kids math teacher now and from here out and tell them this is how my kid learns and will answer his math. Most teachers will try and figured something out, especially if a parent is involved.

  • N Hansen

    Could Aphantasia also be a part of this? It was only identified about five years ago and a professor in England has been doing studies on it. His study is filled.

    I’ve always struggled with math. If I can’t write the problem with paper and pencil I can only do the most basic calculations — otherwise, I try to “see” the problem in the air, “write” it on my hand or arm, and it usually doesn’t go well. Writing it down correctly isn’t the problem. Reading a string of numbers is very difficult. Writing a string of numbers is difficult. And to make it worse, I struggle to type columns of numbers into a calculator just for basic addition. Fortunately, my career has been in graphic design and the software handles most math-related needs. I don’t have reading/writing dyslexia. Recently, I found out about Aphantasia and any “mind’s eye” I’m supposed to have is just black. No visualizing red dots on a table, etc. I’m just wondering whether any of this falls under any sort of category? And whether doing mind exercises would help? Thanks!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      That’s a great question! We do know from experience that in some cases, dyslexic individuals have suppressed their picture-thinking ability, likely because their visual imagery was overwhelming. In some other cases, there are dyslexic individuals who are strong picture-thinkers, but their minds process the visual imagery too quickly to be aware of it — these people may have great difficulty explaining their thought process, because for them, it just seems like ideas just pop into their heads, as they aren’t thinking with words either.

      But there are also people who report that they have no ability at all to form or mental image. These often are word-thinkers who definitely are aware of a running conversation in their brains, but for them the pictures are elusive.

      So I think the answer is that each person is different, and some people who seem to have aphantasia may be able to develop or improve their ability to access their mental images with practice, perhaps using Davis tools like the clay modeling in symbol mastery to create images to associate with words, or the release and energy dial tools to slow down their racing thoughts.

      The only way to know if these or other mental exercises will help is to give them a try!

  • Maithili

    Hi I’m 22 years old .I don’t know if it’s my feeling or if I have any learning disabilities. I have anxiety anxiety issues and it seems like I am inviting lot of problems now a days so I want to know if I really have any disorder or not.
    1.I cannot grasp the theory content as fast as others but I can remember them in long run better than others(eg: it takes me half an hour to study when others do it in 15 minutes).but in some situations very few I came across i can study as well as others.
    2.I am good at month I enjoy doing math actually and used to get 9/10 grade in maths sometimes even 10/10.but recently during my anxiety phase I felt like I couldn’t even solve simple quantitative aptitude problem.some times I use fingers to count numbers.
    3.I used to daydream during my classes.but if I am interested in that topic I can concentrate well.I usually cannot concentrate well on theory subjects. But one day before exams or before project deadlines I can spend almost whole day for study and even pull all nighters.
    4.i have no problem reading out loud except when it is in front of whole crowd because my anxiety kicks in.
    5.I am feeling anxious and sad thinking I might have learning disabilities even many online tests showed the results as unlikely.
    I would like your opinion on this

    Reply

    • Maithili

      I forgot to mention that get confused btw left and right but I can manage it by pausing for a moment

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        We don’t look at dyslexia as a learning “disability” or a “disorder” but rather a difference in the way the brain processes and interprets information. It is not better or worse than the way others think, but it does mean that you may need to learn better or different strategies to improve the way that you learn and function. You might find it helpful to read or listen to the book The Gift of Dyslexia to better understand our view — here is a starting point, taken from the first chapter: https://www.dyslexia.com/about-dyslexia/dyslexic-talents/dyslexia-8-basic-abilities/

        • Maithili

          Thank you Abigail! I will give the book a try.But I want to know if I am dyslexic or not. I am not able to find it because of my anxiety issues because sometimes I can feel like someone I am not because of my low self-esteem.please help me regarding this .

  • Kristen

    I am 26 and just now realizing the things I struggle with are signs of dyslexia. It’s very validating to know my brain works differently but I don’t lack intelligence. I still pause to decide left and right. Learning multiplication tables was embarrassing and I still use words that look alike and get embarrassed when I realize I made grammar mistakes that I know how to fix. I never understood if I knew how to spell why I spelt everything wrong.

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