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 March 8, 2021 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  https://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Lauren M

    Add on to my last comment she has trouble spelling after 2nd grade it took her almost two years to meet the expectation for 4th grade she has trouble with math can tell the time fells disappointed in herself when she can’t finish or turn in assignments and she may have ADHD

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Are you looking for help for your daughter now? Do you have specific questions about how a Davis program might help her?

  • Lauren M

    My 11-12 year old has most of these she has a 6.9 – 7 reading level loves reading has read harry Potter and Percy Jackson series is a deep sleeper can tie shoes she can read well doesn’t have motion sickness at all

    • Jessi

      Hi there! I am someone who has dyslexia and like your child I love to read. I actually didn’t learn to read until I was 8 but was reading on a college level by 12. This is because I do not read phonetically but sight read. I still am really bad at spelling, mispronounce words I haven’t heard before, and I loose my words when I speak a lot. The thing that has helped me the most in my life is to realize that I am an intelligent person with a brain that works differently so I have to do something’s differently then others. I also learned to surround myself with people who love me for me and don’t make fun of the things that I can’t help (like my spelling). Always keep in mind that is dyslexics are often very intelligent so we are our own biggest enemy. The best thing you can do for your child is help them see how awesome they are so that they have the confidence to face their weaknesses in life with patience with themselves.

  • Chantelle

    My 11 year old struggles in school. She’s articulate verbally and can watch nature programmes plus recite everything. Basically obsessed with nature. However, when she reads she can put the second word first or put a word not on the paper first. She writes phonetically and has problems with her times tables. Remembering them. She confuses her left and right. Walks with a bounce. Can’t tell the time. But can tie shoe laces. She gets frustrated and disruptive. Won’t eat in school. Hates to break school work rules. She can’t manage that at all. Meltdowns if she doesn’t follow them.

  • Anthony W

    My son is 58 years old and although he is in many way sensible he is unable to understand computers and technology. He seems scared to tackle anything he doesn’t understand. He used to drive for a living and was reliable. His firm was recently made insolvent and he is now at home carrying for me. I am 87 and cannot look after myself. He is a reliable carer but he cannot bring himself to understand the technology of the internet. I have tried to introduce him to email but is seems beyond him. How will he cope with life when he is alone?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Do you think your son wants help with those things? I understand your concern as a parent, and if your son is dyslexic then the methods we use could definitely help. His age is not a barrier, but he would need to be motivated and willing. It may be that he feels he functions fine without the email and computers, just going about his life the old-fashioned way.

  • Jon

    Im dyslexic, I have a 2:1 in business management from university, chartered professional in supply chain, & purchasing manager for one of the worlds biggest tech companies.

    The above article is forgetting that dyslexia is a GIFT!!!!
    Many positives come out of it.

    If you have been just diagnosed, or a parent researching up on their child’s diagnosis, the above article will promote worry and a huge loss in confidence!!!!

    As a dyslexic the message you are portraying is sometime far more important than the spelling and gramma. I would have thought this would have been taken into account when publishing the above article.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The list of traits above includes both common strengths and weaknesses — here are some of the positives:

      * Talented in art, drama, music, sports, mechanics, story-telling, sales, business, designing, building, or engineering.

      * Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids.

      * Extremely keen sighted and observant

      * Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, and faces.

      * Strong sense of justice; emotionally sensitive; strives for perfection.

      For more information about dyslexic talents, check this page:

  • A living creature

    Oops I got 30 of them…..

  • Emilie

    I am 44 years old and just found out that I am most likely dyslexic. I was never assessed or diagnosed because I do not possess the most common characteristic, reading and spelling difficulties. On the contrary, I have always displayed higher levels of language proficiency, talked exceptionally early and was able to read long before my peers. However, I was absolutely amazed to realise that I present most other recognisable traits and tick nearly all boxes. Finally, the planets did align and I finally understand the reason why I felt so hopelessly deficient in some aspects and ridiculously advanced in others! Why I couldn’t relate to others in showing the same basic abilities, albeit far surpassing theirs in other ways which made them ressent and dislike me.
    Why I was deemed lazy and defiantly opposed to study mathematics when in reality I have severe dyscalculia and am unable to grasp algebra. Why I am ambidextrous but have no sense of direction, artistically inclined but can’t kick a football or copy dance moves, I can succeed academically but fail professionally, always late, but perfectionist, I lead a disorderly, disorganised existence but store my thoughts methodically.
    I can’t proofread effectively but pay a ridiculous attention to details. I’m always late, procrastinate, but I have great sociopolitical awareness and sense of justice. I hold my pen in the dumbest way but I can draw intricate and detailed abstractions. I can’t member the cooking instructions on the stupid packet unless I fish it out the bin 10 times and read it 100 times more. But I remember insignificant crap from early childhood. I walked at the age of 2 but I could talk way before that. I remember being confused by left and right and inverting letters and numbers although not for very long. No one wanted to believe me when I assured that I couldn’t read the time at 7 years old. I was so advanced in other areas of development, with a high IQ, and was even asked to skip a class as a result. But I couldn’t read the time and it took me a long time to teach myself. Tying shoe laces was just as absurdly difficult around 5, and I remember my father being so incredibly irritated by my inability to remember the simple technique and operate basic motor skills that he could hardly control his rage. I felt like such a useless piece of sh*t and he treated me like one too. His disappointment and criticism towards my lack of gross motor skills and relative clumsiness, limited sporting abilities and limited running skills stamina and endurance were also interpreted as laziness and signs of weakness, unwillingness to self improve by producing the necessary efforts. I am so incredibly chuffed but also saddened by the fact that, although I wasn’t such a useless piece of subhuman residue after all, my paediatrician father, of all professions, thought I was raised in cotton wool by my mother and deliberately avoiding physical effort. And more punitive measures as a result.
    I am so impatient to learn more about this strange and wonderful mix of abilities, quirks, gifts and limitations to overcome. I want to be part of this community, one I truly belong to, for the first time!

  • Rebecca L

    I always struggled in school with reading, writing, and math. I needed special classes to hold my pencil correctly and lots of Phonics in grade school. Copying information on the chalkboard was difficult and writing straight on the chalkboard was even harder. In high school, I had difficulty seeing the board and got an eye exam. The ophthalmologist examined my eyes and told me I was dyslexic. He told me I had midline dyslexia and that one side of my brain took a little longer than usual to communicate to the other side of my brain when I looked at things. He said it was subtle but I told him I had a hard time reading, it made me sleepy and I would jump down to the next sentence in the middle of the page. Which could explain why I would follow my finger under the sentences slowly, sometimes I had to reread the paragraph over to understand what I just read. I also had difficulty cutting paper in a straight line even with a ruler, finding the center is always difficult for me. I struggle with spreadsheets and need to high light a lot. After 23 years of working, I quit my job in 2018 and went back to school to get my degree. I have 2 more years left and I will have my master’s degree. College has been difficult but audiobooks, highlighting, and lots of reading, I have been able to maintain a 3.8 GPA. I would like to get a more in-depth assessment and find out what kind of dyslexia I have and how I can be the best me.

  • Marcus L

    I have so many of them I’m 44 and can’t grasp left and right ! I know obviously what they are but I still have to look at my hands to be 100% , spelling, reading ,math punctuation is non existent and the best one is B and D always have to do capital letters regardless of there position in the word I just can’t think at the time which way around they go !! At least I now know I’m not stupid and I do have a problem

  • Daphne B

    I am 69 yrs old and counted 27 traits u have printed out. Im in a nursing home and had dyslexia as a child.. It didnt have a name then. I now am struggling again worse than ever! I cant ever write a address down without getting it wrong. Im so amazed at what u have found here! Is there a chance for help at my age?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      There is no upper age limit for getting help — Davis Facilitators have worked successfully with individuals in their 70s and 80s, even a few in their 90s. However, there could be logistical problems that would make it harder for you because of being in a nursing home, especially if there are extra restrictions on visitation due to concerns about Covid. A good starting point might be to call a Davis Facilitator to discuss your goals — http://www.davismethod.org

  • MarcyWorch

    So many of these traits point to an ADD diagnosis… how does one tell the difference? My ninth grade son was diagnosed with ADD and Oppositional Defiance. His reading has always been strong, but his writing and spelling are two grade levels lower than his age, which I chalked up to the ADD lack of attention to detail in areas outside of the chosen focus. He is so much like my dad, who was dyslexic as a child (trouble reading, writing, and spelling).

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      There is tremendous overlap between ADHD and dyslexia, as both are labels for behaviors that are tied to the same underlying differences in the person’s thought process and mental processing. That is why EVERY Davis program starts with providing tools for self-awareness and self-regulation of attention focus and energy level. From there, the difference between our program for dyslexia and attention mastery depends on client goals. Many individuals find it helpful to complete both programs.

      The Oppositional Defiance is often a description that is attached to a child whose behavior is deemed inappropriate or unacceptable when the reality is that the child is frustrated by difficulties with perceiving and understanding the communications and expectations of others. So rather than getting to the root of the problem, the child is given an unfair label. A child cannot exercise responsibility over their own behavior unless and until they are perceiving their environment accurately and have the skills needed to self-regulate.

  • Mischelle S

    Interesting. I have always been a different type of thinker compared to my peers. I have to visualize the problem in order to comprehend it. My reading and spelling have always been excellent, but I am a phonetic speller. I spell things as it is sounded out. In order to memorize the spelling I must say the word in my head as it is spelled phonetically. My whole life i have had trouble explaining my thought process even though I can give you the answer. I never could understand why nobody understood my thought process, as it makes complete sense to me. I have to ask many questions during lectures to grasp the context and understanding of what is being taught to me. I’m excellent in math and science, yet I’m also very creative and excel in theatre, arts, and sports. I’m good in English and history, however they have never been my strongest subjects. Engineering has always been my career path, but everyone has told me that I’m not the typical engineer because I’m “too extraverted and creative”. My 7 yr old son recently was diagnosed with dyslexia, and I was shocked. He thinks just like I did when I was his age, however he has a more difficult time with reading and writing. I think it would be interested to know if I am dyslexic as well. Is there a test or a brain scan that could verify this?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Hi — an adult diagnosis would be typically be done by a psychologist who would administer a battery of tests, but if your reading and spelling is excellent it is unlikely that you would be given a formal diagnosis. A brain scan cannot diagnose dyslexia — brain scans are used for research purposes, but not enough is known yet for diagnosis. You might find it helpful to read The Gift of Dyslexia — as the book provides a detailed description of the dyslexic thought process in the first several chapters.

      One problem when it comes to diagnosis is that educators and researchers tend to look at dyslexia only through the narrow lens of deficits tied to reading and spelling; they do not look at the creative strengths that typically accompany dyslexia. You might think of this in terms of having a “dyslexic thinking style.” Here’s another article on our website, from a researcher who studied giftedness and observed common patterns: The Visual Spatial Learner.

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