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 August 14, 2022 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  https://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • Marilyn

    The list above does not apply to all dyslexics. I am dyslexic and was not a class clown or trouble maker. I also played softball, basketball and did track in high school and went to state track finals. Do not brand all dyslexics with the list above.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      “Most dyslexics will exhibit ***about 10*** of the following traits and behaviors.”

      There are 37 traits listed. So “about 10” would mean that most dyslexics would identify with something less than a third of the traits.

      • Dr Angel Paxton

        Correct. It says “most” not “all”. Clearly stated. There is no ALL with any learning disorder. Thank you for this article. Great information.

  • Raman fatima

    Hi, I have a child who possess some of the above mentioned signs buy majorly in writing, he often writes backwards like letters facing backward. How can I help him. It’s frustrating but I chose not to be too strict with him because I know it’s not intentional. He is 6years old. Thanks

    • Dr Angelita Paxton

      Voice to text is great. He will be able to visualize the words being written as he speaks them.
      Visual cards to spell sight words can help.

  • Desi

    my child of 12 years is struckle at school

  • kiana-roselee

    Hi, my name is Kiana-Roselee and im not sure if i have dyslexia or not. maybe mild dyslxia. but in school i have been getting really low test results and i tend to zone out a lot in school. my last test i tried really hard but i just couldnt do it. i ended up getting an 18% and my teacher wasnt very happy. most of the 37 signs relate to me. but im still now sure if i have mild dyslexia or dyselxia or something like that.

    • Tessa Halliwell

      Sounds like you could identify as dyslexic. You have two choices. One go find a psychologist who can give you a formal assessment or two contact a Davis facilitator who will assess you for the perceptual gift that dyslexics have and will then explain how you can use that gift to overcome the difficulties you have in school.

    • Dr Angelita Paxton

      I am not sure of your age but if you are in school up to 12th grade, your school can also assess you. There are screeners and dyslexia assessments they can use. Ask a teacher for a testing referral or have your parent request it. If you are in college visit the student support services.

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