Test for Dyslexia: 37 Common Traits

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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 December 2, 2021 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  https://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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240 comments

  • 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.

  • jon h

    hi, i’ve been told i have some forms of dyslexia….and when i read the above 🙂 i would agree:) i was held back in 1st grade because i was struggling but when i was young dsylexia was not a thing (i’m 57).

    THESE ARE ALL ME PRETTY MUCH….NEVER BEEN TESTED…JUST RECENTLY WAS TOLD I FOR SURE HAVE SOME FORM…MY SISTER AND DAD HAVE IT FOR SURE……GREW UP IN A VERY UN-HEALTHY AND DRUG ABUSING FAMILY TOO IF THAT HELPS AT ALL….
    THANK YOU IF YOU CAN HELP GUIDE ME AT ALL:)

  • Zephyr H

    Hi! My name is Zephyr and I am 14 years old, currently in my last year of middle school. I’ve been researching dyslexia recently and I have been trying to figure out if I have it. I never been tested, but there have been moments that I think point towards a mild form of dyslexia. Maybe I am reading too much into this, but I’ll just list somethings that I have noticed I donad have been said to be related to dyslexia.
    1. I can’t write and spell at grade level and I really heavily on spell check, voice typing, and help from others.
    2. Have a hard time paying attention in class, tend to daydream and drift off.
    3. Have a hard time comprehending non fiction text and often have to reread a sentence multiple times. (Varys from subject to subject)
    4. Letters tend to disappear, or random letters appear in words. (Ex. Crows becomes Cows, Crow becomes Crown.
    5. Learns better with hands on experience and has a hard time sitting through and listening to lectures.
    6. Spells phonetically.
    7. Has a hard time speaking and often trips over, or jumbles up words. My family describes it as “my brain moves faster than my mouth”.
    8. Constantly thinking making hard to focus, especially in boring, repetitive, and what I consider menial tasks.
    9. Slightly ambidextrous but also uncoordinated
    10. Disorderly and has a hard time keeping things organized
    11. Over achiever
    12. Good long term memory
    13. Prefer to read silently. Can read out loud, but needs lots practice first.
    14. And finally, my father is dyslexic.

    Like I said, maybe I am reading too much into this, and I just have average problems. But these things have spanned my whole life and can sometimes cause problems.
    So, is it possible I’m dyslexic?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Zephyr, all of the traits you list can be tied to a dyslexic thinking style. Since your dad is dyslexic, a good starting point might be to chat with him about the ways you think and learn. You might want to go over the traits listed on this web page together. Keep in mind that dyslexia is not a disease or a defect, but a difference in the way the brain processes and responds to information. Dyslexics usually think mostly in pictures or simply nonverbally — that is why you get the comment about your brain moving faster than your mouth.

  • itzel g

    Hi my Son is 9 years he is in 3rd grade, and since Kindergarten was diagnosed with Mild Intellectual Disability and he was in self-contained Class until this year March 2021 they evaluate him in IEP and also MET and they change the Diagnostic to SLD . Is there a Probability that he can hace Dyslexia? Thank you so much… God Bless

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, there is a possibility that your son is dyslexic. If he is having difficulty with reading then it probably is dyslexia no matter what the school calls it.

    • gigi

      hello, my son is also 9 and in the third grade. He is on an IEP (i hired a FREE Advocate through the state or District).
      Never trust the iep or team, the public school system always has other political motives.
      My sons school district will be paying for my son to go to a Private school this year and next!
      Also paying for his private summer school this year. Hire an advocate! After you get the schools/districts “re-evaluation” don’t read it, order that they do and pay for by law an IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation by a LICENSED Psycologist). Cost about 6,000.

  • Xerces

    Hi, So I’m 16 currently, and I rely think I might have Dyslexia. I might seem stupid here, but I’ll just let you know, some of my habits, which I thinks are symptoms.

    • I have a terribly deep sleep, I don’t seem to get up no matter what. My family keeps telling me that they try to wake me up, but I just don’t respond.

    • I’m ambidextrous, and for some reason also have really bad coordination. I’m clumsy as heck, drop stuff often and just can’t coordinate my movements.

    • It’s basically a child’s play to frustrate or irritate me. I get infuriated over minute things and discussions.

    • Despite being a good performer in most subjects, I suffer in Math related subjects. Basically Physics and Maths never get in my head. My classmates that are younger than me, easily outperform me and I struggle getting through most questions. At first, I thought maybe it’s because my teacher was bad, but then I realized I was never good in Maths, irrespective of which grade I was in or which teacher taught me the subject. I’m in 12th grade, or like you could say, 7th from but still barely get through form 7 or grade 10 questions.

    • I stutter a lot while speaking. I think, I’m not able to convey the stuff I’m thinking. Thoughts just run through my mind but I’m just not able to convey them orally. Though I’m a good speaker, in the sense, can speak out, among people, I just can’t do it properly and sometimes feel a little down due to this very reason.

    • I have attention related problems. I just seem to be thinking all the time, and am not able to concentrate on what I’m doing. Especially studies, that to, specifically, Maths.

    I haven’t consulted a doc, and might seem like a dumb teen here, but please

    Is it possible that I’m Dyslexic?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      All of the problems you describe could be tied to dyslexia — or to a related learning difference. But “could be” doesn’t mean “is”. I think the more important question is, are these problems related? Are there strategies and tools you could learn that would help you resolve these issues?

      I think that a Davis Facilitator could help you, but at age 16 you would need support from a parent to arrange for an assessment and consultation. Davis Facilitators do have tools to address most of the problems you describe; a formal diagnosis is not needed. If your parents are supportive, you can use this website to find someone for a consultation: http://www.davismethod.org

      • Pip

        I was\am a lot as Xerces self-describes.
        The best advice, 30+ years later, is never give up trying.

        Ever never ever never stop trying.
        “Low frustration. Incredible pain tolerance.”

        Take “test-taking physiology” skills; the “clench\relax” thing was great for college; I got through HS with all A’s, thanks to a phonographic and photographic memory.
        Although JR High, I almost flunked math due to transposition on tests, under pressure.
        I did destroy my teeth by learning to grind them, though: every win has a cost.

        I got a couple of engineering degrees.
        Success in life changes over time: looking back, I’d have become a mechanic, a modeler who did sculpture or painting, and used those “yes, I’m doodling AND taking notes, it’s the only way I’ll remember the auditory part of the lecture, later” view askew surfaces that fascinated me in math textbooks but I had to “sing” the formula to get the connection to understand I’d never see it like someone else did.

        But if I worked at it long and enough, they’d eventually see it like I did.

  • Angel

    My daughter is 11 years old has been diagnosed with mild mental intellectual disorder and ADD. Is there a possibility she is also dyslexic? She is supposed to be in the 6th grade but she is in the 4th grade, she can only read a few choice words. Confuses m with n, n with m. b for d d for b. They say she is on a pre k kindergarten level. Confuses 5 and s. We was going to store and my speedometer said 39 she said I was going 93, and so on. There are times she still wets the bed. Gets headaches. She can’t copy from board to paper and even has a hard time copying when it’s right beside her. She has a hard time with math. The list goes on. Any info will help. Thanks in advance!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, your daughter’s difficulties are also consistent with dyslexia. Very often symptoms of ADHD or ADD are confused with dyslexia, so whenever a child is diagnosed with ADHD but also has difficulties with reading, writing, or spelling it is quite likely that the root cause of the problem is the same as dyslexia.

      Please keep in mind that a specific label or diagnosis isn’t needed to get help — and in many cases, children with dyslexia or ADHD are mistakenly diagnosed as having a mental impairment (low IQ) because of language or attention focus issues that mask their true abilities during testing.

      If your daughter is motivated to overcome her problems, there’s a good chance that a Davis Facilitator could work with her.

  • Sage

    Hi I’m 13 and I have a few questions. I don’t know if it’s a focusing problem or bad comprehension or dyslexia problem. I’m saying this because sometimes I can read well with out a problem and it can go on a while but then other times it’s more difficult for me to read and can’t comprehend the sentence/paragraph/passage which leads to me having to read it a few times. I am also a supper slow reader. I have also been bad at spelling my whole life but sometimes I can catch my errors and try to correct them, the auto correcting on devices help a lot though. When reading I can’t tell if it’s a focusing problem and here’s why, when I read sometimes then words just drift a little (almost not even noticeable) or sometimes there’s this beating sensation (like a heart beat) that goes on in my head then that kinda affects my reading. So does anyone possibly know why this is happening?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sage, these are common symptoms of dyslexia. These problems usually are a sign of disorientation, which is the way your brain reacts to confusion. That’s why the symptoms seem to come and go. It really is a matter of your mental state– whether you are oriented or disoriented.

  • Gumper

    I found out in my 30’s that I had dyslexia. Struggled bad in school. Was really good in sports. Check this out. Talk about being confused. I was in grade school and at the time the schools had quit doing phonics and went to site and see. So I actually had to be in the main class for reading site and see. Then I would have to go to another room. And they had me doing reading by phonics. All 3 of my older brothers are super book smart. My Dad went through law school in 5 1/2 years. The brother that is close to my age NEVER opened a book in high school. All of them were straight A students. I was always 1/2 to 1 year behind my class. I even remember getting tutored during the summer in reading, for like 3 years. The only reason I can spell descent is my Mom would get the list and we would have to work at it all week. I didn’t catch up in my class until 8th grade. What happened is I found I liked romance novels. By the time I left school I was reading on college level. I was tutored in geometry, never should have taken that course. Timeframe was late 60’s early 70’s. When I told my Mom about the dyslexia, she told me “no you where just lazy”. I remember crying in my room when I was trying to understand history. assignments.

    P.S. My brothers may be book smart. But guess who brings their cars to get fixed. Well the older cars. I litterly had a 79 mustang I did bumper to bumper. Mom said I couldn’t fix cars cause i was a girl. hahahahahaha

  • Jaime P

    Dyslexia is a neurological disorder. Like a computer wired wrong & compounded with a virus, it’s devastating. No one is to blame and it’s no one’s fault having it.
    In my case, I was illiterate when I returned to the USA from Mexico (9yrs old/3rd grade), & having to deal with dyslexia on top of illiteracy didn’t help matters being successful in grade school. By the time I was in high school, I realized I couldn’t read cognitively. I was an adult when I realized I was suffering from dyslexia.
    The irony is I became a teacher working with immigrant kids who either were dyslexic, learning ESL, or had other neurological disorders.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Thank you for your comment. We do not consider dyslexia to be a “disorder” — rather it is a difference. It is not like a computer wired “wrong” but it is like a computer running a different operating system. If you try to install software written for a different operating system – or even just to open an item formatted for a different software program, it won’t look. The key is to understand the operating system — and then of course to either find or design software that will run well on that operating system. Trying to force a dyslexic child to learn in the same way as a non-dyslexic child is like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. It will be difficult and often very painful and disheartening process. But we also know from 40 years of experience what tools and strategies we can provide that are natural and easy for dyslexic minds.

      • Justine L

        Hi what are some of the tools and strategies that you can provide that you speak of?
        I’m going back to study and last time I studied I struggled and there was a lot of frustration and tears.
        If there is some tools I can learn to help me through I’d be so grateful!!!

        Thank you

        • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

          The core techniques that we use in dyslexia programs are explained in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia. The book has specific instructions, but you would need a helper to work with you. However, reading the book can be good way to get a sense of our approach; the book is also available in audio format.

  • pat w

    In 1978 i was a army sapper and went on the army diving course my class room skills we not the best as is normal with dyslexia.But I had a special skill in the water after about 1 month on the course.For some reason I could stay under the water longer than any of my class mates.At one point in my endurence swim phase they sent 3 divers on my course in with me and they all came up out of air before me I finish the course at number 4 out of 20 .But the navy clearance diver school told my regiment that I had special skills as a diver this help me get good as a diver in !1CER. Deslexia or not you are skilled.
    Patty

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