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 November 27, 2021 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:  https://www.dyslexia.com/?p=254.

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  • candace

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

  • 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.

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