The Characteristics of Dyslexia

The following list are some of the characteristic traits and behaviors that a dyslexic child will exhibit. The symptoms can vary from day to day, minute to minute. The most consistent things about these traits are the inconsistency – one day the symptom is present the next it is not.


  • Family history of learning problems

  • Isn't behind enough to be helped in the school setting

  • Test well orally, but not in written tests

  • Not reading at age level but appears bright/intelligent

  • Displays behaviors to cover problem (class clown, disruptive, teacher's pet, quiet)

  • Labeled as lazy, dumb, careless, immature, or "not trying hard enough"

  • Easily frustrated and emotional about school, reading or testing.

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

  • Difficulty maintaining attention; loses track of time, seems "hyper"

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

  • Has difficulty with math

  • Poor short term or working memory

  • Poor memory for sequences, facts and information that has not been experienced.

  • Seems to "Zone out" or daydream often

  • Excellent memory for experiences

  • Visual learner. Thinks primarily in pictures not in sound

  • Difficulty putting thoughts into words verbally or in writing

  • Mispronounces or transposes words

  • Confused by verbal explanations

  • Clumsy

  • Feels dumb


  • Initially had trouble or still has trouble with sight words (e.g. was, what, is, the)

  • Difficulty catching on to phonics or sounding out words

  • Lacks awareness of the sounds in words, rhymes or sequences of syllables (e.g. what is the last sound in the words "what", "action", "fun")

  • Tends to confuse words that look alike (e.g. was/saw, for/from, who, how, house/home)

  • Reads and rereads with little comprehension

  • Reading or writing shows repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions, and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words

  • Uses the pictures or context of the story for cues

  • Difficulty decoding unfamiliar words

  • Tends to lose his/her place when reading (tracking problem)

  • Mis-reads or omits small words (for, of, with an, it) and word endings (-ing, -ed, -ly, -s)

  • Mistakes and symptoms increase dramatically with confusion, time pressure and emotional distress, or poor health

  • Can do math but has difficulty with word problems

  • Confuses words with similar spelling (slat/salt, slime/smile)

Vision and Spelling

  • Complains of dizziness, headaches or stomach aches while reading

  • Confused by 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 exam doesn't reveal a problem or diagnosed with tracking problem

  • Spells phonetically and inconsistently

  • Trouble copying from classroom board

This assessment is not intended to be a conclusive diagnosis of dyslexia, but a first-step to assist a parent or teacher to resources or Specialist help of their choice.