How to tell

Most dyslexics will exhibit at least 10 of the following 37 Common Characteristics. These characteristics can vary from day-to-day or minute-to-minute.

  • Appears bright, highly intelligent, and articulate but unable to read, write, or spell at grade level;
  • Labeled lazy, dumb, careless, immature, “not trying hard enough,” or “behaviour 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;
  • Seem to “zone out” or daydream often, gets lost easily or loses track of time;
  • Difficulty sustaining attention; seems “hyper” or “daydreamer” and,
  • Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations and experimentation, observation, and visual aids.

  • 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 do not reveal a problem;
  • Extremely keen sighted and observant, or lacks depth perception and peripheral vision;
  • Reads and re-reads with little comprehension, and,
  • Spells phonetically and inconsistently.

  • Has extended hearing; hears things not said or apparent to others; easily distracted by sounds, and
  • 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.

  • 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, and
  • Can be ambidextrous, and often confuses left/right, over/under.

  • 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, and
  • Can do arithmetic, but fails word problems, cannot grasp algebra or higher math.

  • Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations and faces;
  • Poor memory for sequences, facts and information that has not been experienced, and
  • Thinks primarily with images and feeling, not sounds or words (little internal dialogue).

  • Extremely disorderly or compulsively orderly;
  • Can be class clown, trouble-maker, or too quietly;
  • Had unusually early or late developmental stages (talking, crawling, walking, tying shoelaces);
  • Prone to ear infections, sensitive to foods, additives and chemical products;
    Can be an extra deep or light sleeper; bed wetting beyond appropriate age;
  • Unusually high or low tolerance for pain;
  • Strong sense of justice; emotionally sensitive; strives for perfection, and
    Mistakes and symptoms increase dramatically with confusion, time pressure, emotional stress, or poor health.