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Characteristics in Children

Most people with dyslexia or Specific Learning Disorders will exhibit over 10 of the following traits and behaviors. These characteristics can vary from day-to-day or minute-to-minute. The most consistent thing about them is their inconsistency.


  • Appear 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 "behavior problem." 

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  • Isn't "behind enough" or "bad enough" to be helped in the school setting. 

  • High IQ, yet may not test well academically

  • Tests well orally, but not when it comes to writing. 

  • 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.

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

  • Feels dumb; has poor self-esteem; hides or covers up weaknesses with ingenious compensatory strategies; easily frustrated and emotional about school reading or testing. 



  • Complains of dizziness, headaches or stomach aches while reading.

  • Confused by letters, numbers, words, sequences, or verbal explanations

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  • 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.

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


  • Experiences extended hearing; hears things imagined but not necessarily 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.



  • Trouble with writing or copying; pencil grip is unusual; handwriting varies or is illegible.

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

  • Clumsy, uncoordinated, poor at ball or team sports; difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills and tasks; prone to motion-sickness.


Reprinted with permission | | © 1992 by Ronald D. Davis.


  • Manifests difficulty with telling time, managing time, learning sequenced information or tasks, or being on time.

  • Can count, but has difficulty counting objects and dealing with money.

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

  • Computing math shows dependence on finger counting and other tricks; knows answers, but can't do it on paper.


  •  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). 

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