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More Than Just Letter Reversals

Characteristics of Dyslexia

Most dyslexics will exhibit about 10 of the following traits and behaviours. These characteristics can vary from day-to-day or minute-to-minute. The most consistent thing about dyslexics is their inconsistency.


  • 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


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, 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)


Behaviour, 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


Copyright© 1997 Reading Research Council. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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