Common Characteristics of Adult Dyslexia

Karen LoGiudice, New England Dyslexia Solutions,  ©2008 (Reposted with permission)

Most adult dyslexics will exhibit at least 10 of the following traits and behaviors. These characteristics are often inconsistent, and may vary depending upon the day or situation.


  • man with open laptop computerEmployed in job/position that will hide difficulties or not require dealing with problematic areas.
  • Hides difficulties from co-workers, friends and even family.
  • Becomes frustrated at “planning meetings” and sequential tasks – already has the answer and how to do it.
  • Becomes frustrated or overwhelmed with long forms or sequential processes.
  • Thrives in careers where visual-spatial/kinesthetic talents can be realized: For example – Entrepreneurs, Engineers, Trades (carpentry, plumbing, electrical), Artisans, Interior Decorating, Actors, Musicians, Police/Investigation, Athletes, and Business Executives (usually with staff/assistants).
  • May pass up promotions or advancement opportunities that would require more administrative work.
  • Has difficulty focusing and staying on task – may feel more comfortable managing many different tasks simultaneously.
  • Difficulty with tests – passing standardized tests can be a barrier to career advancement.
  • Highly successful/over achiever, or considered “not working up to potential.” Either way, displays extreme work ethic.
  • May be a perfectionist and overreact when they make a mistake.
  • Out-of-the-box thinker or operates with very strict rules for themselves.
  • Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids.


  • Highly intuitive – known to have “street smarts.” Is often “dead on” in judging personalities of others.
  • May be able to sense emotions and energy of others.
  • Remembers struggling in school.
  • Frequently have dyslexic children and experience guilt when seeing own child struggle. Insecurities arise while reading to own children or helping them with homework.
  • Easily distracted/annoyed by noises and other things in environment.
  • May appear to “zone out” and be unaware that it is happening.
  • Enjoys video games.
  • Misspeaks, misuses, or mispronounces words without realizing it.
  • May have poor balance or is/was very athletic.
  • May have excellent recall of events that were experienced or not remember at all.
  • May confuse past conversations or be accused of “not listening.”
  • Difficulty remembering names of people without tricks, but remembers faces.
  • Difficulty remembering verbal instructions or directions.
  • Poor recall of conversations or sequence of events.

Reading, Writing, and Spelling

  • frustrated woman studyingDifficulty reading unfamiliar fonts.
  • Avoids reading out loud. May dislike public speaking.
  • Will commonly perceive that they “read better silently.”
  • Has adopted compensatory tricks to remember spelling and homonyms (their, there, they’re), or misuses homonyms and has poor or inconsistent/phonetic spelling.
  • Reading fluency and comprehension fluctuates depending upon subject matter.
  • Frequently has to re-read sentences in order to comprehend.
  • Fatigues or becomes bored quickly while reading.
  • Reliance on others (assistants, spouses, significant others) for written correspondence.
  • Uncertainty with words, punctuation, and spelling when writing. Reliance on spell-check and grammar-check.
  • Words out of context look “wrong.”
  • Poor handwriting – masks spelling mistakes.
  • Writes with all capital letters, or mixes capital letters within words. Abbreviates words frequently.

Math, Time Management, Directions

  • May understand higher math, but can’t show it on paper.
  • May excel at math, or may still rely on tricks for remembering math facts.
  • Relies on calculators or finger counting. May have difficulty with making change.
  • Difficulty with left/right and/or North, South, East, West.
  • Gets lost easily or never forgets a place they’ve been.
  • Difficulty reading maps.
  • May have anxiety or stress when driving in unfamiliar places. Relies on others to drive when possible.
  • May lose track of time and is frequently late – or is highly aware of it and is very rarely late.
  • Finds it difficult to estimate how long a task will take to complete.

Behavior, Health, and Personality

  • May have a short fuse or is easily frustrated, angered, or annoyed.
  • Easily stressed and overwhelmed in certain situations.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Self-conscious when speaking in a group. May have difficulty getting thoughts out – pause frequently, speak in halting phrases, or leave sentences incomplete. This may worsen with stress or distraction.
  • Sticks to what they know – fear of new tasks or any situation where they are out of comfort zone.
  • Extremely disorderly or compulsively orderly.
  • Confusion, stress, physical health issues, time pressure, and fatigue will significantly increase symptoms.

If you, your spouse, or an employee displays at least 10 of these common symptoms, an initial consultation would be appropriate to see if the Davis® Program would be a fit.

Citation Information
LoGiudice, Karen. (2008) Common Characteristics of Adult Dyslexia. Retrieved November 15, 2018 from Davis Dyslexia Association International, Dyslexia the Gift website:

Why is the Davis Program a great fit for adults?

  1. The Program is facilitated one-on-one and is designed to meet your specific goals and areas for improvement.
  2. The Davis Program is a one-week, intensive program – no weekly visits!
  3. Follow-up work is done independently – on your schedule, in your own home, and with no extra expense.
  4. The program provides tools for focus, mental clarity, stress-management, energy-level management and skills that will ease reading difficulties.
  5. The Davis Dyslexia Correction® program helps people with these characteristics every day. The disabling aspects of dyslexia are correctable and can be overcome.


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  • Kindelle P

    I’ve been aware that I am dyslexia for 25 years now. My self esteem is still affected from school but learning to see the gifts that dyslexics have has helped tremendously. I feel so frustrated at times, because I am given leadership positions but just can’t do the administrative aspects of roles effectively. I see that I contribute greatly to groups, visioning, problem solving, seeing the connection between things, but can’t put processes in place or work out the steps needed to implement something or to create something for others to follow. How can our strengths be expressed to colleagues, bosses etc, so that we can do what we do best and have others to do the work that is so exhausting for us? I’d love to learn how to explain it whiteout feeling like I’m making excuses or wanting pity. It’s an interesting journey that’s for sure. Thank you for shedding light on this important subject.

  • Charlotte

    My partner was diagnosed with severe dyslexia from a young age. He went to a specialist school where he was taught coping strategies to help him in every day life. He is high functioning, but I think his dyslexia is holding him back from progressing in his career. As his partner, I occasionally struggle with his way of doing things. Do you have advice for adults dealing with their dyslexia and advice for partners ? Thanks!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Charlotte, the methods we use are not coping strategies but instead address the root causes of the difficulties. These methods are described in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia. Reading the book might give you more insight into the way your partner thinks and processes information, and could also be a starting point for a conversation with him.

  • Sammy

    I think I now know what my problem has been all along. I have big problem in spelling and using there, their and they…. I struggled alot in school and hated school….. So what is positive about someone with this condition like me.

  • K

    I find myself suffering from sever sporadic dyslexia I find just speaking in normal everyday conversation hard and thinking. I do thinks backwards speaking, reading, writing, I don’t drive no further then maybe 50 miles from where I leave because I can’t keep directions straight with out GPS and then just reading the damn thing is hard from time to time I suck at driving in heavy traffic I suffer with depression social anxiety I never speak in public when I had worked doing customer service I found it hard to talk to customer which made me not a good employee till I found a small amount of confidence to push me to try harder sadly I would practice taking orders at home or in my free time so I could understand my job better. I don’t go out much mostly because people have literally told me I sound stupid sometimes and that it’s hard to be around me cause it’s confusing to interact with me since I mix everything up their lose not mine I can’t text effective I find spell check saves me lot but I’ll still miss words I won’t even notice it unless someone points it out so yes it can sometimes be hard for dyslexic people but I find pride in the small moments I get right or rebound after a mistake I push myself to do better but sadly as a child it was never dealt with until my adult year when someone pointed out that I had a sever case of dyslexia.

  • Dalton J

    Is it bad that I have all of these besides one or two?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      No, it’s not bad. It’s just a strong indication of dyslexia. The more you understand your own thinking style, the better you are able to use your strengths, and manage and overcome problems.

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