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 August 13, 2020 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.


Related Articles:

Adult Dyslexia and ADHD: Effects in the Workplace

Adult Dyslexia and ADHD: Effects in the Workplace

Dyslexic employees are some of the smartest, most imaginative and highly motivated people in your workgroup -- and your company's management. Employers can easily adapt the workplace to help dyslexic people work more efficiently.
Test for Dyslexia: 37 Common Traits

Test for Dyslexia: 37 Common Traits

Most dyslexics will exhibit about 10 of the following traits and behaviors. These characteristics can vary from day-to-day or minute-to-minute. The most consistent thing about dyslexics is their inconsistency. General: Appears bright, highly intelligent,...
Experiences - Reports from Adults

Experiences - Reports from Adults

The Davis program was created by a dyslexic adult, based on discoveries made when he managed to correct his own dyslexia at age 38.  The program was developed through continued research with adult volunteers.  Davis Facilitators have worked successfully wi...


Davis Method Provider Directory

Find a Davis Provider near you

(Click Here)




Share this page!


  • Lisa

    Lots of people here are commenting on their problems with dyslexia in school. For me personally, I think the biggest challenge for me living with dyslexia is holding a conversation. Not being able to recall words, sequence of events or misusing words really frustrated me and lowers my self esteem.

    I think my dyslexia was not as bad before (just mixing ds and bs and not being able to remember dates), it has gotten worse after I was hit with bulimia. After having bulimia for almost a year, my memory got worse and brain functions got slower. Nonetheless, I am glad I have fought through this with the support of family. Now, despite the occasional frustration, I still managed to get a 3.7 GPA in engineering. Hopefully to find a good job!

  • Gary G

    I had lots of trouble with reading, spelling and maths at school but eventually went on to uni and became a teacher at a very prestigious school. I think it made me a better teacher knowing what was happening to kids with problems. I used strategies to help me through difficulties I encountered due to my dyslexia. Like never being caught out with maths problems and having spelling worked out beforehand but it wasn’t always easy. Now that I have retired and remember fondly the thousands of students that I had the joy of teaching in my many working years.

  • Jonah R

    dyslexia is definitely hard to deal with at times!
    I have dyslexia, and when I was in school, I never heard the word dyslexic. I don’t think any of my teachers knew anything about it. That led to a lot of confusion as to what was going on with me. The problem was I am very intelligent, my mechanical reasoning is in the top 5 percent in the world, I’m very intuitive, and no one that had anything to do with me noticed I was on the ball and infact quicker thinking then most people. That sounds like it shouldn’t be a problem, but it actually made things very difficult for me, because I couldn’t spell to save my life and would forget what something is called mid sentence constantly ( a problem I still deal with) . The fact I was obviously smart, yet couldn’t spell and had issues with math, led to the most obvious conclusion, that I wasn’t applying myself. Ha! So basically I was slacking off, I’m not sure if anyone cares if people slack off in school theses days, but they did then, through punishment! Because of my intelligence I got it to the max. When that didn’t work they tried putting me with the slower kids, that backfired quickly though because I had no problem manipulating them to torchering the teacher, until I was let back into regular classes.
    I’m really happy people are aware of dyslexia these days, it might save them from, ending up going the way I did, even know I’m sure I would be a huge asset to a lot of companies because I dont see any box when finding a answer to a problem, and Because of my mechanical reasoning skills. I never got a chance to use them in any constructive ways, instead I put them to use in the only industry that didn’t care about university degrees or grades, only outcome, cunning, and reading situations and people. I’ll let you figure out what that was. So even know I wanted to contribute to society and really actually care about people. I had very little choice in what my life would become, there is no way I can do a repetitive job because I am always thinking, and jobs that require thinking tend to need degrees to get.
    What I’m taking a very long time getting to is, keep up the good work there are more dyslexic people out there that should end up doing great things, if the help to get there is available. It’s been estamated that up to 70% of people incarcerated in Canada are dyslexic. That is totally rediculus and potentially a massive human rights issue. When the percent of dyslexic people in a population is 15% yet they make up the large majority of people in jail. That’s the fault of a society excluding dyslexic people from succeeding, and making them feel stupid and useless. What do they think the outcome will be after treating people that are usually very intelligent, like idiots, and pushing them out of the school system by making it harder then it already is being dyslexic. Of course sociaty will end up with people that usually aren’t empathetic because of the way they have been treated themselves, and unable to get decent jobs because they rarely make it to university, so they end up as criminals. Something that is easily corrected and needs to be. Dyslexic people can learn to read, spell, and do math just as quickly as anyone else, and are as smart as anyone else. It can even be debated that it is a disability at all. We just learn differently but just as quickly as anyone else. Until we apply teaching styles of teaching that work with the natural way dyslexic people learn. We will be wasting a group of people that are a obviously useful to society because they think differently, and bring in ideas that have never existed because of the way our brains work. We need to stop thinking of dyslexia as a disability, lol I could go on but I truly believe dyslexia is only a disability if all the attention it receives is directed towards what dyslexic people have problems with, when I’m sure there are things dyslexic people can do with ease that non dyslexic people would have a difficult time even understanding. I guess until dyslexic people are the ones studying other dyslexic people we will never know, it’s not like a non dyslexic person would think of testing anything if they don’t even know it exists or is possible. Sorry for the poor gramer and spelling, but it is what it is lol. I know it was a rant, but I think a lot of what I said is important and needs to be addressed!

  • Marianne R

    I’m worried about my granddaughter aged 9. She struggles with reading. Although we try to make reading enjoyable she hates it. She skips words, she would see the first syllabus of a word and then make her own word and read it. “When” becomes “then” and so on. The “b” and “d” writing after all the different hints they we have given her to know when it’s”b” and “d”. Can you help or suggest what we can do. Can this be a form of “dyslexia”? Thank you.

  • Paula

    I’m 24 and I’ve struggled with math direction small changes in life tend to freak me out… Lists and instructions are so hard for me to understand when I cook with a recipe I can’t do it alone I’ve been to so many doctors since I’ve been small in my country’s school system I was basically fucked… I did great in all other subjects except math I had a million math classes it’s just something I’ve accepted… I’ve spend my whole life trying to fix it… I often cry about it… Because I felt like I had no childhood I was constantly told you’re not trying hard enough or you’re just making excuses as a child everyone had fun at school I got bullied multiple professors told my mom to put me in a special needs schools the only person in life who supported me was my mom she never gave up on me I finished high school with 50% in math and I was never more proud of myself… I still struggle with so much more to the point where I think I have more than dyscalculia… But I’m not going to let it rule my life… And if you have a child with these problems please don’t force them to learn and change it never helped me it may help some people but for me I just wanted to be accepted…

    • Joe

      Hi Paula,
      You just described my life. I am 57 years old. I’ve never read a book my entire life. I could never understand reading. Extremely difficult to remember. I would have to read a paragraph six times to even understand it. I would have to analyze one word at a time and then move onto the next word. By that time I forgot the entire sentence prior to this. So I just faked it. Letting know one know that I couldn’t read. I am extremely good at math. I will always see the end result in my mind in a way to get there logically. Like a roadmap already put in my brain. This has bothered me for a long time. Now that I’m out of the workforce because my body gave up on me I don’t know which direction to head into.
      I’m using Siri to type this out.
      I would like to learn how to read a book one day. I don’t know if there’s any options for me at this point in my life, but I would like to learn. This is very important to me, knowing that this is what I have been fighting and running from my whole life.
      I have for the last year trying self learn how to read but I don’t know which direction to head.

  • Andre P

    I would agree that some of these traits listed could be an issue fro someone if they occur on a regular ongoing basis. However, most of these traits are signs of a strong minded and incredibly intelligent person. Why would you want to try and change any of that. Would it not be easier to simply find a work around for the few glitches they my have than try lean on the crutch of a sickness?
    Based on the traits listed, I have almost every single one; 42 to be exact.
    With the exception of speaking out of turn, mixing things up in my head, or forgetting what I said previously; I am quite happy with my little mental problem.
    I have no intention on using it as a crutch, but I can use it as an excuse here and there as it suites me.
    Have a nice day!

    • Chevy H

      What about the people around you and how it affects their lives. My husband expresses many of these symptoms and though you may think getting help for it is a crutch. I believe help is the only way to manage the symptoms. When someone loves you not only do they struggle with watching you continue to live that way but they suffer by taking on the burden of the children you have. The children who have the same issues but they become a parent for you and the children in compensating for all of the many issues like not being able to communicate with concise intent to peers, coworkers and even your lover. The idea of always miss speaking and not realizing. The partner suffers too. With love and understanding you can move forward but not without help.

      • J

        I agree. My spouse also has dyslexia and becomes very easily angered and frustrated by things. This website is better helping me understand what I can do to support and help without feeling hurt by the communication style, sometimes distant personality, and rigid orderly patterns/routines my partner follows. People with dyslexia are highly capable but living with them can be both wonderful and cause hurt feelings. My partner is very intelligent and gets easily angered and frustrated by people who are not as quick, smart, orderly, or on-time.

        • Jodi

          Ask your partner to take 3 deep breathes. Hopefully your partner will learn to be more compassionate and patient!
          Best wishes

  • Leonardo

    Why have I had my whole life (I am 39 years old) troubles with orientation and with learning the names of the streets?

  • Pam

    Dislexic people are actually brilliantly minded people! Your young and you just don’t know how wonderful and special that you are! I relate because I am dyslexic! We have to try harder and think out of the box because we are not in a box, we are extremely sinsitive people with a lot to offer! Dyslexia never stopped me from being a self starter. I’ve owned/operated many of business I’m amazed at what I have achieved in my life and the incredible things I have Concord! The things that are the most difficult in life are the most incredible and amazing but we just can’t give up! If you fall down get back up! We aren’t average people, at times a blessing may seem like a curse.

  • Nontuthuko

    My son was born at 27weeks gestation just a 1000g birth weight. Was diagnosed with ADHD at school and given Ritalin. He is 24years now and can really get stuck when reading and gets frustrated. He is very reserved but brilliant. This has affected his self esteem and makes him timid

    • Edward J

      Well ? I just started reading this article, I noticed several things are some of my conditions, not many, staying focused and energy ? I’m 78yrs, old been very active, i was a firefighter many years, owned several different businesses, then sometime I noticed change ? Energy down + ? I was told by relation to try ? Adderall ? The Dr. prescribed it, I tried a low dose 10mg. A day, unbelievable on focus & better energy, No bad effects, I follow all instructions. What do you think ? Please reply.

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        We don’t use medications of any kind within our programs, so we can’t really recommend or comment on medications. However, as you are 78 years old, I really think that you should just do whatever you feel is helpful. If you aren’t experiencing ill effects and you think the medication helps, then that’s great. But please note that you are replying to the parent of a 24-year-old who is already taking a stimulant medication (Ritalin) and doesn’t seem to be doing well with it — so he is at a different stage of life and may need to find a different solution.

  • Sarah

    I identify with every single characteristic listed. What can I do

Leave a Reply to Leonardo Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *