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 17, 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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  • Joanne W

    I’ve been asked by a discimination tribunal to write an impact state mentioned on how my dyslexia impacts me on a daily basis – I’m not sure how to do thia as I don’t know enough about it and I don’t understand my report.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Hi Joanne. You could use the symptoms list above as a starting point. Each person is different, but you could look to see which traits on our list are problems for you, and then describe how it affects you while you are at work. For example, is it difficult for you to remember conversations and sequence of events? (one of the traits under the heading, “General”). Try to remember a specific example of an incident that happened, to illustrate why it is problem for you. For example, perhaps a supervisor at work asked you to do something, and when you asked for clarification, simply said, “it’s what we talked about yesterday” — and then was angry or rude to you when you didn’t remember the details of the conversation from the previous day.

      So you might start by printing out this page and then checking each item on the list that applies to you. Then

  • tom

    yes, I am gifted with dyslexia. I am good in maths, I love mental , I love reading , I have degree in humanities ( does not matter ,only piece of paper)

    I live in the world that bullies think that I am dumb, I look at them and think how dumb I they are…I hate to pretend ,with grumpy face, that I am super professional ,though I am. I hate to fake confidence, when I am not, and I don’t feel bad about it. But what is really irritating is that all those standard ‘bricks in the wall’
    look at me as if I am dumb, and I have no chance to explain , no hope and no will to do it, as if I try they will think I am weird or funny.
    since I stopped to be quite kid ,at age of 13 I became a clown of class , but not to be funny, but to make joke of those are too dumb to see that I’m not dumb, and they laughed , no idea why , coz I was making joke of them… plus it was comfy shield in case I realy made mistake…

    At university I met bullies with more informations, even more misguided, becoz there people think that they know…. so they are better then others ???? but I liked to sit next to old homeless man, with wthite beard and smell, becoz I could ask and listen to the words of wisdom, they don’t give fish, but a fishing rod and net…

    I am happy to have dyslexia, its like machine, takes informations, analyse evry atom of them and get conclsuions.

    I developed fast reading, and maths strategies, I dnt like chaos or mess, unless there is hidden pattern in it, once I discovered logic , I can navigate better then others, becoz I can see what others dnt.

    But I am dyslexic kind of person, I think…

    with unfortunate lack of measurable by society success… money, career, becoz the other things they are not able to asses accept for few..

    I am always loyal to friends.

    I wish all the best for all.

    But it is annoying ,that I am know that I can do better ,then those who are bullies, but give no eveidence.

    sometimes it feels like living behind the glass wall where im hero ,genius,respected ,good character man, but on the otherside I see and hear dumb, looser….who only give to others and hiself reason to believe it.

    or mayby I dnt know

    last few years I failed few things, not becoz of lack of ablitie … but as always… deadlines, organising, depressions, I am father now, so no work is priority, daily bread and paying bills.

    I bored, i wih to achieve more and more, but not for money but to entertain myself….. but in have to only think about money, becoz bills have no mercy for dyslexitic , so i managing ok. but its boring.
    i have job in super market , i stocking up. i am slowest , although i know evry thing and i move very fast .. i cannot answer to my boss why? why in my case time seems to run in difrent demention.

    i feel like a armoured car with Ferrari engine, both strong ,but not compatible, useless . so what i have left is only satisfaction that i have it , with no use of it

    I need new

  • Martin

    Hello… I find it difficult to write to spell very well but am good in calculation and good in maths..i am 29 this problem have made me lose my self I don’t even have any conflicts within me… Am afraid of looking for a job again the last one I had was a disaster and I don’t know where to run….here in Nigeria people hardly know what dyslexia is..

  • Tintswalo

    I am a 32 year old graphic designer by profession, so being creative is my thing. I recently got this job that is way out of my comfort zone in terms of what I have been doing before. I have a very evident spelling weakness, I am required to write emails and post things on social media, write reports and the likes. My boss is not the most understanding about this and she has even went as far as insulting me as a person. This has been one journey filled with shame, because people don’t understand why a grown up person like me can’t spell. I have broken down a few times and spell check isn’t helping. what would you advice be thanks in advance.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The methods we use are effective at any age — but it does require motivation and work to improve. But perhaps you could also benefit simply by understanding the connection between your creative talents and spelling weakness, so that you would be a better advocate for yourself.

    • Mary

      Hi Enjoyed reading you story Don’t know what kind of work place this is but shame on the boss for openly shaming you rather than privately helping you. After all an effective boss would help. I was a supervisor in a state agency. I see myself as a change agent. I would have loved to help you. By doing so would mean I would also share in you achievment.

  • Katie D

    I used to joke around saying I was dyslexic because I would have sentences like “The green is grass” or reading my son’s book it asks: “What’s the dog’s job?” I would say “What’s the jobs dog?” I assumed I was just a lazy reader or I read too fast and needed to slow down. I also have to re-read paragraphs over and over again to get anything out of them. That always threw my reading comprehension waaaay down in high school. To this day, I struggle reading my son’s cardboard books without messing up until I just memorize them and speak from memory.
    I still can’t remember which is the right word: Revelation or Relevation. My handwriting is so sloppy. I spell words wrong all the time writing them, even though I know the correct spelling. I have always had a different way of holding a pencil or pen and my hand cramps up all the time. Keyboards and spell check our my best friends.

    The main problematic issue for me was when I would transpose numbers and end up late on payments because I didn’t have the right account number. Though I struggled a lot with these issues, I still really excelled in math, science and music. I memorized sheet music and played to the tune, not the notes. I love physics. I am a meteorologist, I love my career. My job is mainly with pattern recognition for forecasting and analyzing models. However, I really feel like I do have some form of dyslexia. Do you think these quirks resemble it?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Katie, we have a broad view of dyslexia, so we would consider all of the difficulties you describe to be part of the big picture of dyslexia. Basically, it is all tied to the way your brain processes information. The same thinking abilities and talents that help you with pattern recognition and forecasting in your career can also be at heart of your various difficulties you describe. That is, maybe your mind is very good at taking in a lot of information at once, and rearranging different elements to discern patterns or discover new ideas — but that same facility makes it harder to preserve the left-to-right, linear order of written numbers and words.

  • Juanita

    I was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 44. The Davis program is expensive and insurance does not cover it. Is there any alternative or assistance such as grants? The people who really need to take advantage of the program will never be able to .

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Juanita, in some cases adults in the U.S. have received funding for a Davis program through local vocational rehab programs, so it is an option to explore. Although working with a qualified facilitator is ideal, the basic concepts and techniques are described in detail in the book The Gift of Dyslexia. Perhaps you can find an adult friend or family member — or perhaps a literacy volunteer — who is willing to read the book and guide you through the steps. The most important factor for success with Davis methods is motivation, so if you can find a willing helper you may be able to have the benefit of this approach without much cost beyond the purchase price of the book.

  • Cath

    I discovered I’m dyslexic at 43, last year. It made sense of everything but I have struggled accepting it and it has totally held me back.
    I always knew I was bright but my school work just didn’t reflect that. Over the years my confidence and belief in myself has almost disappeared. I’m in a job that bores me but I’m scared to do anything else.

  • Frank

    Hello. Has anyone had any experience with numeric dyslexia? I have great problems with numbers. Data entry is a serious challenge, transposing numbers constantly. I understand math but often become agitated with long lists of numbers or having to compare 3 or 4 pieces of numeric information, such as invoices. I am currently in a position where I am making several mistakes daily and even I can’t believe what a dumb error was made. I try slowing, frequent breaks, highlighting numbers. And I’m still making mistakes constantly. I do not drink or use drugs.

    My job is pretty much lost as I have found it listed on the internet by my employer and it is directly due to these clerical/numerical errors(my recent review was nothing but poor when dealing with clerical tasks) . I was never diagnosed with anything of this nature and speaking, writing and reading are not an issue. Other indicators such as map reading, physical coordination etc are not issues and most self-tests seem to focus more on the language/writing/verbal. But numbers seem to be a real issue for me. I don’t know whether it is dyslexia, ADD, or something different.
    I know my time at this job is done but I’d like to try and figure this out before having to look again.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Frank, we view confusion and difficulty with numbers as stemming from the same underlying problem as with letters – the transpositions are a reflection of disorientation, and disorientation is a result of underlying confusion in mentally processing symbols. So whatever the label attached to your difficulties (numeric dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.) — the Davis approach would provide a potential solution.

      In the meantime, have you tried verbalizing the numbers as you write them down? That is, saying the number or number sequence outloud as you see & write it? My son once told me that was how he avoided mistakes, but I don’t know if that would help others as well.

  • Andrea

    I would do anything give anything to be normal…i was diagnosed at age 11 and never treated for dyslexia they only gave meds for ADD didn’t help…reading this gives me hope that i might overcome this…i will be40 this year with3 children and struggle daily with focus and comprehension making it very difficult to hold a job or have a social life…what resources are available for people like me? Can I really overcome this?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Andrea – yes, it is possible to overcome dyslexia at your age. Ron Davis was 38 when he made the discoveries that led to the development of the Davis tools – and he did all of his original research with other adults like himself who had struggled with dyslexia. There are now Davis Facilitators all over the world who can share these tools – but it does depend on you. The first step is simply to arrange a consultation — that will help determine whether the Davis program is going to give you the tools you need. To find a facilitator near you, use the directory at

  • Michelle D

    I was told I was dyslexic at the age of 16 by my school teacher just as I was leaving school so I’m not statmented I don’t spell very well and need spell checker to do my job I also add e on or don’t put them in were needed also d,b wrong way round.
    also I’m told my email are straight to the point and work don’t like that I was just wondering if this is part of dyslexic people do?

    sorry for spelling

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, these sound like the kind of spelling errors that are typically made by dyslexic adults.

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