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 April 1, 2023 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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  • Jen

    Dyslexia runs in my family. I had a head injury when I was very young. It changed my eyesight, I lost part of my hearing, and left me with a I have a language disorder. I am going to a community college, and I am having difficulties. I graduated from high school in 1992, I forgot what school was like. My grade school teachers told me I purposely made learning hard on my self. I transpose, add or have missing information either written or orally, my spoken words are not always intelligible, I cannot calculate math in my head, cannot understand math word problems, cannot find new places even with a map or great directions, need to read sentences over and over to understand, over the years I have learned to cook with out using recipe instructions and measuring, rely heavily on the back to watch my account, I have been unable to understand how to move my body in specific sequences (like dancing), spell check cannot always understand the words I am trying to write, this list goes on. I have run into roadblocks trying to get tested. I want to graduate college, but at this point the panic attacks are overwhelming. I do not know where to turn for help. I know something is wrong besides the language disorder.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Have you tried talking to a Davis Facilitator? Your situation is complicated by the history of the head injury, but I think that a Facilitator could get a sense of whether the Davis program is likely to help you with a consultation and Davis assessment. If you can learn one of the Davis Orientation techniques and you notice a difference in your functioning, then I think you could expect that a Davis program would definitely help.

  • Bunter

    Always had it, but I was labelled a trouble maker, the school clown back in the 60/70s Very high IQ SOFTWARE PROGRAMMER and Google Webmaster SEO Guru’s.

    I can’t spell, sometimes am ok then other times even if i copy it out of a book i still get it wrong and i cant write its so bad cant understand my own writing, i laugh about it what else can one do at 58!

  • Amber L

    I read through the common signs of dyslexia and I have 33. I love to read to myself but hate to read aloud even to my son. I trip constantly over words or incorrectly say them. Along with a whole bunch of other stuff. Best get it checked out. My son also stuggles, which is why I’m on here.

    • Christine T

      Hi my daughter is studying to be a student nurse she is in her second year and struggling with spelling some of the words. Normally she would speak into her phone to get the correct spelling but due to the environment she is not allowed her phone so therefore is there any device that can help her with this that will fit in her pocket and has the audio function on the device. My daughter been dyslexic since she was at primary school she is now 26 year old and I am so proud of her she is doing a assignment on the support and stigma of being dyslexic during her nursing degree
      Thanks for any advice

  • Laurie B

    I been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I hated to read as a child. I was a slow reader. Someone told me that it was autism. I feel that I learn better by listening. The most confusing thing to me is telling right from left. I can get lost easily. I got good grades in high school. It’s not fair to
    believe that straight A students don’t have any problems. I had to cut out fun. I stopped watching television. I thought that I was stupid.

    My long term memory is unusually good. I was a bad student who all the sudden was great at memory of the past. I have been yelled at many times for having learning difficulties.

    I make my problems look worse than they are. My emotions are not healthy because I feel hurt since I need spell check and grammar check. I could have never been an author if it wasn’t for the computer. My best class was math.

    People seem mixed up and I am misunderstood. I wear glasses. My vision is horrible without them. I was hospitalized for bipolar disorder. I guess that I can have two disabilities. I really want to know. How can I convince people who know me help me figure out how to help myself become a more efficient worker.

    There is this young lady who has Down syndrome at work. She can find herself around better than me. I noticed that people with different disabilities have different strengths. I was a very athletic young person. It sounds more like dyslexia. Swimming was just a way for me to improve my self-esteem. I wanted to be a gym teacher so badly.

  • Andre F

    Very interesting. Living with dyslexia my entire life has been a challenge. From being judged early in childhood as learning disable, which still hurts, to losing jobs to frustration. I know I was dyslexia when letter where mixed up, but treatment was not. I think I have went to every area of mental disorder from depression to schizo to almost giving up… but I want to understand WHY!
    Still struggle daily and I am now trying to educate myself in adult dyslexia on my own because I don’t trust.

  • Claire S

    I think I am having late-in-life onset of dyslexia. I have trouble taking notes quickly (always have), remembering what I’m told short term AND long term, typing with accuracy, concentrating, with time management, distractions, and so much more. I have a job where I work at the computer for 5+ hours a day. When I get responses from clients, I see that I have misread certain things. For instance, seeing MI and thinking it was WI for Wisconsin. Seeing NOT and then interpreting that as the opposite. It’s starting to worry me. What can I do?

    • Claire S

      In addition, I do not have a history of dyslexia, but I do identify with the characteristics listed in this article and have experienced so many of them throughout my life. However, I have not experienced difficulty with those characteristics until the last 5 years.

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        Claire, check out the information on this page: “Dyslexia and the Threshold for Confusion

        Does this make sense to you? If you have had many of the characteristics on our checklist throughout your life, but only now are experiencing problems specifically tied to reading, writing, or spelling (such as letter transposition) — it could be an indication that there are other life stresses or problems that are now pushing you over the edge.

        If so, the methods we use can help.

        However, whenever things change for an adult later in life, its always a good idea to discuss these changes with your physician. There are other physical, health-related conditions that can impact your ability to focus and concentrate; and changes in mental function can also be tied to various medications.

  • Paul S

    Am a adult with dislexic. Am having problems with my first marriage. Slot of it is miscommunication, angry easy. Frustrated, can’t remember or thing we talk about. I need to try to be alittel better and to show I care and love him injust have hard te showing how or do. And I know she needs to understand how I am and been my whole life. Don’t no what to do.

    • JJ Flash

      I think you need to be very honest with your partner about the issues you are having. Having a learning disability sometimes makes us feel stupid and ‘less than’. Being honest with your partner is a good thing because your partner may want to help you figure out a solution. Also – maybe talk to a trusted family member or a doctor – either of these could help you find the help you need to work on your specific problem. You’re not alone and there’s always a solution. Sometimes figuring out what that solution is is the hard part.

  • Justin

    As a 35yr old adult I’m very very surprised to read this! At school I was bunged into a class for “problem children” i was given no explanation or information on why I had learning difficulties, I knew I was different from everyone else as I felt I was more grown up and was always well behaved and helping people.
    During the final year of school my teachers decided to basically wright off English as a subject and was automatically given E grade (GCSE).
    After school I attended college and excelled at automotive repair but failed in mandatory key skills English.
    I worked for a small garage for 10 years repairing cars then worked in warehousing and driving to keep me busy.
    I now own my own house and run a small business selling on ebay, I enjoy all my free time and work just 1-2 hours a day, I’m never lazy and spend most my time learning new skills and making things.
    I still feel completely different to everybody else but I’m happy with my life. If I could change one thing I would definitely have made a fuss about how I was treated by teachers in school fortunately things have changed at the school I attended is now one of the top schools for learning disabilities in the uk.
    In the future I will definitely go out my way to learn the skills im lacking to help me with day to day life so I don’t need to rely on others to help me!

  • 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!

    • Dean H

      Love this! Thanks for the great reply..☺

    • koki

      i am confuse i am still not sure if i had that disorder or not . i can’t read properly and write lik i can’t remamber how i can wrote words even if i knew it already i also can’t focus when i am read it is like the word is moving . and currently when i am talking to someone i speak something but i mean something else . so i just wanna to know if it is normal or not cause i thought it is normal till recently when i told a friend and she tell me that i may have some illness .one last point , when i was litter i always avoid any reading and more written task i fell like every one will laugh at me .so if some one can answer me i ll be gratefully.

  • 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.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Marianne, what you describe are common traits of dyslexia — I think as your grandddaughter is age 9, you would find this page more helpful: Test for Dyslexia: 37 Common Traits These problems can easily be addressed; if you would like to talk to someone who can help, you can use our online directory at to find a Davis Facilitator near you.

    • LN

      This sounds like dyslexia to me! I’m not a professional but I am a dyslexic adult (diagnosed in 1st grade though wasn’t told I was dyslexic until I was in college….another story). My suggestion is get her tested ASAP. Sooner the better. And take advantage of all resources you can. My reading and comprehension improved drastically from early intervention and now work in a children’s library and love books. However other aspects of dyslexia were not addressed (probably were not understood at time)so I still struggle with a lot of everyday things. Also please be cognizant of her self-esteem. The internalized shame and guilt and anxiety and feeling stupid can be devastating and a lifelong struggle, long after you have learned to read. Get her assessed. Tell her what is going on and why so she doesn’t think she’s ‘just stupid’, and in the meantime find books she is interested in and read them too her. Let her sketch or rest eyes and just listen. I can’t encourage this enough. She will absorb vocabulary and sentence structure and comprehension this way without the stress. Her brain will be stimulated instead of frustrated. And she will see that books are not the enemy, so make it enjoyable. Listening to audio books or others reading has been shown to offer many of the same Brain development benefits as reading to yourself. Good luck. It does get better

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