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 December 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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  • Dana L

    I have no problems speaking or reading, however I am overwhelmed by any work to do with numbers because I constantly turn numbers around . 45 is written but I see 54. Is this dyslexia?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      We would view the problem with number transposition to stem from the same underlying cause as dyslexia with words. Numbers are symbols that can be a source of confusion; confusion leads to disorientation; and the result of disorientation is errors in perception. This can be corrected with Davis techiques.

  • Ngozi

    I just stumbled across this site and find it fascinating. I’ve always suspected that I had some sort of dyslexia, but never realized that it could also manifest itself verbally. Often times, I reverse the orders of words when i speak. I don’t even realize I’m doing it, unless it’s pointed out to me.

    When I was younger, I struggled with exams in school. I had wanted to be a doctor. It was frustrating. I would actually listen in class, learn complicated scientific theories & easily explain or teach my friends the same material. But then when i took my exams, I wouldn’t do well at all.

    I ended up becoming a graphics analyst, where I visually create graphs, maps, logos etc. I also run my own business. I had to find alternative methods of coping with academic learning difficulties. I am happy to see more information regarding dyslexia in adults. I don’t think this topic is discussed as much as it is with children.

  • Amy

    My whole life has been learning struggle. My mom always told me in grade school I had horrible teachers and I would tell my mom I didn’t understand what was being taught 🙁 but back then there was not a lot help you were either smart or dumb no in between:( the crap I got from kids…I managed to get through high school not sure how…took me 10 years just to get my associates degree with a lot help writing papers…I tried to go back for my bachelors degree but what I wanted requires so much math that after barely passing college algebra I stopped…so much stress the frustration of not remembering how to do the math upon test time. I never got tested for any learning disabilities but everything listed above is me point on. If it wasn’t for my mom and sister n law helping me with papers for my associates degree I wouldn’t have passed…

    • Andrea J

      Thank you for being so transparent, I to suffer with dyslexia, I am anxious in following your response to your post, that I am unable to put in in simple language without overthinking the matter, this is very puzzling and frightening… I am almost embrace to say that am dyslexic. But wait I have my bachelor’s degree in Social Work, and I enjoy what I do, However I find it very difficult to stay on most task…. I’m frightening to know what my future holds for me. I fought for years wondering to am to smart or just courageous….. I discovered my this on my own watching a television show with my grandson, when I heard that adults has such difficulties, I began doing my own research, and what I discovered, after making some alarming discovery, it all began to make sense, how I felt so cheated. Where do I go from here… Please help, inquiring minds want to know…

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        Andrea, Davis Facilitators work with adults of all ages — including people in their 60’s & 70’s. So the answer to “where do I go from here” might be to simply arrange a consultation with a Davis Facilitator to discuss your specific needs and goals to learn whether they can be addressed with a Davis program. You will find all facilitators listed at

      • Amy

        It’s scary and frustrating….every day I have to learn to deal with this even at work. I do IT work seems to fit me…the work that I do but google has been my friend as well. It’s sad when my 7 year nephew can read and write better than me….one day I will get tested just have to write until I have the money

  • Kevin L

    I had a learning disability my entire life. Failed miserably at every education course I attempted. I was experiencing small buzzing fits just about everyday of my life. Then when I was 50, I had a seizure.
    I found out that I have had left temporal lobe epilepsy, which has effected my about to hear and process sounds. My neurologist told that I had dyslexia from the area of injury to my brain.

  • Benjamin E

    Good Afternoon,

    A friend once described me as the most literate illiterate person that she knew. I work in administrative support and found ways to work around most of my issues. There seems to be a disconnect between knowing phonetically how the letters in a word sound versus route memorization of words. I took linguistics in college and it about killed me. I don’t seem to hear the difference between a short or long e, for example. I grew up in the 70’s and they did the whole language approach rather than stressing phonetics. I had issues with attention and day dreaming.

    Modern software has helped to cover most of the holes but it is still an issue. Any suggestions?

  • Vera

    im 34 years old and for years i have always questioned why i struggled with reading aloud or why my school books were always covers in crossed out words or inconsistent handwriting/spelling or why i was always excellent with coursework however would always fail miserably in tests. i could keep going on! For some reason this was never picked up in school and i was always told by teachers that i had so much potential if only i would pay more attention! for some reason i was selected to to be in the higher set for science maths and modern languages but i was never good at these subjects especially in exams so never understood why my teachers did this. maybe to challenge or motivate me to do better, who knows! im currently a support worker for homeless people and was randomly searching for information on adult dyslexia for someone i am supporting who i suspect my have dyslexia however when i read your profile it was me down to a T! I’m definitely going to look more into this. Thankyou!

  • Angela W

    Hi I don’t have money I have a reading problem and I haven’t learned to spell or write is it any help for me

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The book The Gift of Dyslexia describes the basic Davis techniques and gives instructions on how to implement them. This is not something you could do by yourself, but if you have a friend or family member willing to spend time with you to help, then that person could read the book and guide you through the Davis exercises.

  • Lee

    I’m looking for career advice. I was professionally diagnosed with mild/secondary form of dyslexia when I was 10. I finished my BS in computer science, with a lot of effort, but the experience forced me to just get better at reading and coping in general with my dyslexic shortcomings. I’ve had a successful career as a software developer, but now i’m almost 40 and finding myself unable to perform as well as everyone else on the team. What I can’t seem to find anywhere, is a form of testing for dyslexics to find out what I’m naturally good at, that I could possibly justify a career change, or maybe help cope with challenges in my current industry. I ran across a book called The Dyslexic Advantage, which talks about strength you could have as a dyslexic person, but couldn’t find professional services that offer aptitude testing for career advice related to dyslexics. I love what i do, but I can’t help but feel like i’m not the best at it, and if there was something else I could do that played to my best strengths I’d like to know. I’ve noticed that 99% of dyslexic centers and info, only focus on children and teens and getting them to pass school, but to my disappointment there not really anyone focusing on helping adults cope with it in careers and relationships. It’s good that we are helping kids be successful in school, but if we’re not helping them be successful in life going forward, then it feels like we’re failing those with dyslexia anyway. Thanks for any advice or info!

  • J khan

    I thought for 36 years that I just had a stammer however November 2017 I got my forty told which at the time I thought was crazy. I was told I had dylesxia that I had trouble reading, but I actually have trouble speaking so thought this was ridiculous.. after reading on dylesxia it’s not just reading that it affects it affects speech too. I actually have most characteristics on this page.
    I have difficulty, great difficulty reading it’s like silent reading word’s are even slow to put together in my head. I need to go over words and sentences a good few times to get what exactly it is. In exam’s it takes me ages to finish anything and i need to go over the information lord of times her it makes sense in my head. When people are speaking to me i mostly have no idea what they are talking about, I’m not daft at all so I don’t understand this. Infact I’m quite clued up and very bright otherwise. I’m quick at putting an image into my head of what I want to happen and everything else that I do in-between that helps make that happen.
    I hate being around new people and get quite anxious.. I have difficulty getting my word’s out.. which I just thought was a stutter, still might just be that.. it’s like in conversation the words aren’t there it’s like I’m not in my body and there’s nothing in my brain the words just go and everything comes out broken, eventually when it comes out that is
    . however reading aloud is easier for me cause the words are there infront of me.. I do struggle with certain sound but if I try image the words , the story it sometimes helps and the words come out easier.. what is the cure, if any? What helps. I will say reading aloud helps get my brain going which is strange..any help would be great..

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Dyslexia stems from a difference in the way the brain processes the sounds of language. Most dyslexics think primarily in pictures. Reading and/or making sense of spoken language can be slowed down when the person needs to take the added step of translating words into images in their mind.

      The solution is to improve the ability of the mind to make a connection between the spoken word and images. That’s why we use clay modeling for the small, abstract function words of language – words like “of” or “at” that aren’t naturally connected to mental images.

  • Hal

    I am 56 years old and my job is a teacher. 4 years ago, I had a stroke and wasn’t able to talk or pronounce any word correctly. After treatment, I am able to talk and pronounce the words correctly but still struggling with my speech. When I try to explain something to students and I want go far with my ideas, my brain it shutting off (I can’t continue my my thinking) or I am afraid to talk with a group of people or taking professional development test, etc. Please Help!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Hal, Davis Facilitators have reported some degree of success using Davis methods with stroke victims. Usually this has been working with their own family members, as it does take time and patience and each person is different. But if you live near a Davis Facilitator this may be worth exploring.

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