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 June 19, 2019 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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  • Gabriel

    After reading your stories, I’m finding comfort in your words. I always thought I wrote too quickly and my brain was just mixing up the letters, but I realize now these were all signs of dyslexia. I mix up b and d several times a day, and I know the words I just literally can’t get the correct spelling. It takes me days to write a simple paper and I often get anxious and frustrated with a looming deadlines.
    I would consider myself a ‘functioning’ dyslexic and strive that much harder to not let it hinder my school work.
    Does medication help?
    I am transferring to University and worry that my slow reading/comprehension skills, mixed with my active day dreaming, might cause me an issue. I use caffeine as a way to energize and focus my mind, but that can’t be good all the time.
    At least I’m not the only one.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Gabriel, we do not use or encourage medication in our work. Instead we provide tools to directly address the problems — for example, orientation training together with alphabet detriggering to eliminate b/d confusion. Medication doesn’t fix the underlying problem — it just adds an additional layer onto it.

    • Cindy W


      I went to a University and completed in 4 1/2 years. I did not know I was dyslexic until I was in the working world (accounting!). I was inverting numbers daily. When my boss asked if it was divisible by 9, then I was inverting numbers!! As one of my co-workers said, I was “wixing my merds” I laughed and knew right away. Anyway, back to going to the University. I would spend several more hours studying. I found once I wrote out my notes, I remembered the information much better. You will need to find tricks that help you. I did not know my directional challenges for right and left until I took foreign languages and could “do” right and left easier. I use North and South direction or have to double think right and left before I say them. I am a “hands on” learner. I can hike trails and on the second time know that we’ve taken a wrong turn. I trust my sense of direction so once we were in the mountains, someone tested me with their GPS. Find your strengths and learn to trust them. Some days will be better than others. I find that I’m much better in the morning than at night. I’ve learned to laugh at my frustrations when I’m replying to e-mails at night and one hand or one finger goes faster than the other. Good luck!! Learn to laugh at your dyslexic missteps! I’m know 61 and have learned to use technology to help me with spelling, only wish it knew when I was being dyslexic when I’m typing at night : ) !!

  • paul t

    I have been married to someone with dyslexia for 47 years. I recognise most of the symptoms. When I married in 1971 nobody had heard of dyslexia. My wife had a very good education although the school just thought she was unintelligent. Her behaviour at school was bad and she was often excluded from classes.
    I now realise that she hid her symptoms from me and everyone else and would never agree to any counselling or help. She would become extremely angry if I suggested it. She is now 69 and has improved over the years (or i may have got used to it). It has been a tough marriage and I have needed to be super patient or sometimes completely turn off. The latter is not good, I realise that. The worst things are trying to keep her to time and dealing with a kind of insensitivity, especially to me. The best is our two daughters and four grandchildren who all seem to be OK and who my wife is very very good to. In fact so good it is a kind of dyslexic over reaction.

  • Big Dave

    I strongly relate to almost all of these traits though I have never been tested for Dyslexia. I remember having great difficulty in school, particularly when reading and writing but reading was where I struggled the most. I was given something called an Overlay between my third and sixth years in primary school, it basically made words clearer to understand and stopped me from skipping sentences. It helped me to get through school and I just thought nothing of the difficulties I had earlier and assumed I was just a slow learner, but now at the age of 24 I seem to be at a point in my life where literally most things are greatly most aspects of life seem almost impossibly hard. I also suffer from associated problems such as Dyscalculia, terrible organisation and time management, poor short-term memory and I also strongly suffer from some form of disorganized speech. I do not know what but I’m pretty certain they’re all related issues and I’m so sure I have Dyslexia that I’m going to get checked asap because I feel like I’m almost at the end of my tether. I’ve had people such as strangers, family and even friends call me retarded, I feel like an elephant in the room at social gatherings and such where I feel that everyone is looking/talking about me, people will test my intelligence by asking me demeaning questions, I get laughed at for just existing and it’s a really shitty way to live…if you could even call it living..Getting treated like a lost child in a shopping mall all the time has given me paranoia of some kind, as I find it extremely hard to face day-to-day adult life when almost everyone around me assumes I’m a mong/brain dead when I know that;s just not the case..My thoughts make perfect sense in my mind, but when I try and articulate them that’s when problems occur..
    Sorry for venting so much but I’m extremely depressed and want to share and talk to others who feel the same. Thank you for reading.

    • Nikki

      Just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. I am not sure that I have dyslexia but I do think that I have some auditory processing challenges. I also have some trouble with speech. I often mispronounce words, include wrong words in sentences, or flip the first letters in words I am saying. I also heard thing differently that how the speaker says it. It can be disheartening when people treat you like your are unintelligent. Just know you are not alone.

  • Natalie C

    I have a boss that fits all of these or most of them! Actually this makes me mad because I see him in most of these! Especially with anger out burst!!!

  • AbdulAzeez O

    My son is 16years old and he started going to school since at the age of 2years ,up till now he struggles to read and write and he forgot everything, and get frustrated, and am ready to help him, I need your advice and and learning tools to help him read and write. He is dyslexic.

  • Essie

    I was diagnosed in university after my friend noticed certain trates and told me to get tested. At was really upset that I didn’t have support throughout my early life.
    My master lecturer convinced me to leave my master course because he said he can’t support my enquiry (after I paid all of the fees whilst working full time)
    I knew I wasn’t academic but my family use to say that I wasn’t trying hard or I didn’t read enough. My family fail to recognise my issue and now saying I should do another academic course (I can’t turn to them for anything)
    I still don’t hold a pen correctly, I have a stamina and find it very difficult to concentrate or learn in meeting at work. Find it very difficult to absorb and translate text information especially within time frame. Interviews for jobs were always difficult because I am I don’t come across well read.
    People would think I am thick and try and tell me how to think. I am frustrated and tired. Yet the internet has given me opportunity to reach out to support network group and realise I am not stupid, it’s just I wasn’t shown or taught how to understand me and how my brain works.

  • Eiiorlx

    While reading this article. I can check mark almost all of each points.

    Personal experience:
    During my childhood it was great but one thing that fustrated me was when I was in middle school I started noticing why I was always put in the same class with my other friends I knew that wasn’t so good at reading or writing. That’s when I had a hunch that I’m in the low dision English class. This continued until I got to high school, that I fully understood. I knew most of my friends had biology class together, but why did I get life science. I went to my counselor, and she told my that biology is going to be a little bit hard for me and the life science is about the same thing. It’s not only that I wanted to be with my friends but I wanted to be in the class that involves hands on experiment.
    Even though life was tough, I felt that my family think of me as the less intelligent. That is were I lowered myself and decided that I’ll be the dumb and clumsy one and that they will just see me clowning around.

    I didn’t even know what the word dyslexia mean until I got to college. While reading article after another article, I felt that I maybe dyslexia. I am still upset about myself and the people that was an influence in my life from early childhood and that it could been easier for me to have received help then to struggle all this time. BUT because of all this hardship I am now content about where I am at.

  • Anon

    In my school days, in my progress card class teacher reported “most laziest boy” she has ever seen. I had difficulty understanding words, writing them, also she complained to my dad that I could answer all the questions when asked in class but used to fail in most of my exams, I had to be detained in class 9th after 12th I decided to drop, though with dads compulsion and avoid humiliations I did my UG and PG by correspondence, again with below average in exams.
    But in employment ratings never go anything less than 8.5/10 :P), And I am doing great in IT industry, I had the power to visualize and the education had not spoiled my brain to think in line with what others had swallowed in form of education. And I am unleashing my strengths and almost forgotten my school days.
    Please ask your daughter to visualize what she learns and ask her to teach what she has learned at least to herself.
    My best wishes

  • Leah Z

    Why are children not tested for dyslexia in school? I did not understand my problem until my
    chance for higher education was passed.

  • Nantende

    My teacher called me and told me that I am likely to have dyslexia I do have it according to how I see myself. my parents are so angry at the fact that I am giving excuses about me. I am good but my -teacher knows I can do better if I am helped . how can I better myself without my parents help? help me!!!

    • Natasha

      I am sorry this is your situation. All I can say is keep practicing. I was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child and still struggle with it. Find tricks, songs, phrases to help with things. Also learn how to memorize quickly. You’ve got this! Best of luck

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