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 July 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.


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  • Kim

    I have a grown stepson that is dyslexic. We had an issue when his dad my husband was in the hospital after a very serious motorcycle accident. He would come to me and say…If you want to go home one of us will stay tonight, I would say no, I’m ok…then his wife was mad at me for a reason that I didn’t know. So after my husband was out of the hospital it all came to a head and she was mad because she thought I wouldn’t let him stay with his dad but that was not the case, I didnt realize he was wanting to stay just that he was trying to give me a break and his wife said it’s because hes dyslexic and I said he wasn’t writing me a letter he was talking to me….so is that a problem…not being able to Express what they are trying to say??? Thanks for your help in advance…and settling an argument.

  • Weljie C

    Hello ! Good day to all! My name is Weljie, and Im not sure if im really dyslexic or not, or maybe im just plainly a slow minded person with no dyslexia. Actually, im struggling with work abroad right now. I have trouble with my speech and listening to instructions. And right now it’s freaking hard to sum up my experience I really dont know why. Im having a hard time using the right words to say or maybe I’ll get misunderstood like i experience almost everyday of my life. Im very tired already, feeling of being laugh about my mistakes, friends seeing you as the dumb person in the group, just because I dont know how to express myself verbally. The worst part is that People in my country rarley knows about Dyslexia. When i share it to them, they wont listen instead they point out to me that i just need to try harder and focus. Well they Aslo have a point, maybe I should. But when i do I get successful but later on comes back again to being dumb. Even my mom told me that im slow minded and blames my anemia for it, lacking of iron, its possible also. I talked to a psychiatrist, i know they are not the ones who I should approach but I really thought she could help, then she told me it’s not dyslexia for the fact thAt i can read and graduated college and all. So currently my status is, perplexed. I try to search for answers and everytime I research about dyslexia, the more I can tell to myslef thAt I am. But really, i need to be diagnose to tell everyone in my country that im freAking dyslexic. Im really sorry for ranting here, Im just frustrated And I cant tell anyone about my case because they dont understand what dyslexia is and how it hits me hard these days esp when im stressed at work. Thank you so much for taking time to read this and I hope I could get any advise. Im really sorry again. And good day to all!

    • Paul

      Hey Weljie C, It sounds like you are having a real tough time of things and I am sure many people reading this will understand your frustration. I tick many of the boxes for Dyslexia but have never been tested. I am convinced that I am and will get tested soon I hope. I am in the Air Force and have had a great career and have received great praise from all of my bosses over the last 20 years. I know my strengths and weaknesses and try to ensure I can channel my job to stay in the strong side. It is not always possible. For my next job I need to learn Russian and this is my firt time in an educational environment in 20 years. It is terrifying. People in my class hear a word or phrase once and remember it. I have to come home and revise for every hour I have free just to try and keep with them. It is embarrassing, frustrating and does bring you down. In the military, Dyslexia was referred to by some as ‘the thing they used to call stupid’. Thankfully that has mainly been stamped out and now and people understand the issue and try to help where possible. For you, I would say try and get tested if you can. Sit down and make 2 lists…One of the things you struggle with and one of the things you consider your strengths. If you are able to sit with your boss and explain them to him then this may help. Sell it to him… Your life will be easier but also he is getting a better employee by knowing how he can can use you better. Send them a link to this page so they can educate themselves on what Dyslexia is. Finally, work hard. For me that means actually putting in my diary the hours I want to sit and study so I know it is coming and am prepared for it. Try and work out how you learn. There are many websites to give you some pointers. Stick with it…Don’t let the frustration get to you too much. Remember…You have strengths…Your difficulties just make you forget that they are there. Keep smiling.

  • romey

    I can not remember the words to one song no matter how many times I hear it. I can only remember my birthday. I can not remember my times tables. I can not say the months of the year backwards, I always have to start at January. If someone tries to tell me their phone number it sounds like a million numbers thrown at me and it overwhelms me unless they go very very slow. When I write a word even when I am thinking of the first letter of the word, my hand will write the second letter. Now that my health issue are worse I find it hard to copy numbers my hand will not write the numbers I intend to write but my hand will write different ones instead. I had a hard time learning to read and I can not spell, thank you spell check. I mispronounce words all the time or just can get them out. This is just some of the stuff I deal with. Note I have never been tested for dyslexia but I am thinking I am, is any of this fixable?

  • Noel B

    I was treated for a learning disability in first grade apparently in kindergarten I wrote some letters backwards The school has lost a record so I’m not sure if I ever was definitely dyslexic or if I just had some of the traits I can read I can write I can read backwards letters look like letters words look like words to me now which could be due to early intervention but I have some of the issues with other things listed and I have a four-year-old boy who has a speech delay doctors are saying he may be high-level autistic he knows his letters but sometimes he’ll read them backwards on a truck passing by i’ve been thinking about seeing if therapist to deal with depression issues because sometimes when I’m stressed I just don’t behave like an adult should could it be that really it’s just dyslexia even though I’ve managed to figure out how to read and write pretty well

    • Lee W

      Sounds like me mate, park car or bish foul rearranging and you get the point left is felt and felt is left only know my left and right because my driving instructor 18 years ago, told me to put a ring or watch on my left hand, if I have forgot I’ve no chance, and short term memory is like a pointless need to write or txt a list every time good job my wife understands, but on the plus point I hold Dow a very good job I think a lithographic printer was hard at first but love my job 5 yeayof training like, there is no cure you just learned different ways of reading and seeing things

  • Liz C

    I’m 32 year old female I was diagnosed with dyslexia since around age 8. I now at age 32 have been have problem with my short term memory. Especially when it come to rembering conversations I have had with someone a few hours ago.
    Is this normal for a person with dyslexia?
    Thank you

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, this is common. Here is why: in our experience, most dyslexics do not think in words. Rather we think mostly in pictures or other sensory impressions. In conversation, we might form mental pictures based on what the other person is saying — and later on we might remember some of the pictures — but you haven’t stored the words that were said. This tends to work well for ideas that are easily pictured, but not as well when the words are more abstract. It’s not so much a problem with memory, but rather memory for words (as opposed to memory for pictures or things).

  • Gita

    I am a mom of a 27 year old male dyslexic male.
    I have come to a point where I am now confusing myself between dyslexia and cannabis use. Or mental health concerns.
    As I read up on adult with dyslexia, he appears to have more behaviour s that reflect has dyslexia. He clearly states we as parents are not supportive. While we want to support him in every way. Where should we start ?
    Please help !
    Thank you

  • Carissa

    Hello, I am 45 years old and never been diagnosed with dyslexia but I have suspicions I may be. I seem to have all the characteristics of it but always assumed I never was dyslexic because I thought it was only characterized by letter’s written backwards. I have had difficulty reading my entire life and have always been considered slower in that area. Math was always difficult for me too. No that I am a mother I am seeing some things come to pass in my daughter. My daughters 4th grade teacher is requesting that she be tested for dyslexia and I suspected she had dyslexia when she was in 2nd grade but it was too difficult t the time to tell if she was struggling with dyslexia or ADHD or both so we decided to not move forward with the dyslexia. Now my daughters 4th grade teacher raised concerns because she wrote her spelling words backwards #’s 1-20 every single one of them and has done it twice this year and seems to do it when more stress is involved. Can a person go into dyslexia into adulthood without knowing because they didn’t write words backwards? ie they just have serious difficulty reading because of transposing numbers and letters in their mind but not on paper?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, many adults who have moderate difficulties with reading or writing tasks may be dyslexic, without having been formally diagnosed in childhood. While your daughter’s pattern of writing spelling words backward is a strong indication of dyslexia, most dyslexics probably do not write backward, but their dyslexic difficulties show in different ways. The reason your daughter writes backward when more stress is involved is that the stress is tied to disorientation; and when she disorients, her perceptions become distorted.

  • Sam A

    As a retired nurse, I can tell you many Psychiatric male nurses and male nurses, in general, have dyslexia. I can handle technical language and writing just fine. Written poorly keeps me out of workgroup activities and onto hands-on activities. I have been a merchant marine Chief Engineering officer, stockbroker, and nurse. None gave me satisfaction, I only see failures and fear of failure. Satisfaction came from surviving another day. Really it comes by having time by myself and reading tech or history, no socializing. The problem is the lack of play and interaction with other people in general I fear. Even for therapy, we can’t reach out for help.

  • Sally

    My young adult child has significant problems comprehending instructions, a strong dislike of loud noises, low self esteem, depression and anxiety. Is there anything that could help? She can read and write fine but a lot of effort was put into it. Thanks

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      It’s quite likely that a Davis program could help your daughter — but she would need to be motivated on her own to initiate the program and follow through. You might want to contact a facilitator in your area to get a better sense and overview of how the program might help, and then pass on the facilitator’s phone number to your daughter so that she can call on her own.

  • Ron K

    Iam going to not help my spelling so us see how I spell . Be I am 45 years old and I cannot pass test to be a eletrison was in the ibew for 15 years and could not pass the stat test they would help you treat the question and not any help in the book . I can pass test the state will give me a drive lisinces but not a license to move forward in life lost my job because i can’t go forward. Wow i do a ha Dylan business and do what i want no mate if i get in trouble . I like to be a builder i been doing it on my own for 4 year fixing houses up even when i need a license in Michigan I can pass Michigan test . There say I have to a d I cannot find help to they say they help you but no on no what it like to go and find out all they do is give you more time I just want to feel good and say iam a license builder. I can do anything . But not in the law of Michigan what do I do

    • Liz

      I am sorry that you have such difficulty to attain your goals…. (((((hugs)))))

    • Nathan Ferrell

      I would put in the effort to be tested. If Diagnosed with dyslexia you can have resources to get books on tape to study for those Licenses. Also in Michigan you my also be able to get a proctor to help take the test.

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