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 3, 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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  • Rory G

    I have really bad Dyslexia and have been running from it my hole life. I want 2 help speech out but scared I well lose my job.

    • jeanette d

      dont focus on your own issues, you would be amazed at the amount of people who have probs spelling and with numbers, today with computer/ calculator, and i phone you can use spell check, , there will be some jobs you may not be able to do, i could never work in a bank, due to discalculus,i accept that, but remember many people are in jobs they find difficult, its not just you, look at your strenghs, always, look at the job, is spelling the most important part of the job, have you ever been taken aside and told by manager that you have a problem, if not then maybe its a bigger issue for you, stop the running, all your life, hold your head high, look at what you achieve, also this is a disability, and you do have employment protection at work, dont overthink all this over dyslexia, its more common than you may know, people can be sympathetic, they may know a person close to them who have dyslexia,

      • Nik

        Jeanette don’t sell yourself short. I don’t have a diagnosis but am sure I have discalculus as I have struggled with numbers all my life. I have worked for a high street bank for over 30 years. Banking is not just about numbers, there are so many different aspects to it. Don’t limit yourself. I can see you have a positive attitude and you are so right that employers these days offer lots of support and value difference.

  • Jayden

    So. Given that I’ve been displaying FORTY-EIGHT symptoms throughout the entirety of my life – I’m guessing that means I should consider being tested, huh? Knew something was off with how I do things, but. Didn’t know I could find that many traits running consistently in my life, too.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      If you feel that you need help or support, then yes, you might want to be tested. However, formal testing is not necessary in order to get help — if you are interested in a Davis program, a simple screening is all that is needed. Formal diagnostic testing can be quite expensive, and it can be very difficult for adults who have developed good compensation strategies to get a firm diagnosis — so generally for an adult testing is only needed if you need to prove your dyslexia in order to qualify for support or accommodations in a school or workplace setting.


    I started in the lowest form of a school in Brixton over 2000 boys .,couldn’t read or spell, left with NO qualifications .Just retired after 60 years in property development.M.D t 27 of public co. Retired as division chairman of one of the largest uk house builders .PATENTED the only house design ever to be patented. Not broke either .DYSLEXIA has served me VERY well thankyou.


    I started in the lowest form of a school in Brixton over 2000 boys .,couldn’t read or spell, left with NO qualifications .Just retired after 60 years in property development.M.D t 27 of public co. Retired as division chairman of one of the largest uk house builders .PATENTED the only house design ever to be patented. Not broke either .DYSLEXIA has served me VERY well thankyou.

  • Sahana

    I read most of the comments and each one sounds liks the “Story of my life!” im a 27 year old living in South Africa. Is there any help for a person in my part of the planet? Lol I read one book (no matter how many pages) at least a year… Tests are my sworn enemy. I can’t remember a past event even if i was fully part of it.. Yooh school! Don’t get me started on that, the worst experience of my life has been in school trying to learn any subject, so bad i almost failed my matric and that didn’t set a good tone through out my adult life. I really think awareness should be done especially at schools and the workplace coz wow we are made to feel stupid, like the other day my coworkers were laughing at me coz i didn’t know how many zeros went in a number one was calling out for me. I’m currently in a learnership program for an engineering compy and I’m still having to take test thus still not having a good life. Help plz

  • Cora L

    Cara.. I realize that most of the things that y’all see it on the list I have it I’m 37 I don’t know how to drive always get people to say every time I do something it don’t look right on me far as dancing be sure to add working out and more I do know how to read but my spelling is very bad I have bad anxiety and people ask me do I have a problem talking always stutter and don’t know what word I need to say is very difficult moment can someone give me some answers what I can do who I can pay I want help in another thing I know how to express myself but when it coming to paper my mind just go blank

  • Julia

    Reading this blew my mind. I always thought I at risk for having dyslexia since always struggles with reading and writing as a kid. For years I was pulled out of class in front of everyone to do “small group work” which didn’t do anything for me except put me behind in my classes. After my friend started pointing out my basic problems, I knew it was time to come face to face with them. Things she noticed were; difficulty estimating the time it takes for a task to be done, not knowing right from left, can’t read or spell.
    After reading this I really noticed that I have every single point they state.
    one thing that has affected my education in college with dyslexia was my communication and speech. I can think about great ideas, but then completely forget what I was thinking as soon as I begin to write from how overwhelming typing is alone. I can’t speak very well, this is when I talk to friends and teachers. I’ll begin to start talking and just pause and expect them to understand and finish my sentences because I am actually unable to put my thoughts into words and then explain them to another person.
    How do people live with this disability as an adult? I just began to start pretending I have nothing wrong and convince myself I can read when I’m in a quiet space or if I’m more focused, which is not true. I really don’t want to one day graduate from my program and be so insecure that I cant go forward with my career. I am in school for project management and I’m pretty sure a girl who can’t even speak her won’t be their top option when hiring.

    ( why in the world is dyslexia so damn hard to spell lol)

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Davis programs are very effective for adults. Dyslexia is a difference but it doesn’t have to be a disability. If you are worried about your abilities to function well in your chosen career, you might find it helpful to contact a Davis Facilitator to discuss your concerns and learn how they might be addressed through a program.

      • Lafuiteenavant

        Abigail please do not downgrade dyslexia from a disability to a common brush off that is a difficulty. Employers despite legislation DO NOT do us any favours and do as little as legal loopholes allow them.

        It IS a disability which has been watered down due to the likes of autism etc now being called learning difficulties.
        I find it offensive and wish that you would retract your classification of its “potential” to be a difficulty not necessarily a disability.

        It IS a disability.

    • Carl H

      Hi Julia. Remember that you have skills that compensate for your dislexia. You are just wired up differently. You are not inferior, just different. The problem is that we are all expected to jump
      Through the same hoops and learn in the same way. It just doesn’t work for us. If you are young and can get a diagnosis you may get help with exams etc. Be given more time to complete tasks etc. Best Wishes. I understand.

  • Victor P

    Hi i got diegnosed with dylexic when i went to uniy, by a clinical pycolegist. im not going to corect my spelling or gramer here so you can see what all of my life as been like writing what ever i need to write, numberes can also get mixed up.

    what dylexia gave me is an understanding far beyond most people imagination, as an exsample i can vizulise the workings of lets say a simple thing like a car engine running in my minds eye, an understanding how emnece the our little gallicy is.. dyclexia is about seeing the bigger picture. not something as pathetic as spelling.
    king regards Victor

  • Steve

    For years I thought my inability to remember what I had just read, was down to ADD. But recently, and I can’t remember why, dyslexia came to mind, prompting the ever faithful Google results list, the primary source for snippets of texts containing roughly what I was im looking for and didn’t require a long read. So far, memories of school struggles (but never addressed) right up until today with what I’ve found…I tick almost every box. Behavioral traits. You name them, I’ve got them and the holes in walls to prove it. Dangerously short fuse. But also possess the finer things associated. Judgement of character, surroundings etc. creativity and find solutions, so long as a cup of tea is involved and I somehow manage to not think about the problem at all…a solution will appear ever time. Weird one that.
    Employment. Casino croupier for a long time. A job which involves a picture-based mathematical system for calculating bets and a “gift of the gab”.
    Writing. Always had compliments on my italic joined up style. Even as a kid. Now though, same artistry but my hand moves faster than what my brain is trying to say. Works for Doctors and their prescriptions..who am I to complain?
    My adult life has largely been unaffected and I dread to think where I’d be if I could read, passed exams etc. Probably not living my life now in Thailand for the last 20 years keeping bees, that’s for sure! I do know the inability to read properly, inherently makes you unsusceptible to any and all BS ideals forced upon by the media. Eternally grateful for that on its own.

  • RobF

    I have never been test for dyslexia I share some of the characteristics listed above. The most common trait that I experience is word replacement, for example instead of typing everyone, I type everything. Unfortunately, even after reading an email several times, I do not catch the mistake until after I send emails to colleagues. I’m over 50 and work in highly technical professional environment. Reaching out, because I tired of feeling like an idiot in the workplace.

    Any suggestions.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Rob, have you tried using a text-to-speech reader to read your emails aloud to you before you send them? I personally find that a good tool for proofreading, because then I will hear the mistakes I didn’t see.

    • Steve

      Just tell people. And if they laugh, tell them to read a book, or at least a little research on the subject. Maybe they’ll see some tell tell signs and they’ll walk away with a sense of accomplishment in learning something new. I’m 48 and sadly too many stop laughing at this age. Embrace it. Use to justify to whoever feels they need your validation. Screw them. It’s who you are.

  • Kate

    This has really made me think. I’m and English 18 year old and in university. My mum told me she thought I had dyslexia as a kid because my spelling was so bad. Like I couldn’t even spell the word baby. I also rely heavily on spell check to this day my phone saves me so often. I tend to miss out letters or mush words together. Some of the things here if I was dyslexia make so much sense. One of the examples is I can’t read maps at all. It’s just like a bunch of lines to me and when I say I don’t understand it they say well learn then as if I haven’t tried. It’s always made me feel so stupid and I’m glad that I at least know I’m not the only one that can’t do it. I never test well and have issues with maths literally having to count off my fingers because I can’t do it at all. I’ve had people asking if I’m autistic or have ADHD in the past. Now looking through the list I’m thinking this might be the answer because I can say multiple bullet points in each section match to me and this makes everything make a bit more sense. I’m just so happy to maybe have an answer that makes sense

    • Carl H

      Hi Kate. I suffer from Dyslexia and dyscalculia. ( the number version of dyslexia) for
      Me the number variant is worse. My mum is dyslexic but the other way around. And many of my family on my mothers side have similar problems. So It Might help to diagnose by asking if other members of your family have similar problems. Remember that dyslexia does not make you inferior. You are just wired up differently and have skills that others would envy. Lateral thinking, creativity. Etc. Best Wishes

  • I’d rather be anonymous

    I think I got like a good 90% of these. And I’m still undiagnosed.
    Mum has dyslexia too, more on the number side though. I think however it’s rather hard to do this since it’s overlapping with adhd as well.
    I’ve got adhd and autism, ptsd and general anxiety, and can recognise all symptoms in this article, you should specify that anxiety disorders and other neurological disorders can effect many of these traits.

    • I’d rather be anonymous

      Should also point out that I can write down 10 points that would all not come close to giving me a dyslexia diagnosis. But rather an anxiety disorder or adhd.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      We don’t see the various diagnostic categories you list as necessarily being separate — they can all be manifestations or traits that develop from the same set of underlying causes. For example, there is a recent scientific study that shows that regions of the brain that are activated by dyslexic children during reading tasks are also associated with greater emotional reactivity, including higher rates of anxiety. There is also such a high overlap between symptoms of ADHD and dyslexia that it doesn’t really make sense to view the labels as representing distinctive conditions. No matter how many labels you have been given over the years, you are one person, not a collection of diagnoses. At the same time, you are a unique person, different from anyone else, and your particular traits have been developed over time, stemming in part from general ways you think, learn, and perceive your environment, overlaid with a lifetime of experiences that if influenced your developing brain.

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