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 November 27, 2021 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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  • Osman S

    Well as for me, I find it very difficult to restore what I have read, I easily forget.
    Please let me know your suggestions

  • JC

    Thank you for sharing this valuable information, I will share it with my online friend in Kent/UK. For years she has been telling everyone reading causes her severe headache and makes her sick. She also mentioned she can learn anything by audio and video.

  • Mandy

    I have dyslexia and find my self repeating myself all the time which is getting on my college’s nerves and ideas what I can do

  • Theresa B

    Wow i found this site a few months ago and read the traits and symptoms of dyslexia and i realized that i suffer from this disorder.I was thinking that i had dementia.I noticed that when i am stressed i become more agitated and struggle with word pronunciation.It really upsets me.I hate speaking in front of people.I isolate myself from people as much as possible.I go to church and the store run errands and help an elderly relative.I love associating with elderly people because they do not notice or pay attention to my poor speech.I misspeak and say the wrong words and i have been baffled by my poor writing skills.Can’t remember names and places and i get lost from time to time.At least i know i am not going crazy.

  • Rachel B

    I have quite a few of these from each category, the last two almost every one. I work as a daycare teacher for 1-2 year olds, and I rarely read word for word out loud because I will stumble too much. How much is the course?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Davis Facilitators are independent professionals who set their own rates and payment arrangements. However, an initial consultation is not expensive– so a good first step is to simply call a Facilitator so that you can talk about your problems and how a Davis program might help. To find a facilitator, visit

  • Sam A

    I met many self-confessed male nurses working in the psychiatric and nursing areas. The compassion, multitasking, technical use, curiosity we use works well for dyslexic behaviors. Because I was raised in the classroom corner working on my creative imagination, I was left to educated myself. I was a social outcast by the third grade because I didn’t relate to anyone else. Social isolation and the inability to ask for help in most situations is the biggest problem I suffer with. I find that I am jealous of the others with full potential being used all the while seeing people wasting lives with meaningless tasks. My behaviors were missing a correct interpretation by the teachers and everyone else. Testing high but poor reading and writing. For my own self-awareness and resetting my perspective, how could this work for an older adult?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sam, the Davis program was developed by a dyslexic adult first as a way of overcoming his own dyslexia, and then as a way of helping other adults. There is no upper limit as to age for this program –and adults usually progress much faster than children, probably because of their greater maturity and motivation as well as greater ability to understand and use the key concepts of the program. So if you want help, talking to a Davis facilitator would be a good first step.

  • puni

    my question is about dyslexia/spatial dyslexia that Iʻm sure Iʻve dealt with my whole life and have just become good at compensating. I thought it was about the way I see the world as an artist with just a little less judgment, and it has always affected updown pushpull leftright, etc., but lately, I am becoming more affected by it (scheduling issues, driving issues, organizational issues, spreadsheet issues). I am still able to compensate, but especially in spatial orientation driving (i.e. parking lots, oneway streets) itʻs become more of a problem. I thought stress was making it worse, and it would go away, but itʻs clearly getting worse. My family is particularly irritated with my driving (not unsafe, just not efficient). Any advice?

  • Mark

    This site has opening up my understanding about dyslexia .I have suffered tremendousmy as a child being misunderstood. I was label a slow learner I always thought dylsexia was just about reading difficulty but having read through the underlying symptoms it is much deeper .I hate administrative work I am a police officer I can write well but doing the administration processes I struggle I don’t like speaking in public I struggle at times I have a problem with verbal communication my wife says am a terrible listener. I don’t remember names at all I easily forget my colleague names once I haven’t seen them in awhile .I never forget faces or images , places I went too .I choose a profession to hide my weakness as much as possible. At times am barely keeping my head above water through life thanks to this site for sheddinglight on this Topic.

  • Dina

    Hello, I have always struggled with maintaining my grades at school, I would always work hard, and sometimes harder then others but I never got or was barely reaching my grades. I am a french immersion student and I feel like my language skills in reading is slow and sometimes I will miss read or miss words, but then end up correcting myself because then everything that i would read with those misspelled words or missed words will make less sence then it already did. i actually have no idea where my north, south, est or west is (im 15).. even with this i still managed to get into pre IB french and english, all tho i failed my reading test (normal level not IB) but am doing ok in my writing as i rely heavily on spell check.

    My writing can either be good or so messy to the point where i can not read it, I am planing on talking to a counceler tomorrow to talk about if i could have mild-dyslexia, I have bad self confidence as I actually hate reading in front of a class because i stutter or i am afraid i will mess up. at some point i was reading outloud in french and legit almost every word i said was miss prenounced which made me very upsett where i almost broke into tears as it felt very embarasing. sometimes my reading would be around 60% and would also get my languages mixed up. I find it dificult to memories stuff and find it hard to remember orders of stuff. I would be able to understand a math topic with complete understanding but then when it comes to the test i would butcher it. Also, my parents get mad at me alot because they would tell me to do something but would generaly end up forgetting, and there are times where my mom will repeat stuff multiple times or even evrey day but i still end up forgetting.

    If you describe where to go in words i will forget most of the instructions and i also like listening and looking at the words at the same time because sometimes it helps me rememeber depending an what it is, but will definitly like to visualise it through some sort of animation, (If it was science for example) i know how combustion works but will not be able to explain it. My parents also sometimes dont understand what i explain because either i will contradict myself or leave a big important part of the actual information out. I get really annoyed with stuff like this, because like i said before i can work twice as hard as people and barley reach them (like for example i had a physics test, where i got all the calculatioon parts right but end up killing the multiple choice, I ended up getting a 74% where that was me understanding physics as of my friend who was struggling and finnished the test earlier then i have ended up getting a 94%) it just makes me upset.

    my english mark is 77% and same for my french (havent done any reading) and its all thanks to my creativity when it comes to ideas) where my math mark is 74% which makes me upset because i really like math and i understand, i just heavily rely on a calculator as i will frequently mess up my calcualtions or just genually miss read questions. I have been told that i dont try hard enough and/ or i do not focus.

  • Tim

    I heard the word dyslexia at a young age but never knew that there was so much more to it until I read this information. I honestly thought dyslexia was just a problem where people just mix words up when reading. I was trying to gain some insight on why I can rarely process and remember verbal information or instructions. Usually, if I read something a couple times, I don’t forget it, even more helpful when I write it down. Recently, I’ve accepted a leadership position which I honestly feel like I’m failing at miserably. The handful of people that I’m responsible for always tell me that they love the way I explain things to them because afterwards they can be more self sufficient. I just feel extremely uncomfortable and awkwards performing any type of hands on task around others because I always do it differently than anyone else would. My job requires that I learn new things given by verbal instruction, everyday but I don’t understand, most times. Individuals that report to me tell me information that I must follow up on and if I don’t write it down, it’s gone almost instantly. The worst part is all of the junk I have to try to remember how to do on a computer then conduct a meeting in front of a room full of my superiors. My wife says, I don’t listen to what she is saying but the truth is, I just don’t remember. I don’t like making plans too much either. I really don’t know what to do about any of it and think maybe my only hope is to look for another job which I really don’t want to do.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Tim, do you feel like you think mostly in pictures rather than words?

      Or do words make more sense to you when you can see them in print? (If so, I am the same way, and I just tell people that I need to see things in writing.)

  • Kindelle P

    I’ve been aware that I am dyslexia for 25 years now. My self esteem is still affected from school but learning to see the gifts that dyslexics have has helped tremendously. I feel so frustrated at times, because I am given leadership positions but just can’t do the administrative aspects of roles effectively. I see that I contribute greatly to groups, visioning, problem solving, seeing the connection between things, but can’t put processes in place or work out the steps needed to implement something or to create something for others to follow. How can our strengths be expressed to colleagues, bosses etc, so that we can do what we do best and have others to do the work that is so exhausting for us? I’d love to learn how to explain it whiteout feeling like I’m making excuses or wanting pity. It’s an interesting journey that’s for sure. Thank you for shedding light on this important subject.

  • Charlotte

    My partner was diagnosed with severe dyslexia from a young age. He went to a specialist school where he was taught coping strategies to help him in every day life. He is high functioning, but I think his dyslexia is holding him back from progressing in his career. As his partner, I occasionally struggle with his way of doing things. Do you have advice for adults dealing with their dyslexia and advice for partners ? Thanks!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Charlotte, the methods we use are not coping strategies but instead address the root causes of the difficulties. These methods are described in the book, The Gift of Dyslexia. Reading the book might give you more insight into the way your partner thinks and processes information, and could also be a starting point for a conversation with him.

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