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 2, 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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  • SorianoSoriano

    I’m 29 and its hard for me to read or said words correctly. I really want to know how i van fix it i have 3 small children i had that i vant help them in reading .i want to buy something that can help me plz

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Soriano, you can get help but it does require some work on your part. I’d encourage you to contact a Davis Facilitator to learn more about the Davis program and how it could help you. We do sell a kit for home use, but you would need someone to help guide you through the various steps of the program, and it might be hard for you to find the time to do that on your own with three small kids to take care of. If you would like to talk to a facilitator, you can use this website to find somoene near you:

  • Chuck S

    I discovered that I have had Dyslexia for over 70 years and didn’t know it. I will add a couple of other things I do that may be related and shared by others. I am face blind. I do not recognize faces – in person, on TV, movies all strangers. I do associate them with other traits: speech, walk, hair style, clothing any of which trigger recognition and names. I also read poorly, I now know that I sight each word by itself and say it to myself as I add it to what I have read. I speed read by only reading the first 3 or 4 letters and use context to guess at the word. I like to read but seldom read more than half a book before loosing interest.

  • Shauntel L

    I am former Vice President Investments for a Fortune 500 company. I’m never finished college. Recent I have been reading about adult professionals with dyslexia. I was never diagnosed with Dyslexia. When I was a child I either excelled so well it was off the charts or I completely shut down. I have difficulty passing exams. I am reaching out to find out how where the are support groups and help for adult professionals who have Dyslexia. I live in the Chicago north shore suburbs.

    • Zama

      Hi Shauntel

      I feel like I soooo relate to you. I’m also struggling in my career as well in this way. Growing up, I was also brilliant coming first in class, very creative and good with colors, very musical, emotionally sensitive, ‘good’ with numbers..but I just struggled at the same time. I forget things, I double check numbers and mails and still there is always something incorrect, especially the small detail. I struggle with headaches and the list just goes on :(. I’m even scared I wont succeed in my career and I’m only 25 so I’ve got a long way to go :(. I’m desperate for help.

  • April

    I have dyslexia I found out I had dislexia at age of 16 I knew there was something wrong with me. Because of my spelling I am still a terrible speller because I get words in the wrong place. I used to get in barest embarrassed in the high school when a teacher asks me to spell words like Palace and I spelt it wrong I put place down. And everyone in the classroom started to laugh at me and calling me Pointless human being and saying dumb person dummy . When I found out I had dyslexia I started to read and I just fell like why are the words not going into my head it just gets me down. Which I get in embarrassed because I read like primary kid. And I found reading very hard for me. Is there another way that can help me to get better at reading please just to try and memorise the words. Thank you

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      April — yes, there is another way, different than the way that you were taught in school, that will give you control over your dyslexia.

      If you would like to learn more about the Davis Dyslexia Correction program, you can visit our directory site at to find a provider near you, and arrange a consultation.

      The program is very suitable for adults and progress is often very rapid, because you would begin to learn the key orientation techniques the first day.

  • Jerry D

    Its just scary how many of these symptoms i have. Probably 90% of them. Im 25, and after dropping out of i college i started a very successful business. Now 4 years later i am going back to get my MBA, not for financial reasons, but purely for personal fulfillment/gratification. During the assessment testing i continuously made simply arrhythmic mistakes, all switching letters around. Those mistakes led me to look into dyslexia and its symptoms. Its almost like a lifted weight knowing that some of the things that have always “troubled” me are really not my fault. Thanks for the article 🙂

  • M

    Can dsylexia start at an older age > 60? Or could this be something else?
    My husband has noticed that he is starting to mix up letters or numbers for instance instead of spelling a word correctly, he transposes 2 letters (i.e. park is pakr), same with numbers (265 is 256).

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Sometimes dyslexia symptoms can become more noticeable at different times of life. However, whenever there is a sudden onset of symptoms in adulthood, it is important to discuss them with a medical doctor, because they could also caused by an age-related or medical or neurological problems affecting brain function.

  • Seraph

    I got a diagnosis of ADHD and dyscalculia as a child, and now at thirty-three I’m wondering if the doctors might have missed something somewhere along the way. I’ve never really had trouble reading to myself-in fact, I was an avid reader and writer as a kid-but languages, typing and speaking, particularly in groups, are just *awful* for me. (That list is startlingly familiar, in all honesty!) Are the three co-morbid? Or maybe it’s just a nice, new facet of my brain’s usual games?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Dyslexia stems from a difference in the way the brain processes language. While it is commonly associated with difficulties in reading and writing, the same underlying differences can also be at the root of problems with oral language. As you’ve noted, it probably is best to view this as a manifestation of the way your brain works – from there you find ways to either compensate or to overcome the problems. For example, we know that stress and confusion can lead to disorientation, and disorientation will make the symptoms work. So if speaking in groups is stressful for you, that might explain why it is difficult for you to find and express the words you want in that setting. The various Davis tools such as Release and Orientation might help.

  • Aalz

    I am 18 years old and have started learning two foreign languages. I sometimes mix up words when reading in english ( my home language) or miss out words completely. This has increased in when learning the foreign languages. I love reading and can articulate well but struggle to put my thoughts into words. I find it difficult to concentrate in a noisy environment and blank out whrn stressed out as well as fail in remembering instructions. Is this dyslexia or could it be a different learning disability? If it is dyslexia could it be a less severe case?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Aalz, dyslexia is caused by a difference in the way the brain processes language. Most dyslexics think in pictures rather than in words — or think so intuitively that there is not even awareness of the thought process. But that’s why there is difficulty putting thoughts into words. Dyslexics also tend to disorient easily when confused or in stressful situations — which is what you experience when you “blank out when stressed out”.

      We prefer not to think of dyslexia as a “learning disability” because dyslexics do not have problems with learning. They just think and learn in a different way. The tools we use to address the problems would be the same regardless of the label — we would provide mental tools for orientation and re-orientation, and a path to mastery of words that trigger confusion.

  • Tracy

    Hi I believe I may have dyslexia/Add. I have always had problems with reading/writing. I could not focus in school and now work. I graduated by the luck of god with about a gpa of 1.5 or so. I sometimes confuse letters with numbers which is really weird to me at least. I was poor at all subjects. I still struggle with it until now. I’m embarrassed by my handwriting as it is very poor. I struggle to keep concentration and procrastinate a lot. How do you go about getting assessed? I also suffer from depression can they all be linked?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Your history is very consistent with dyslexia. A Davis facilitator can provide an informal assessment as well as a consultation to determine whether a Davis program will help you. You can use the directory here to find a provider near you:

  • Unknown

    How do you bring up dyslexia without hurting someone’s feelings?

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