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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  • 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.

  • Michael B.

    I want to know how to beat my dyslexia. When I read, I quickly lose my place and find difficultly keeping any degree of flow. It seems that I can only look at one word at a time. This slows my reading down to a 6th grade level (I’m a college educated/ BA in philosophy ).

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      A Davis program provides tools that adults can use at any age. It is a very different approach from the sort tutoring or remedial teaching that most adults might have had during their childhood school years. If you want help, a consultation with a Davis Facilitator is a good first step — see for listings.

    • Mitzi

      Hi. I too have dyslexia and studying part time. I use a ruler to read small text. Larger text you place your finger on the line to keep track.

      I also learnt to kind of scan and find key words and high light them. There are some apps you can download that reads text to you, and highlights the text as it goes.

      What I find is if I don’t practice reading my spelling and reading abilities decrease drastically, this also helps me memorize words ( but to be honest without regular repetition I lose the ability to spell those words and without technology the words I used in this response would simply not be possible). So I try read a few books a year.

      Don’t loss heart though! We might be slow here but our minds are great at other things!

      • Ernest Paiz

        I’m trying to find a APP that would allow me to write stuff, like a dyslexic would read. To give as examples. So people can see what it’s like to be dyslexic. I have been looking for something that would translate books/letters or any written words. Please let me know if you have anything like this or where I can get it. Thank you.

        • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

          Ernest, please keep in mind that there is no consistent way that a dyslexic person would see print differently. Rather, each person’s experience may be different. See for more information.

          So an app such as what you suggest might be helpful for providing examples — but I think for the app to be truly useful, it would be important that it include many different possibilities, not just one or two.

  • DAFT

    Interesting post. I found this after googling ‘why don’t dyslexic people get old’?
    Obviously they grow old like everyone else so it’s wasn’t well worded!..
    I’m guessing they may form a stronger sense of self identity which isn’t as defined by age? Especially if they’ve achieved something which is seen as significant.
    For someone who has such a strong urge to be individual it’s pretty wierd to read this and find out how much of my personality is defined by being dyslexic.
    That said, I wouldn’t have it any other way and if any young dyslexic kids find this looking for answers:
    You’re future isn’t just bright, the future will be defined by people like you.

  • Randall

    I’m looking to buy something to help. But I don’t have problems reading or writing. I have been taught ways to solve that. I need help with misspeaking. I did not see anything on that. Can you direct me to someone who I can do at home to improve the problem

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      I would encourage you to read the book, The Gift of Dyslexia — to see whether the description of the dyslexic thought process in that book is consistent with the way you think and learn. The book is widely available from many sources.

  • Randall

    I test 100% on reading comprehension at college level. Even though I have to read it many times to understand. I seriously struggle with spelling, keeping track of thought, and misspeak so bad it has become almost a phobia. I cause so much confusion it is terrorizing sometimes. Can you help with at least the misspeak in open conversation

  • Angie B

    I’m I too old to be helped? I’m 78

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Your age by itself would not be a barrier to a successful Davis program. Davis Facilitators have worked successfully with individuals who are in their 80’s. However, if you have other health issues that are tied to cognitive decline, that could be a problem — so if you consult with a facilitator it will be important to disclose all health issues and all medications that you are taking.

  • Ronda B

    I’ve been suffering from this from the first grade and I’m 58 now and still crushed by it when I’m in public. It’s held me back all of my life. I still can’t spell nor can I learn timetables. I’ve worked with people for years talked to them everyday and can’t remember their names. I’ve learned how to fake it for the most part. I’m so glad they have found ways to identify this in young children so they may have confidence in themselves and thrive. I and a select few others were just seen as dumb in scool. It still makes me cry to think of how I felt back then and sometimes now , we were just throw in a remedial reading and math classes that had no idea how to help us. A class for the dummies it seemed. We were definitely looked down upon by teachers and peers. Thank god for speak to text because spell check can’t even pickup some of my spelling.

  • K musa

    This site can really be helpful, my boy is now 12 years, but he gets much difficult in reading and interpretation

  • Naresh

    hi, I seriously need your help regarding my problem, that is sometimes i cant understand the paragraph where i read and sometimes i cant able to listen to people who talk to me because my mind divert to different thing without my sense and i am trying my best to overcome but i am failed. The thing is whatever i studied, am able to understand when come to writing means, i cant write it properly which means that my grammer and my vocabulary is not good, i get frustrated when i reading and i am trying to overcome this past 2 years but till now no changes between me, hope u understand that what i trying to say it.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You are describing disorientation (“my mind divert”) triggered by difficulty making sense of words. This is the reason for many of the common symptoms of dyslexia. With the Davis approach, we address this by providing simple mental tools for a person to orient themselves, and a more sustained effort to master the meanings of the small function words of language. Ron Davis discovered through his early research that the small words were causing problems because there is no mental picture to go along with them, and dyslexic people tend to think mostly in pictures.

  • Seleny

    I have a few of those I really need help how can you help me

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      A good starting point is to arrange a consultation with a Davis Facilitator to discuss your specific needs. You will find listings at

      • Remi

        I have a few of those .i can read fluently and spell but math is my problem it get mixed up in my head
        I also have to read a question over and over to get it. Im bad at exams and I’m easily angered when I can’t explain myself

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