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 October 21, 2018 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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  • Chad M

    I need to know if adult dyslexics can appear to have narcissist traits when they get angry, hurt or confused. I have recently (4 months ago) got out of a relationship with a girl that counselors have told me was a borderline or a covert narcissist. This girl told me she had disabilities from the time I met her and they were very apparent, but I did not know exactly what dyslexia was exactly. After reading all this information on this site, this is exactly what she has. She had also admitted to me she had to have note takers throughout school. She was embarrassed to talk about her condition, but one of her long time friends told me that she was in fact dyslexic. This woman was so loving and caring to me 80% of the time, but when she got upset or confused she became evil. In return I retaliated with verbal abuse because I was hurt and didn’t understand why she was going so crazy! For 3 years I tried everything possible to hold the relationship together. There were times when we were truly best friends and nothing could separate us, but then problems from her work or her family would trigger her and her behavior would go totally haywire. I truly loved this woman(still do) and finally gave up because I was told she was a narcissist/borderline and they would never be any hope. Now I’m scratching my head wondering if her dyslexia could have caused most of her bad behavior?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Dyslexia is often at the root of miscommunications in relationships, and dyslexics can experience misperceptions while in a state of disorientation.

      Dyslexic children often experience deep feelings of shame or embarrassment growing up, because of their school difficulties, and the emotional pain in childhood can impact adult behavior.

      So I think that the answer to your question is that yes, your friend’s dyslexia could be a factor in her behavior — but no one could diagnose her other than a professional who has worked directly with her. There could be many different explanations for particular behaviors, including many that have nothing to do with dyslexia.

      So this is a reasonable question for you to ask — but I am afraid there is no way to know the answer.

  • Barbara Jo S

    I struggle with spelling and reading. Have a hard time understanding what I read . Thankfully this helps spelling for me or most would be mis spelled. I’m 60 years old help

  • Suzanne

    I’m 51 years old. I was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child. Unfortunately by the time I was diagnosed I was already so far behind. I was held back and still never managed to catch up. I always felt stupid. School was a struggle for me but I made it through.

    I know I’m not stupid. I just don’t want other people to think I am. I’m actually super amazing! To survive in this world with dyslexia you have to be incredibly creative and work twice as hard as others!

    My reading has improved over the years and I actually enjoy reading. However, my math skills never improved. I’m still counting on my fingers and avoiding situations were I would have to publicly humiliate myself by not knowing a simple mathematical equation. I am always anxious that I will be “discovered” and be seen as stupid.

    My parents forced me to take piano lessons as a child and they knew I was dyslexic! How cruel is that! It was impossible for me to read the right and left hand notes at the same time. I tried but my brain could not follow notes going in opposing directions. I could read the notes, just not at the same time. So I went through three years of piano lessons memorizing the left hand notes to every song I had to learn for my next lesson. My piano teacher knew what I was doing but no one else did. I survived. That’s what we dyslexic’s do, we survive.

    I use color codes in filing and organizing. I remember things using stories or rhymes or using visual markers. I used to cary a calculator, now my phone takes care of that.

    My biggest struggle now is the low self esteem when I make mistakes. I get depression and suffer from anxiety. And my issues with crowds feels and sounds like PTSD. Crowds, malls, stores with fluorescent lighting and music playing,.. I get dizzy, confused, angry and feel ill and paranoid. I don’t want anyone to bump into me or touch me. I’m afraid to go to a sporting event or concert because I don’t know if I can make it through the crowd to get to my seat. I’m not sure I could concentrate enough to find my seat at all in that situation. I’m not sure I could make it parking my car in the venue parking lot.

    I’m tired of being “needy” when it comes to crowded places. I can’t seem to overcome the self esteem and the anxiety.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      If you want help, it’s never too late. “Dizzy, confused, angry” .. those are symptoms of disorienation, and that is easy to address.

      Since you say you like to read, then read The Gift of Dyslexia. You can decide for yourself whether our approach would make sense for you.

  • Jim W

    I am a 75 year old male and build scale models as a hobby. I have to read detailed line drawings for assembly and about half the time things look backwards,I.e. front from the rear, etc. This may have started before retirement as reading became a problem and I no longer like to read. I get books on CD or on tape now. Thanks for publishing this information.

    • Judy

      I am 69 I was told I was dysliztic 29 when by daughter was diagnosed I always new as a child I was different school was really difficult I was always hiding what I was doing I was always good so I could be invisable and people wouldn’t notice me
      Thinks got better once I had a name for my problem I was a good help to my daughter and got her special help in school.
      The question I always asked myself was. what are they seeing that I Don’t why can’t I even feel what side of me is left and what side of me is right why can’t I tell time why can’t I figure out how the clock works why do i go left when I want to go right
      I did figure out how to solve these problems by myself there was no help for me

  • Kimberly L

    I’ll start by saying I remember when they moved me out of regular classes at school into a double wide trailer w a window unit air conditioner parked out behind the school in 9th grade. I went from walking down the hallways w my friends to having to go the opposite direction. I was so humiliated & labeled special ed student & slow. How I graduated I’ll never know. Those teachers never encouraged college for me because they knew how bad I struggled. That made me mad. I wanted to take typing my senior yr, they discouraged even that & even laughed when I chose that for one of my classes. I became the fastest typist in the school, that & basketball was all I was good at.

    I went to college to make everybody proud. People wondered why I was even going. I busted my tale that first yr, worked so hard to study, I was so excited to get my first grade card to find out that I had 3 F’s & 1 D. I knew then that everyone was right so I packed my bags & moved back home. Worked in different jobs that didn’t require me to be smart. Met my husband, the week before we got married I sat in my room trying to teach myself how to tell time because I was so embarrassed for him to find out I didn’t know how. I learned enough to get by.

    2009 I decided to try college again at age 37. With the help of my husband I was able to get my bachelors degree in human development all still without him knowing that I was dyslexic. I learned tricks to hide it. We’ve been married for 21 yrs and I would like to be officially tested & diagnosed in the right areas. It will answer so many questions for me & explain so much. I want to use this to help others who struggle.

  • Pat

    I’m 54 years old and have worked as a legal assistant for almost 30 years. In the last 3 years I have gone through 4 jobs all because I am unable to do the basics. A simple job such as opening a file and placing a file number onto the file is difficult. I would open the file in the system but somehow manage to switch the numbers around either on the label or in the computer. I have always had to read instructions twice in order to understand what has to be done but now it’s more like 4 or 5 times slowly to truly comprehend. I am unable to multitask because I get all stressed out and feel lost. My confidence has gone way down and I am now trying to change professions. Something less stressful. Going to school there was nothing called Dyslexia it was you didn’t study enough. Although I studied my marks were average. So university was not an option. College was hard and I didn’t graduate but you wouldn’t know it. I have gone through many jobs in my life but on my terms. But now I’m not even lasting 3 months before my employer terminates me. So now once again I am looking for something that would allow me to make a living for the next few years until retirement. My personality has changed alot. I have become more introverted. Conversations don’t flow I find my mind grasping for words so I saynothing. I spoke to my doctor and she agreed that dyslexia does worsen with age however menopause also plays a role at my age. Double my doctor said through a phyc doctor I could get a test done but also expensive. Unfortunately the Gov’t does not have facilities for adults. So I’m left without. IF anyone know of a fascility I can call please let me know.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Pat, if you would like to talk to a Davis Facilitator, you can use this web page to find someone near you:

      It is true that dyslexia can often get worse over time and that menopause can play a role. However, as you age, other health issues can be a factor as well. Adults are often prescribed medications for various health issuese that can also impact the dyslexia.

      A consultation with a Davis Facilitator is not expensive and the facilitator can help sort out whether a Davis program will help you now. The tools that you would get with a Davis program can definitely help you overcome the pattern of getting stressed out and feeling lost.

  • Lashawn N

    Hello am a 47yr old women suffering with reading I can’t really understand what am reading

  • Maxx

    I’m 36 now, and up until about 6 years ago I never had any of the above-mentioned symptoms that were not already somewhat part of my normal personality. But over the past 6 years I have increasingly started noticing that when I read a word it suddenly doesn’t make sense in the context of the sentence, and when I return to re-read it, turns out it was a different word; usually the letters that end up mixed up are the ones that go above or below the line (t, h, y, p, etc.). And having looked through the above symptoms, I certainly have acquired quite a few of them – again, in the space of the past 6 years.
    Is it possible to develop dyslexia later on in life?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, it is possible to develop dyslexia later in life, but when there has been no past history of childhood dyslexia, there is a greater likelihood that the symptoms are tied to or caused by other medical problems. So at this age it would be important for you to to discuss the symptoms with a medical doctor.

      Dyslexia symptoms will also get worse when a person is under stress, so it is also possible for a person to have simply been able to cope well with the symptoms as a child, but have problems in a stressful work environment. So you might also consider the context where you are experiencing these symptoms.

  • Christopher

    I’m 36 and was looking for info for my young child who is having the exact issues I had in school they put him on very powerful hyperactive meds that did not help him .. now we have moved to New town for a fresh start and the same issues he has been having suddenly popped up unknown to the teachers he had meds at one time (we took him off) his attitude with life has changed for the better but we counted 26 I think symptoms that fit him exactly [me also] my wife said wow this list is you too a tee she also said that about our son…. I got 25 or more of the criteria I’m a heavy equipment mechanic so hands on is how I learn I avoid the manuals as I have to read them 4 or 5 times to get all the info I need even though I may even know the answer I want to be perfect so I read it over and over to make sure… the people I work with say I’m a natural mechanic and that I make it look easy but truth is it’s a mask I have had to fix stuff all my life. It’s repaticious so I can transfer the knowledge form one to the next easyly my son is 10 he can weld and work on cars at a 10th grade or higher level but can not read at more than 3rd hes really smart but cant express it in writtten form only by action or words. Thanks for the info he will be getting tested soon

  • L.Q

    I’m 58 years old , I always had hard time reading, having to reread over and over, not understanding what I read or remembering what I read having difficulty with pronunciating words, spelling! All I can say is thank you spell check! I rely on my adult kids to proof read what I write. When I was 18 yrs old I signed up for the navy , and I didn’t even past the test. During my school years , when you look at my report cards “F” all “F” I was pushed through school, when I had kids, I was so worried they would turn out like me, I would find after school tutors for them I didn’t want them to turn out like me. if I was smart I would had been in the nursing field.
    I ever been told I have dyslexia … but I know I’m dyslexic

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