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 February 17, 2019 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.


Related Articles:

Adult Dyslexia and ADHD: Effects in the Workplace

Adult Dyslexia and ADHD: Effects in the Workplace

Dyslexic employees are some of the smartest, most imaginative and highly motivated people in your workgroup -- and your company's management. Employers can easily adapt the workplace to help dyslexic people work more efficiently.
Test for Dyslexia: 37 Common Traits

Test for Dyslexia: 37 Common Traits

Most dyslexics will exhibit about 10 of the following traits and behaviors. These characteristics can vary from day-to-day or minute-to-minute. The most consistent thing about dyslexics is their inconsistency. General: Appears bright, highly...
Experiences - Reports from Adults

Experiences - Reports from Adults

The Davis program was created by a dyslexic adult, based on discoveries made when he managed to correct his own dyslexia at age 38.  The program was developed through continued research with adult volunteers.  Davis Facilitators have worked successfully wi...


Davis Method Provider Directory

Find a Davis Provider near you

(Click Here)




Share this page!


  • Angie A

    Wow I never realised that so many of these traits were due to my mild dyslexia! I was never diagnosed in school but found it very hard to read and spell and my English teacher always called me lazy and not said I didn’t t y hard enough. She used to pick on me to read out loud and I was so embarrassed when I could barely get any words out.

    In my late teans I managed to find a way to overcome my dyslexia and can now spell/read with the best of them. I have no issues reading out loud – I actually like it now. Thankfully my dyslexia never stopped me, it actually helped me in life. It taught me a different way to learn and a better way. I learn things to an expert level now.

  • Nancy

    My husband is dyslexic. I’m not a professional to diagnose that but I can tell it because it’s pretty severe.
    He shows signs of most of the symptoms mentioned above.
    But the sad part is he refuses to accept it.
    And so, refuses to get help. How can I help him?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      You can help by being supportive in other ways. Learn more about the positive aspects of dyslexia so you can recognize and support his strengths, and also so that you can improve your communication style with him. Most dyslexics think in pictures more than words, and often there are miscommunications because the dyslexic person misunderstood the words used or has retained a different picture in their mind. That can lead to conflict in a marriage because it can feel like your husband is ignoring you or not valuing what you have told him, when the problem is really due to confusion and disorientation.

      The Davis program can help an adult of any age overcome their difficulties, but Davis Facilitators only work with clients who are motivated and willing. So “refuses to get help” means that at least for now, you can’t realistically expect things to change. But the refusal very likely comes from feelings of embarrassment and shame, so that is why positive support and encouragement is so important.

  • Aakash

    Hey, i am 20 years old and i am very bad at spelling, sometimes i forgot even very simple words spelling like the word ‘actually’ .. Infact even when i am writing this i am totally dependent on spell check..

  • Raemelle C

    I’m a little over 58 years old. I never knew anything about dyslexia before because back in the day we were considered stupid, lazy ans or not trying hard enough. I hid my learning problem from my kids, but they learned something when it was time for me to help them with their homework. My son was so angry with me when he got an F on one of his homework papers. He said he’ll never ask for my help again. My daughter had to help him with his homework after that. It hurt my feelings, and yes I still hid my learning problems from them until they grew up. It is very complicated at times, mainly because I’m an entrepreneur, and a very serious one at that, but living with dyslexia it is keeping me from reaching my potentials in life. My children, they lost the faith in me because all I’ve been always trying to start a business and haven’t yet became successful as of yet. I don’t believe in giving up but it’s taking a long time because I have to go it solo. Thanks for hearing me. Living as an dyslexic, it has it’s up’s and it’s downs.

    • Joe P

      You’re my father…only his boys also have to hide it, or make a joke about it. However, I’m now seeing it in my son and my heart is crushed. I don’t ever want my baby to think he’s anything less than perfect, but I’m worried about his self-image. I don’t want him to think of himself like I do of myself.

      I’m so sorry about homework in the past, but think…my dad can’t read to save his life, but he will always be my hero.

  • Lilian W

    I am a very young 64 year old lady and have had problems with jobs all my life due to my dyslexia.. I feel capable of so much more in life but unfortunately missed out due to my dyslexia, low confidence embarrassment and depression.

    I would like to have been a nurse if I have had the support and confidence . I am now also being tested for adhd as I have had so my problems within my relationships and socially.

    I am currently on long term sickness from my job as a supervisor to a team of cleansers within a school.. I want so much more from life even at my age..

    Money has also been a problem as I need to work to pay my bills, but I feel so frustrated with life..

    I would love to help others like myself as I can be a very bubbly and caring person…

  • Chris

    OMG so many of these characteristics apply. I didn’t find out I was dyslexic until university. Looking back there were signs. I always liked reading but was slow at it. Have always used a finger to stay on the right line. I thought everyone did that. I was terrible at reading out loud. Had a stammer as a kid and went to a speech therapist. Also got help when I was in school for reading until we moved when i was in middle school, after that I figured out tricks to get by. Honestly i cheated on spelling tests as a kid. Would write the words on my wrist. I was and still am an over achiever and perfectionist. I would read school books before the class so i could keep up in class and know what was going on, I pretty much had to do the work twice. I did okay in school B’s in languages. Not bad enough to raise concerns from the teachers. I am intensely visual and learnt fairly early on that if i could associate a word with an image I could remember it. I have never finished a test completely. I always run out of time. I can’t read out loud. Especially if i am nervous. Everything is blurry and gets mixed up. I learnt early on to memorize main topics i wanted to discuss in the form of a story board. I use key images to keep me on track. I still mispronounce, mix up or forget words though. I often get stuck when I’m speaking, like a word is there but i just cant say it or sometimes I can see the word, I know i know it but for the life of me i can’t pronounce it. Even though i might have used it correctly earlier on that day. This makes me feel stupid. And is what I get caught on the most from peers. I’ve managed to hide my reading issues but haven’t figured out a way to get around stuck words or thoughts. Using the wrong word or forgetting words.

    I am also terrible with oral directives. Have to make a checklist when my boss gives me feed back. I can’t follow long lectures. I cant handle background speaking when i’m trying to work, it is super distracting. I’m hyper sensitive to peoples emotions and feelings. On my driving tests ( i took them several times) i mixed up right and left on EVERY test. oops. I avoid driving in unfamiliar places where directions are needed. I didn’t think I was dyslexic till university when we would have to read long theory papers and I realized that other students would read in an hour what would take me four. And I couldn’t recall what it was about at the end. I went into design so most work is visual. I hate unfamiliar fonts though. A lot of design students will try and use artsy fonts. I can’t read that crap. My drive to succeed in school was largely due to not wanting to be perceived as stupid. I rely very heavily on dictate programs and spell check and peer reviews from close friends or family, except my dad, I’m certain that he is more dyslexic than i am. Have a career now and a masters degree. There are some apps that are helpful. I find Evernote helpful because you can sketch and record notes orally. This is helpful when the boss gives a long list or in a meeting. Also dragon dictate.

  • Raj

    I really suffer from dyslexia on day to day activities. but one of my friends told me that who are dyslexic have some other great skills so am positive and trying to improve by qualities i never read complete book in my life am 32 :(. Best of luck guys good post.

  • Falesha

    Unfortunantly I have no resources but wanted to to thank you for ur post.I am a mom to a sweet 6 yr old girl who has an iq of 117 but academicaly was showing only 60. Im so excited to know her test results show she is like her daddy and is Dyslexic! Which means once we fjgure out how to teach her she will finaly be able to shine!! 🙁 god bless u!

  • Natasha

    Dyslexic people might get headaches a lot, from struggling to read, or not being able to do so at all.

    • Peter

      I am now 68, and have spent all those years not realising that I had dyslexia. only three day ago I was reading a book to my three and a half years grand daughter. After making quite a few mistakes and making excuses about having my driving glasses on, normally my reading glasses. Like a bolt of lightning hitting me I realised I had spent my whole life avoiding reading books, contracts,official letters and even simple instructions on how to assemble flat pack furniture.
      My life has been fantastic, travelling and working in many European countries, always learning to speak different languages but never leaning to read or write them. Now I have woken up to the reasons why I have spent my whole life avoiding reading books. Aso telllng solicitors and landlords that I have read and understood documents, when in fact I haven’t. I now look back and realise that if I had known about my dyslexia when I was younger how different my life might have been.
      It’s like having an amazing awakening. I am so pleased that this awakening has answered so many questions about myself.

  • Derek

    My name is Derek and I’m 35 yrs old. I hid my dyslexia so well I didn’t know I had until a few months ago.

    I was reading one evening and I saw the arrangement of letters in a word completely change. The googling began.

    As soon as I realized I had dyslexia, I cried. It was relief. I couldn’t believe that it never surfaced.

    “How could this be?”

    As a child, I went to a private school. I was constantly being tested to find out what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with ADHD by 6 different Dr’s over a 6-8 yr period if time which ended sophomore yr in high school.

    Then I started to think back. Reading outloud made me so nervous. I hated being called on. I didn’t know why, because I loved attention. I was constantly being corrected when Inread and could never, “follow along” as others read because I would prefer to just listen. I eventually taught myself to read out load very well. It ssounds crazy, but. I read ahead while I’m reading outloud which helps not mess up. I retain nothing when do this. I pretty much avoid it now.

    I recently gave a speech at my sisters wedding. It went well, It was supposed to be 5 min and I ended with 13 seconds to spare. There was a point where I had to decide how I was going to prep for it.

    Everyone told me write down so I can have it on paper in case I get lost or at least have bullet points. I actually kept everything in my head till I grabbed the microphone. It was planned. I rehearsed it in my mind. It fell together as I gave the speech. I broke my speech down in my head. 3 simple categories I wanted to touch on. It worked well for me.

    I worked as a waiter for a period of time in college. I ended up at a large chain restaurant known for their cheesecake. I never wrote anything down when taking orders. People loved to modify their orders to try and throw me off for fun. I thought it was weird how amazed everyone was. One day my manager asked me to start writing things down. I told him I didn’t need to, but he insisted. He said it was part of our code of conduct. The first time I wrote down an order, was the first time I screwed up an order. Something weird happened when I write it down then input the information. From that point forward, I help a note pad and pretended to write things down to appease the managers.

    I’m used to having to read sentences 4-6 times before I can make sense of it. I always wanted to read on all levels. I’d see people engulfed in a book at school or at the park, I’d always (an still do) think to myself, I want that. I want to get lost in a book full of pages.

    I never really felt I was slow, but I felt that reading was an incredibly difficult task. It still is, but I read what I need to read.

    I’m a very visual person. I’m an artist (working on a way to turn it into my career) and I can build anything.

    read something about balance on this website. I have amazing balance on a surfboard and a skateboard. I also excelled in track. But I do bump into a lot of things as constantly stub my toes. It’s annoying, but I thought it was because I’m flat footed. I didn’t know that could be coincided with dyslexia?

    Till this day, I haven’t read any full books. I I somehow got through school and couldn’t quite make it through college. I’d have 3 associate degrees, but I hit a wall with Math (my standardized testing scores were always above 90%) and fulfilling a language requirement. American Sign Language may have been a good option because it seems to be more visual. Math, I am extremely good with numbers, but in my head. I’ve never used my fingers.

    I’m currently at looking for a new job. I’ve been in sales for over 10 years. I spent 5 yrs as a sales manager. I’m great with coaching people one in one. I know how to quickly identify strengths in people and build off those.

    Now that I know I’m different and I’m seeking new employment, I want to make sure I set myself up for success. I’m very good at getting jobs, but I’d like to have the best possible chance at success.

    If anyone could maybe help out or provide any resources, I’d be so happy.

    • Mat

      This is like reading an my biography. I’m mid 30’s and just discovered I’m dyslexic too. My past life seems to start making sense now. I can’t really offer advise help for you but best of luck anyway.

      • Saundra K

        Finding out my ineptitude was due to dyslexia and not stupidity set me free in a way. Once I taught myself to read the classroom wasn’t so much of a problem but math and sequencing have kept me confused and frustrated all of my 69 years. Not quite brilliant but Lenny smart, Anger, poverty and self-hatred ride my shoulder every day.

    • Rita

      OMG thank you for your post, I guess I never thought that it could be dyslexia but I am just slow I am crying as I read the post and your comments , in a way I am relieved to know that there are many people out there who have this and I am not stupid. I finish my masters but yet I sometimes struggle with pronouncing a word or saying a word for another. I wish I knew where to start and improve myself but sometimes I get so discouraged

      • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

        I wish I knew where to start and improve myself

        Rita, the answer is on this web site. The Davis methods were originally developed by an adult dyslexic, first for himself and then working with other adults. Davis Faciltators can work successefully with adults of any agee, even people in their 90’s — so if you are looking for help, a good place to start is by talking to a Davis Faciliator (see for listings).

Leave a public question or comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *