Adult Dyslexia and ADHD: Effects in the Workplace

By Ronald D. Davis with Eldon Braun, © 1995, 1998. 

man looking downGovernment statistics show 25,000,000 Americans–one in ten–are functionally illiterate. The primary cause is dyslexia or one of its many variations, such as ADD or dysgraphia.

Today’s educational methods are limited when it comes to teaching basic literacy skills to students who have problems with reading, and writing and math.

The school system is stacked against dyslexics from the start, because they are “real world” thinkers, using mainly pictures and concepts instead of mental sentences. They require special training to master the basics of written language easily.

This doesn’t mean they are stupid. Leonardo da Vinci, Einstein, Edison, Churchill, Walt Disney, Whoopi Goldberg and Greg Louganis were considered “dummies” during their early years of school. They didn’t suffer from learning disability, but teaching disability.

Dyslexics think differently
Many teachers just don’t know the right methods for presenting information in a form dyslexic and ADD children can assimilate. As a result, these children may be warehoused in “special ed” classes. The subsequent loss of self-esteem triggers the syndrome that makes dyslexia worse. Stress, confusion and heavy concentration only increase perceptual and attention problems. The harder a dyslexic struggles, the more difficult reading becomes.

Many “learning disabled” people become highly successful once they escape school. They think they have a knack for doing something without realizing that it stems from the same cause as dyslexia — their ability to mentally combine imaginary and real world images in a creative or intuitive way. This talent can play havoc with reading and writing, but it is highly useful for the arts, engineering, sports, strategy, salesmanship, and invention.

No matter how talented they are, adult dyslexics are often secretive and defensive. They write down inverted phone numbers and financial figures. They can spend an hour trying to decipher a memo. They hide their illiteracy and get other people to read and write for them — a subterfuge invented to get by in school. Many get headaches from trying to read accurately. The loss of productivity is difficult to estimate, but is obviously enormous.

How employers can help
  • Employers can easily adapt the workplace to help reading disabled people to work more efficiently. Give instructions orally or dictate them onto tape or voice mail. Have someone read things to them, or get a voice synthesizer for the computer and let it read the memos. Dyslexics are usually good with computers. Many can read more easily from a screen than from paper, and can compose presentable letters and reports with a spell-checker — a godsend for anyone who sometimes misspells words.
  • brainstorming sketchIn the office, don’t give written “tests” as they were dealt out in school, or ask a dyslexic to fill out complex forms. Those who haven’t had remedial training are at a disadvantage, but they do have accurate, detailed memories. Question them orally or let them dictate answers so someone else can else can fill out the forms. If you must give written tests, be sure to allow extra time and a distraction-free environment.
  • People with attention deficit problems often do better if they have a number of different tasks going at once. They may appear distracted or scattered, but are actually better at juggling several tasks than concentrating on one thing.
  • Let dyslexics know you understand their language difficulties are not caused by stupidity.
  • Encourage them to seek remedial help in basic language skills and provide incentives. In my experience, dyslexics who are motivated can achieve basic business literacy rapidly when their unique needs are taken into account. I have described the best techniques I discovered in the last few chapters of The Gift of Dyslexia. A basic Davis Dyslexia Correction program can be completed in a week’s time.

Dyslexic employees are some of the smartest, most imaginative and highly motivated people in your workgroup — and your company’s management. Instead of penalizing them for written language deficiencies, profit from their special talents.

Citation Information
Davis, R.D. & Braun, E. (1998). Adult Dyslexia and ADD: Effects in the Workplace. Retrieved June 4, 2023 from Davis Dyslexia Association International. Dyslexia the Gift website:

Related Articles

Dyslexia and the Threshold for Confusion

Dyslexia and the Threshold for Confusion

  When dyslexic people make mistakes in reading or spelling, it is because they are experiencing disorientation, which results in distorted perceptions. The person's threshold for confusion is a key factor in how often he or she disorients. A...
Common Characteristics of Adult Dyslexia

Common Characteristics of Adult Dyslexia

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. Career: Employed in job/position that will hide difficulties...

Share this page!


  • Ezekiel K.

    I was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD at 7. My mother and grandfather on moms side both have it as well. I remember my grandfather doing the crossword puzzle every morning and yelling to my grandmother in the other room, how to spell a word. He never went to college and was an engineer for Dow chemical in Midland Michigan back in the 50s and 60s. I struggled In school K through 12 and was in special education class for language arts. I would struggle and other subjects, depending on how the teacher taught the class. I remember getting a IQ test in middle school and the person who is testing me was shocked and excited when I got a 138. He said to my mother your son sees thing other ppl don’t see he needs to go to college. In high school things got so difficult and it ended up dropping out and getting my GED. I had enough of school and was not gonna put myself through that much stress and embarrassment to most likely end up acquiring a massive amount a debt without a degree. I struggled as a young adult with low-paying jobs until my mid 20s. I’m a mechanic on a large dairy farm and love my job. Now that I’m an adult I’m starting to think there’s something else wrong and that I have avoidant personality disorder. Could trauma from feeling inadequate as a child in school cause this? I have always been supper shy and self-conscious, socially, awkward, and have low self-esteem. I avoid social situations due to the fear of embarrassment. The two long term relationships I’ve been in were an absolute disaster due to my lack of emotional intimacy or open and fluent communication about personal thoughts and feelings. If my partner would try to bring it up, I would feel personally attacked avoid her and sleep on the couch. She finally had enough after 5 years and left me 3 months ago. I am absolutely heartbroken and feel like I’m unable to what is needed to be in a relationship. This is the second relationship to end this way the first one we have a son together and it only lasted three years. I want to have a family more kids but have given up on dating.

  • Omar Hakeem

    I’ve worked for a pipe laying company, Central Florida Underground, back in 1993.
    We had a young coworker who was dyslexic, and often didn’t comprehend instructions.
    The crew chief and lead man of the crew he was on did not recognize the reason he would mess up often was due to him being dyslexic. Instead, they were constantly hollering and cussing at him all the time.

  • Jean

    I am in my 60’s and was diagnosed with dyslexia in college when I was in my 30’s. I was reading a blog
    In one of your articles that this person could see people he knew move up in their careers, while he was always going backwards. I felt the same way. What is the reason for this to happen?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Jean, there could be many reasons for this. Dyslexia is more than simply a problem with reading, writing, or spelling — it can affect the way that dyslexics reason & problem-solve, or ability to follow instructions or meet deadlines, or impact the way that dyslexic employees interpret actions and communications of others around them. Many of these can be subtle issues that the dyslexic person is not aware of — that is, they may be missing social clues or hints in the workplace that lead to misunderstandings or missed opportunities.

      Of course, all of these problems can be addressed when a person is aware of them — it’s just that the person who feels left behind while others around them advance often is not aware of the underlying reasons.

      • Omar Hakeem

        A coworker on a pipe laying company I worked for in 1993 had dyslexia. Everyone always accused him of being on street drugs because of the mistakes he often made. And the crew chief and others on the crew he was on would holler at him and cuss at him. One guy even threatened to knock him out on a jobsite.
        Of course on our job sites, there was heavy equipment such as front end loaders, trackhoes and cranes.
        Sometimes we laid 20 foot lengths of 24 inch iron water main pipe. Sometimes we had cranes operating around high voltage power lines. This was one of those kind of jobs that if you were not sharp, alert, and paying attention, you could get yourself or someone else killed on the job real quick.

  • Farida

    I’m in my 50s, i have dyslexia I worked very hard in my educational path and I have achieved the MBA degree with honour but have a still a serious issues in a spelling, Reading , pronunciation and writing in a correct order that other can understand.

    I’ve been bullied at work even a recent claim in court the legal representative and the judges criticised on my condition rather than understanding even know my dyslexia condition and it is ongoing in my life and it’s heartbreaking for me.

    I do have dyslexia from childhood, my mom and the teachers used to help me in a school learning process but I never get any treatment or properly training to deal with my dyslexia. I still have have serious issues in Reading and spelling, memorising people name and numbers. I cannot work in pressure where I have to take orders from other to do something ” now & then” or do test in limited time or to answer someone question in pressure or read or deal with the matter all of these creates the blockage to work for me and create hug stress and anxiety.

    On the other hand I was always very intelligent, deep thinker, very good in problem-solving by imaging matter in my brain like a movie and then solution pop-up quick as visually.

    When I understand then I am always very good explain or writing matters in my own word rather than memorizing from textbook or other literature and it is very difficult for me to explain to others when the matter which is written in someone else words.

    Explain people they don’t understand and me why is difficult for me.

    If I have to memorize something from the textbook then I have to write many times with the colourful marker headings bullet points and then I have to take out photo through my mind and then during doing the test or exam I have to copy paste textbooks material from my visual photo of the notes to my test paper.

    I heve very good or visual memories even as a young child or different parts of expect of my life memory or events took place in my life.

    I’m very good in arts with colours and handcraft, very creative, and good technical skills and consider myself entrepreneurial person.

    I’m writing this by using speech-to-text keyboard.

    I need help PLEASE and I need your support with my ongoing problems dealing with the people who’s other side in my legal battle to explain them what is my condition what they don’t understand.

  • Judy H

    My husband is dyslexic he is 62 and he also was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. When he was about 15 his took him off the medication. But I think he is still struggling with both. He really can’t spell hardly at all and always has to ask me how to spell words and he is very easily frustrated. When it comes to feeling out paperwork or job applications it is so hard for him. He keeps a sample job application so he has all the spelling and information written down. He gets agitated very easily with himself and says he is dumb. He gets impatient very easy. Do you think it would be wise at his age to seek some kind of help to see if maybe there is something they can put him on to help with this.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Judy, Davis Facilitators can work with adults of any age — but we don’t use or advocate medications with our work. If he is motivated to work with a facilitator, then he can succeed. You can find listings of facilitators at

  • Hayley N

    I’ve suffered realy bad at school and all my adualt life I find it hard in everythink I was tested at school for dyslexia but was told nothing wrong with me but I feel there somethink not right I carnt seem to hold a job down or nothing it’s got to a point were it’s so depressing and I’ve been I’ll over it I just would like some kind of help

  • Teresa J. S.

    I am an excellent speller, reader, love reading out loud, I’m am very sociable & outgoing. However, I’ve never done well on testing. I forgot what I studied. I didn’t have trouble until I went into middle school (7th grade). I then couldn’t comprehend what I read, my math skills vanished when introduced to algebra. I didn’t realize how bad it was until a couple of years ago when my daughter & granddaughter went to a seminar. What they heard described me to perfection. They diagnosed me wit adult ADD & Dyslexia. I have confusion & difficulty
    With being on time. I begin doing something & totally space out and forget and I’m always late. All of these issues haven’t worsened the older I get. Counseling doesn’t help with depression, no self esteem because I am unable to explain what I’m experiencing. My memory is good in some areas, but I have decades I don’t remember. I don’t know where to get help

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Teresa, Davis Facilitators can work with adults of any age. They have worked successfully with adults in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, even 90’s. There are separate programs for reading/writing issues, math, attention focus & executive function — and these can be combined when appropriate. The program will be tailored to the needs of the person; these are close-end programs where the facilitator will give you everything you need within the course of 5 to 8 days. As you are working one and one with the facilitator, there is some flexibility as to scheduling. If you want help, it is there.

      You can find a complete listing of all Davis Facilitators, along with a map of locations and other search features, at
      If there are not any facilitators near you, you can choose one a little farther away and arrange for a telephone consultation.

    • Kay

      Hi Teresa,

      I learned that I am moderate to severe dyslexia a couple of years ago. Some of the things you mentioned, I would say this works for me:

      In regard to tardy or late. For my every day schedule. I set one designated time to leave so I won’t be late, and I allow myself 20 more minutes then what it takes for me. I have clocks every where – where I maneuver. For example, getting ready for work I spend most my time In the bathrooms I have a clock there, near my bed, and I’m the kitchen. Visually seeing the time helps me speed up when need to be.

      Spacing out when doing tasks. I found that when I’m alone and isolate myself when doing tasks, I don’t space out as often. I also intentionally will leave my
      Phone on loud and b my room away from here I am. So I can hear it ring for an emergency but not be easily distracted from it. Doing away with any small distractions is a must!!!! And music helps me stay focused on the task. Especially if the music is familiar. My brain already knows and interprets the sounds so morning distracts me and is rather soothing instead.

      I have been misunderstood my entire life, but truly understanding what is “right”’with me helped. I joke these methods help you!

      • Ingrid

        Hi Kay
        Thanks so much for your tips on how to manage time. I’m looking forward to trying these out, I have a feeling I’m going to find them helpful.

  • Mike

    I was diagnosed with dyslexia in preschool but was too ashamed to accept the special lessons. I struggled through school but found I was talented in numeracy and this allowed me to just about progress to uni without extra time or formal diagnosis . In my last year at uni I decided to take advantage of the system there and went for assessment. I was finally diagnosed officially as having attention deficit and dylexia and got extra time, a dictaphone and readoutloud software. This was life changing for me, and I finally started started getting the grades more a keen to the effort I was putting in. From there I went on to get a masters, then chartered accountancy, and have built a successful career at a big 4. I am near partnership level but I am starting to feel my dyslexia is holding me back. In the past my slow and inaccurate reading could be compensated for through longer hours and my creativity, intuition and general Intellegence plus pure determination meant I progressed quickly in my career. But at this level, and with three kids, I am now feeling the same stress and pressure that I used to feel at school. In my hurry to keep pace I keep making stupid mistakes and each one of these makes me feel that it’s one hard earned step forward and two easy steps back. In particular I am messing up with things like emailing the wrong person or sending the wrong attachment, or missing administrative steps and misreading details in emails, and obviously loads of spelling mistakes and failing to spot errors in my teams work. They may seem like small things but in my industry these sort of mistakes can be deadly and just do not, will not, let me progress to the top no matter how technically brilliant I can be in other areas. At 36 I am near the end of the line to progress and I need to figure out how to remain just as productive whilst keeping the attention to detail and eliminate mistakes. I am basically desperate for a silver bullet.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      The Davis program is effective for adults as well as children; this is a short-term program so basically if you can spare a week of your time to work with a facilitator, you’d be well on your way to resolving or eliminating the mistakes and problems you are experiencing. Ron Davis made the discoveries that led to this program when he was age 38 — and his early research was with adults. You’ll find listings of facilitators here —

    • H. Pernet

      I would love to know how you managed your revision for Chartered Accountancy. My son’s dyslexia and resulting concentration problems make it very hard for him to revise for the ACA exams resulting in fails at Professional Level. He has just lost his training contract, and his firm does not understand the difficulties arising from dyslexia.

      • Fiona

        Hey H. Pernet, I’m also a dyslexic accounting trainee doing ACA. I’m really sorry that your son’s firm didn’t recognize his issue. I know the exams are pretty stressful and that really increases the chances of dyslexia creating an issue.
        I think the problem is trying to learn a “traditional” way won’t work as well. For understanding I went to class or just listened to videos and for exam prep I redid questions over and over. 1st couple of times I would follow on a solution and then I would do them blind and mark myself as hard as possible. I’ve always been pretty calm in exams, but I studied meditation as a kid. Hope your son gets back into it!

        • Ramesh

          Hi Fiona, thanks for the good feedback. I am just beginning to do do my ACA at professional level too and would love to connect with you on LinkedIn.

  • Tawanna J

    Hey everyone, I feel right at home , listening to you guys. I was in my 11 grad class, and we were testing ,all I put on the paper was my name, and the girl next me was laughing at me . She told everyone at our lunch table , all I had was my name on the paper. I felt so bad . That made my self-esteem so low . I struggled in the 12th grad too . Til this day , I believe my personality and Basketball got me through school. I finished school , but didn’t walk across the stage , because of summer school. I also had a at UDC in Washington D.C. , to play basketball , but I dropped out because I was a shame of my reading & writing . I Diagnose myself with dyslexia 2years ago , I’m now 60 years old female, and I’m still struggling with it, but not a shame anymore , because I ask (GOD) for wisdom & understanding y

  • Charles U

    I have dyslexia dysgraphia and attention deficit disorder. I was diagnosed in first grade. From 1 to 12 grade in special education classes and warehouse.
    I entered college that had special education services for students with learning disabilities. They were able to look beyond my grades.
    I was able to get a BA degree in photography and later an MFA
    (Master in fine art ) in photography.
    Unfortunately for the next 30 years, I have been underemployed was unable to find work in my field.
    I have suffered from depression and low self-esteem.
    I am unable to take phone messages, take notes or read street signs.
    I am using Grammarly.
    The only way I am writing this is that I am dictating to my phone and copying it.

    I have no sense of direction.

    At 58 still underemployed.

Leave a public question or comment:

If you need personal help or assistance please use our contact forms instead.

All comments are moderated. Comments that are not relevant to the page topic or which contain identifiable personal information will be removed.

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