The Truth About Dyslexia in Adults
Dyslexia isn’t just for kids. Learn the signs of dyslexia in adults, and what you can do to pursue a diagnosis for this common reading learning disability later in life.
Dyslexia is among the most common language-based learning disabilities, affecting reading, spelling, and information processing, affecting roughly 20 percent of the population. Dyslexia often occurs in combination with other conditions, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD), dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.1
Dyslexia is typically diagnosed when a child first goes to school and experiences difficulties with these skills. But as a lifelong condition, symptoms can and do persist into adulthood.
Dyslexia in adults, much as is the case in children, can manifest in different and unexpected ways. The symptoms of dyslexia in adults can make managing areas like careers and relationships difficult and lead to low self-esteem, especially if diagnosis and/or treatment was not pursued earlier on as a child.
What are the Signs of Dyslexia in Adults?
- Difficulty recalling past conversations; often accused of “not listening”
- Trouble remembering names
- Mispronouncing words when speaking, or misspelling words when writing, without realizing
- Confusing visually similar words like “can” and “cab”
- Avoiding reading whenever possible, or preferring short articles or essays over long novels
- Struggling to pronounce unknown words when reading out loud
- Reliant on spouse, children, or family members to help with written correspondence
- Getting lost easily, particularly with written directions
- Becoming self-conscious when speaking to a group; using filler words or starting and stopping sentences repeatedly
Dyslexia Symptoms in the Workplace
Often, adults with dyslexia (diagnosed or undiagnosed) may find that they gravitate toward jobs that require as little reading as possible. Other possible indicators of dyslexia in the workplace can include:
- Resisting reading out loud during meetings
- Avoiding public speaking whenever possible
- Often has to read emails or memos several times before comprehending
- Disliking unfamiliar fonts or handwritten materials
- Randomly placing capital letters in words when writing by hand
- Relying too much on spell-check and other computer-based writing tools
- Becoming bored or distracted easily when reading long documents
- Shying away from planning meetings, events, or other projects that rely on time management
- Disliking administrative work like repetitive forms
- Creating complex coping mechanisms to hide difficulties from coworkers
How is Dyslexia in Adults Treated?
Dyslexia treatment for adults, as with children, involves identifying and implementing accommodations and interventions to facilitate reading, writing, and other skills that are affected by dyslexia. There is no medication that can treat or cure dyslexia.
For people with co-occurring ADHD, treating their ADHD with medication can help with some symptoms of dyslexia.
Treatment for dyslexic adults typically focuses on workplace accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from discrimination for dyslexia, and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations.
Some interventions can include:
- Using assistive technologies, like dictation software
- Keeping written communications brief
- Using specific fonts in written documents
Adults with dyslexia can also benefit from reading and writing tutoring and programs if need be. Available programs include:
- Wilson Reading System
- Starting Over
Can I Be Evaluated for Dyslexia as an Adult?
If you think you have symptoms that align with dyslexia, it’s not too late to seek help — adult assessments are available.
Assessment involves testing competencies in phonological skills, reading fluency, spelling, writing, reading comprehension and more. While these skills are evaluated in children, evaluations for dyslexia in adults take longer to complete.2
Evaluations should be performed by a medical professional knowledgeable about language, speech, reading, spelling, and writing development. Professionals that can diagnose dyslexia include master’s level speech language pathologists certified by the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA), private psychologists, and learning disability specialists.
1 Pauc R. Comorbidity of dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and tourette’s syndrome in children: A prospective epidemiological study. Clinical Chiropractic. 2005;8:189–98. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1479235405000805?via%3Dihub