What Does Dyslexia Look Like in Adults?

Dyslexia isn’t just for kids. Learn the signs of this common reading learning disability in adults, and what you can do to pursue a diagnosis later in life.

A woman with ADHD reads a book, oblivious to any other obligations.
A woman with ADHD reads a book, oblivious to any other obligations.

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability — affecting up to 20 percent of the population — but that doesn’t mean it’s always properly diagnosed. Many children who struggle through school without a diagnosis grow up to become adults who don’t know they have dyslexia — even though the challenges it brings still affect their lives everyday.

Dyslexia can impact your career, your relationships, and your self-esteem, so if you’re struggling, it’s important that you pursue a diagnosis — and much-needed peace of mind. Check out these common symptoms of dyslexia — broken down between home and the workplace — to determine if your life-long challenges may be the result of a distinct learning disability.

Symptoms at Home

Dyslexia mostly affects reading, spelling, and how we process information — but those difficulties can pop up in unexpected ways. Some possible symptoms of dyslexia in your day-to-day life may include:

  • 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

Symptoms at Work

Often, adults with undiagnosed dyslexia 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

If you think you have symptoms that align with dyslexia, it’s not too late to seek help. Adult assessments are available, and simple accommodations can be put in place to make your challenges at work or at home easier to handle. And remember, dyslexia isn’t a moral failing — it’s simply a difference in the way your brain works.

“It’s important to view a disability as a difference,” says Dan Perdue, an adult with dyslexia. “I can write, I can read, [but] I do it differently than most people. My ideas come to me differently, so even if it’s a challenge, we can still achieve things in our own way.”

Updated on January 17, 2020

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