How does dyslexia affect adults?

Dyslexia is the inability to relate the sounds of words with the letters that create the words. It’s considered a learning disability, but it has no relation to intelligence. It also has no relation to vision problems.

Adults with dyslexia have had it their entire lives, but it may not have been diagnosed. Having dyslexia as an adult can present some challenges that children with the same condition don’t experience.

There are three main types of dyslexia. Most people have all three types, usually at differing levels. These include:

  • Dysnemkinesia: This type involves motor skills. It also involves difficulty knowing how to make letters when writing. People with this type usually write letters backward.
  • Dysphonesia: This type involves listening or auditory skills. It also causes difficulty with pronouncing words or understanding unfamiliar words.
  • Dyseidesia: This type involves visual skills. It causes difficulty or an inability to know or understand written words. It also causes difficulty knowing words by sound.

Some symptoms of dyslexia in older children and adults include issues with:

  • reading
  • completing math problems
  • memorization
  • time management

Adults with dyslexia may also be unable to create a summary of a story they heard or read. You may also have trouble understanding jokes and idioms. Sometimes, issues with reading are not noticeable in adults with dyslexia, which is why the condition may not have been diagnosed during childhood.

In addition to these symptoms, other issues may interfere with daily functioning. Other signs that may point to adult dyslexia include:

  • having difficulty focusing on one task
  • avoiding meetings that are about planning
  • becoming overwhelmed if asked to fill out a lengthy form
  • overreacting to your mistakes
  • imposing strict rules on yourself
  • learning better visually or through hands-on experience
  • being easily affected by stress
  • having low self-esteem

Once your doctor has assessed the severity of your dyslexia, they’ll set up a treatment plan to help you manage your condition. A treatment plan could include:

  • training or tutoring to help improve reading skills, which is crucial for dyslexia at any age
  • occupational therapy to help you learn ways to work around and manage issues your dyslexia causes in the workplace
  • requesting accommodations from your workplace that are reasonable under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • requesting instructions be spoken instead of written
  • finding methods to help you learn and remember
  • additional training in subjects or tasks that make you uncomfortable

Technology can also be an important part of managing dyslexia, especially for a working adult. Some things that may help include:

  • recording meetings or important conversations to listen to again later if you missed important information
  • using speech-to-text apps and software so you don’t have to write or type everything
  • using organization apps or electronic organizers to help keep you on track and minimize distractions

General practice doctors usually don’t diagnose dyslexia. It’s not generally considered a medical or physical condition. A psychologist will do an assessment and make a diagnosis.

You can also find self-assessments online. While they may be able to alert you to a potential issue, they should not be your only assessment tool. Dyslexia in adults has many symptoms that usually require an in-person assessment with a psychologist.

There are several types of tests your doctor may run to determine the level or severity of your dyslexia. These tests may include:

  • vision test
  • hearing test
  • reading test
  • psychological tests
  • questionnaires about your lifestyle or work life

Other conditions and problems that are common in people who have dyslexia include:

Sometimes, symptoms of dyslexia can include low self-esteem and a tendency to be hard on yourself. It’s important to feel emotionally supported by those around you. Be proactive in setting up an environment with tools and resources that help you manage your dyslexia.

You may also want to attend a support group, either online or in person. Other adults going through the same experiences can often give you an emotional boost when you need it and provide resources, tools, and suggestions.