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Characteristics in Adults

These characteristics can vary from day-to-day, or minute-to-minute. The most consistent thing about them is their inconsistency.


  • Employed in areas that emphasize use of visual imagery. (Entrepreneurs, engineers, tradesmen, artists, executives, ITs, salesmen or athletes.)

  • Difficulty focusing on the task at hand: may excel at multitasking.

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  • Has difficulty with or is stressed by organizing meetings or events.

  • Inability to follow-through, finish tasks or consistently hold a job.

  • Unable to advance in the workplace due to a fear of, or inability to complete written exams.


  • Experiences headaches, stomach aches or stress while reading.

  • Confused by letters, numbers, words or sequences.

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  • Unaware that reading or writing shows repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words.

  • Proof-reading is ineffective.

  • Extremely good vision, observant, or lacks depth perception or peripheral vision. 

  • Avoids reading aloud; finds silent reading easier.

  • Needs to reread information several times in order to comprehend.

  • Gets tired or bored easily from reading.


  • Trouble with writing or copying, pencil grip is unusual, hand cramps up, handwriting varies or is illegible.

  • Poor spelling; relies on “spell-check” before sending emails, memos or documents.

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  • Difficulty filling out forms.

  • Uses only capitals letters or mixes upper case and lower case when writing; combines cursive and print; frequently abbreviates words.

  • May alter word choice when writing – to avoid spelling mistakes.



  • Difficulty with North, East, South and West

  • Reading a map

  • Confuses left and right.


  • Appears to hear things not said or apparent to others; argues frequently; often accused of “not listening.”

  • Difficulty putting thoughts into words, stutters under stress, mispronounces long words, or transposes phrases, words and syllables when speaking.

  • Easily distracted or frustrated by sounds when trying to focus.



  • Withdrawn or fearful of social situations which are out of their “comfort zone.”

  • May be loud, boisterous, inappropriate or offensive in social situations.

  • Unaware of others or very empathetic of others.


  • Has difficulty managing time: consistently late or too early, difficulty predicting how long a task may take.

  • Dependent on finger counting, calculators and other math tricks.

  • Difficulty counting objects or dealing with money.

  • May show exceptional talent in math.




  • Clumsy (need to hold onto a handrail when descending stairs, difficulty throwing accurately, inability to stand on one foot)

  • Prone to motion sickness.

  • Above average athletic ability.


  • Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, faces and specialized areas of interest.

  • Poor memory for sequences, names, facts and information that has not been experienced.

  • Thinks primarily with images and feeling, not sounds or words.

  • Skilled at problem-solving – may have an answer well before others.




  • Extremely disorderly (loses keys, glasses, etc.) or compulsively orderly.

  • Fussy eaters or sensitive to foods, additives or chemical products.

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  • Difficulty adjusting to changes in routine; follows a strict set of “rules” for self-management.

  • May be an extra deep or light sleeper.

  • Extremely high or low tolerance for pain.

  • Strong sense of justice, emotionally sensitive, strives for perfection; may over-react when making a mistake.

  • Enjoys video games.

  • Reliance on others in areas of writing, organization, book-keeping (spouse, secretary, etc.)

  • Easily frustrated, stressed or overwhelmed – resulting in annoyance, anger or emotional outbursts.

Used with Permission. Stacey Smith. (2009) “Adult Characteristics of Dyslexia.”  Rocky Point Academy.

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