Most people with dyslexia are diagnosed in childhood, but the disorder can be overlooked and go untreated into adulthood, which can lead to a different set of symptoms and difficulties. There’s more to dyslexia than the common assumption that it just causes people to mirror or flip letters in their brains. Many other symptoms impact memory, attention, speech, and organization, making diagnosis more difficult because adults with these symptoms may never realize they might have dyslexia.
The longer the disorder goes undiagnosed and untreated, the longer adults with dyslexia have to struggle with symptoms for no reason. Here are some signs that you may have dyslexia and what you can do about it.
What is dyslexia?
Most people are probably somewhat familiar with the basics of what dyslexia is from television and film, where the disorder arises among the characters of Beverly Hills 90210 for Grey’s Anatomy. Like everything, there is some truth to the portrayal of dyslexia in entertainment and the media, but there is also more to the disorder.
“By definition, dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in learning to read and spell words. This is unexpected because other areas of learning and even other areas of reading (e.g. making inferences, understanding metaphors) may be good or even advanced,” said Dr. Rebecca Wisehart, aassociate pteacher and ac-wizardhair in ccommunicationsscience andisorders at St. John’s University. “It’s called a neurodevelopmental disorder because people with dyslexia are born with cortical differences that make learning to read and spell particularly difficult.”
How are diagnoses of dyslexia in adults different from diagnoses in children?
Dyslexic population estimates vary widely, from 5% to 20%. Part of this discrepancy comes from how psychologists’ unclear diagnoses of dyslexia in adults really are. The main diagnostic model for dyslexia is designed for and based on children, which can cause problems and confusion for adults who may have difficulty without knowing it. While reading and spelling difficulties might be a more obvious symptom in children with dyslexia, it’s more complicated to diagnose adults who have found ways to compensate for their deficits over the years..
Those who suspect they might have dyslexia, Wisehart says, “may have to go back to their school history for some classic early signs of dyslexia, such as slow or labored reading or surprisingly poor spelling. math (especially memorizing times tables) or handwriting are also common
She added that other signs of dyslexia were present from the start, including problems learning a second language, persistent typos or a lack of interest in reading for pleasure. What’s more, according to Wisehart, dyslexia is genetic, which means many adults don’t realize they have the disorder until their children are diagnosed.
What Dyslexia Symptoms Should Adults Look Out For?
While dyslexia is well known for affecting reading abilities, the most common symptom is actually related to speech. Phonological decoding refers to the ability to decode words and apply it to speech. Simply put, phonological decoding is all about pronouncing words correctly. This process, although unconscious and automatic, is disturbed by dyslexia. Research shows that people with dyslexia have reduced activity in certain parts of the brain, the two most notable being the parietal lobe – which is involved in description and understanding – as well as the occipital lobe, which is more related to the ability to see and read fluently. However, these are not the only areas of the brain that can be affected or, in turn, produce telltale symptoms. Further away to research suggests that people with dyslexia don’t have a distorted idea of how speech sounds form, but instead may have problems within their neural connections, which help us put together and produce sounds.
All this to say that dyslexia can affect a person in different ways. If you’re an adult and think you might have the disorder, here are notable symptoms you should look out for and consider asking a licensed professional:
- You confuse visually similar words (think label and gap)
- You read something “correctly” silently, but pronounce it out loud
- You have trouble concentrating
- You have trouble going through the words
- You have difficulty organizing your thoughts on paper
- You have to reread the paragraphs often to understand them.
- You make irregular spelling mistakes
- You confuse left and right or have trouble with spatial reasoning (like reading a map)
- You have difficulty remembering and retrieving words need to express
What happens after a diagnosis of adult dyslexia?
If you are diagnosed with dyslexia, there may be some relief, as with any diagnosis. You finally have an answer to why you’re having symptoms, and that’s great. The mystery is solved. Unfortunately, this relief also comes with a new kind of worry: what do you do now?
Here is some good news. Dyslexia, while not curable, is manageable. Dr. Tiffany Hogan, p.teacher at MGH Health Professionals Institutetold Lifehacker, “Adults with dyslexia often need to give themselves more time to read. Remember that listening to books on tape is still reading and may be more enjoyable for some adults with dyslexia. They will also want to check their spelling because your brain may not “see” spelling mistakes. Adults with dyslexia may worry about their reading difficulties.
Many adults with dyslexia will find other ways to cope, such as draw pictures or use charts and diagrams to help memorize information.
In a work or learning environment, schedule extra time and stay organized as best you can. When you’re already struggling with a learning disability, stress can be particularly detrimental and overwhelming. Identify your unique symptoms, then develop specialized and effective coping strategies around them.
There are also a few different services for adults to receive support and develop effective skills. According to Hogan, many of these services are also covered by health insurance. In addition, employers, by law, must provide accommodations for employees with dyslexia. A formal diagnosis may be needed for them to comply, so if you think you might be dyslexic and want an accommodation, see a professional as soon as possible. It can be difficult to find a licensed professional who can offer treatment for dyslexia, but there are a number of directories that filter by state, so start with the International Dyslexia Association and the Center for Effective Reading Instruction.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for a diagnosis. In addition to the fact that your employer or your institution will have to adapt to your disorder, you deserve the peace of mind of knowing what is causing your symptoms and the possibility of fixing your problems. It can be frustrating to struggle for no known reason, so a diagnosis will ease the burden of not understanding your own behavior or inabilities. Don’t forget that you are not alone in this situation…and discover some online communities for others who have been diagnosed.