Dyslexia is sometimes called a hidden disability. It’s more common than you might think, but even as adults, many people don’t know they have it.
You might have struggled in school. And you may still find that reading is slow going, but you never had a name for what was wrong. If you do have dyslexia, it’s not something that came on as you got older. It’s been there all along, but nobody realized it.
Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes reading a challenge. There’s no connection between dyslexia and how smart you are. It’s just that your brain works a little differently, so it’s hard for you to make the connections between letters, words, and sounds.
Since reading impacts your ability to learn, dyslexia can affect you in school, at work, and in social settings. And that can take a toll on your mental well-being.
Although there’s no cure for dyslexia, it’s something you can learn to work with after you receive the appropriate training. Even if you’re an adult, it’s not too late to do something about it.
What Does Dyslexia Look Like in Adults?
In many ways, dyslexia isn’t so different for adults and kids. It can make it harder to:
- Do math
- Manage your time and meet deadlines
- Memorize facts and things like phone numbers
- Read to yourself quietly or out loud
- Understand jokes or sayings where words don’t have their usual meaning, such as “raining cats and dogs”
- Take good notes
- Write essays and reports
Because of this, you may find that you:
- Avoid reading and writing
- Feel like the right word is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t get at it
- Find that dull office work that involves repeating the same tasks over and over is really hard to get done
- Get anxious or use lots of fillers, like “um,” when you talk
- Have a really hard time when you need to respond on the spot
- Hide that you have trouble reading and writing
- Know a lot about a topic, but can’t seem to put what you know into writing
How Can I Manage Dyslexia?
If these symptoms sound like you, there’s a lot you can do to make your life a little easier:
Get tested. If you think you have dyslexia, but aren’t sure, you can get tested for it. Dyslexia isn’t a medical problem, so it’s not as simple as going to your pediatrician or internist for a quick test. Still, you can ask your doctor for advice on where and how to get tested. You can also check with:
- A speech therapist
- Hospitals or health clinics that are tied to universities
- Psychologists (psych departments at local universities or colleges)
- Education departments
Use technology. In some cases, technology can help you get things done faster and easier. For example:
- Calendars, organizers, and reminders on your phone or computer might be easier to use than paper ones.
- Many web browsers and word processors will read what’s on the screen out loud to you. This is called text-to-speech. Some computers also have this function built into the operating system. Check your computer’s accessibility features to find out.
- Speech-recognition software turns your spoken words into text so you can speak instead of typing.
- Word processing programs -- Microsoft Word, for example -- correct spelling and other writing mistakes for you.
- Audible books/books on tape don't require reading.
Take in information in a few different ways. When you have dyslexia, it can help to try more than one way to take in info. For example, you could record a work meeting and take notes during it. That way you can use your eyes and your ears -- you have written notes you can read and a recording you can listen along to.
You might also want to use “mind mapping” instead of written lists. Mind maps give you a different way to organize information. Instead of just a list of words, you use images and keywords to help you see details and connections.
Break big tasks into small steps. If you have a big school or work project, try to break it down into smaller pieces right from the start. When you do this up front, you give yourself space to see how and when you can get everything done. You might even put a calendar on a giant sticky note or whiteboard to make it easier to see everything.
Talk to your school or employer. Dyslexia is a disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), schools and workplaces have to make reasonable changes to help you succeed. It’s the law. For example, they may:
- Allow extra time for tasks that are especially hard for you.
- Give you information in a way that’s most useful to you. That could mean telling you directions instead of writing them down. Or emailing them instead of printing them so you can use text-to-speech on your computer.
- Provide you with technology that helps you get your work done, like voice recorders or speech recognition software.
- Provide support or guidance for classes on managing dyslexia.