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Dyslexia in Adults: Help With Difficulties, Professional Assessment, Contacts for Advice, Self-help, How to Cope

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Ann is a retired teacher of literacy and EFL (English as a foreign language) to multi-national and dyslexic students, having a DipSpLD.

If you are dyslexic, please ask a trusted friend or family member to read this with or for you. It is intended to help you deal with reading and writing difficulties.

Help for dyslexic children and students is widely available these days, if sometimes slow in materialising! There are contacts and advice available for parents; schools and experts can provide assessments. However........

I've had enough of this

I've had enough of this

What about Adult Dyslexics?

An adult with reading/writing difficulties is not so well catered for and has added problems:

  • difficulties have not been recognised in school, so no support
  • this affects their working lives & self-esteem, even to the point of suicide
  • they feel abandoned, lonely, left to struggle, desperate
  • they might not even know they’re dyslexic; they’ve just been labelled slow, lazy...

Just knowing that the problem has a name and that support is available can be a breakthrough! It can be totally life-changing.

Dyslexic yourself? Know someone who is?

Either way, I'm hoping the following will help.

Points to Remember

Remember! If you are an adult with reading and/or writing difficulties -

  • it is NOT your fault
  • you are no less important to your family or to society - you have skills & talents
  • there is help out there - contacts & associations for information & advice
  • there are simple screening tests for analysis
  • there are ways to help you cope; self-help and adult literacy projects
  • talk to a good friend about it - s/he might help you - most people already know a dyslexic
  • don’t be afraid to seek advice or help
  • writing can be done by others - spelling can be done by a spellchecker
  • reading CAN improve

Let’s look at those points one at a time.

All this in a few seconds?!

All this in a few seconds?!


It's Not Your Fault

Our society is based on literacy. It is tough, very tough, extremely tough, if you have to fight your way through the day trying to cope with reading difficulties.

I don't mean reading newspapers, magazines or fiction. I’m talking about

  • shop signs,
  • road signs,
  • bus timetables,
  • information at a station,
  • danger signs!
  • not to mention office memos, emails, order sheets..........
Scroll to Continue

Look around! How many examples of written information exist

  • in your house,
  • in your street,
  • when you go out and about,
  • when you travel.

How much paperwork do you deal with at work? How much information are you required to write down - taking notes, info on the phone, memos to others....?

It's not your fault society is this way, neither is your distribution of genes. For that is what makes you dyslexic; it's usually hereditary. It is possible to acquire dyslexia (through an accident, head trauma and the like) though this is a much less common cause.

The easiest way to think of dyslexia is as if it’s a wiring circuit in your head - the circuit is wired slightly differently to those who are not dyslexic. The wiring affects the paths which information goes down when it is processed; it might take a longer way round, it might take a totally different route, but it gets there eventually.

Here's the process:

  • Information is provided -
  • you take it in by listening or reading -
  • you process it -
  • it goes into your short-term memory.
  • to get into long-term memory information has to be ‘rehearsed’, to be read or listened to again and again, for it to stick. A good way to remember information is to discuss it or pass it on to someone else.

You Have Skills and Talents

Ok, so reading isn’t your thing. I bet you can do other things really well!

  • Can you make things?
  • Do you have brilliant ideas?
  • Can you draw or paint?
  • Can you design well?
  • Are you good at decorating or building?
  • Do you have good social skills?

Your family love you. You may have a spouse and children; they love you. You are good at being a spouse, a parent, a friend. What’s more important - being able to read or having a loving family and friends? Yes, reading would be good but someone is there to help and support you.

Celebrate those things which you CAN do. This is your self-worth, your self-esteem and you deserve it.

(Give yourself points for what you CAN do - give yourself a treat or reward for every 2, or 5, or 10 points.)

Who can Help You?

There are associations which have information and advice to help you. In Britain there is the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) and Dyslexia Action. There are also sites for the USA and other countries. See below for these links.

There are also local groups who might be able to help. The BDA have a list of local associations. In some areas there are drop-ins (like Taunton every first Saturday of the month - see SDA below). Local colleges usually have Adult Literacy classes or, if you want individual attention there is usually a list of tutors at your local dyslexia associations.

Don’t underestimate the value of family and friends. You can actually make it fun to look at words together and I bet you’ll find they make mistakes too!


Screening Tests and Assessments

It helps to know:

  • any family history of dyslexia or
  • details regarding your birth, such as any complications, and
  • early development, such as whether you had difficulty tying shoelaces, were late walking, or maybe regularly mis-pronounced words
  • if you have difficulties in areas like Maths, coordination and motor skills (fine skills such as ease of holding a pen, writing legibly, control of movements).

There is a simple list of questions you can start with, on the BDA site, which can give you an indication of dyslexia.

Go to:

then either: click the ‘Dyslexia Test’ option on the top line

or: click on the ‘About Dyslexia’ option, then ‘Adults & Employment’ then ‘Adult Checklist’ in the left column

If you have any difficulty reading or negotiating the site, then ask a trusted friend or family member to help to read it with you.

Should you find that the term ‘dyslexic’ seems to apply to you, then a more in-depth assessment might suit you, depending on how much help you need, for example, if you need to obtain a grant to help you.

The main grant in England is what’s called (rather contentiously, I think) the ‘Disabled Students’ Grant’. It does, however, mean that you can apply for money to help with any studies - for equipment, travel expenses and the like. I have been surprised that many people do not know it exists; unfortunately it’s not widely publicised. It does take a while to have an assessment and apply for the grant but if you need it, go for it! There are various other grants available about which the BDA or your local association can advise you.

Self Help

If you want to raise your reading ability,

  • look carefully at any words you're not sure about,
  • take off any common endings like ‘-ing’ or ‘-ed’ or ‘ly’ and
  • see what you do recognise within the words,
  • e.g. hidden = hid / den; surround = sur / round; carpenter = car / pen / ter.

In fact, sometimes the longer words are easier than the short ones - more clues!

The ending ‘-tion’ (pronounced ‘shun’ or ‘shn’) is a common one and once you know the sound/letters link you can cope with this one.

Also ‘-ise/-ize’ is always ‘eyes’, or, for spelling, 'I See Everything', using initial letters.


There are many endings (suffixes) which can be ignored in search of the main or root word, then put back when you’ve worked out the rest. The most common after those above are: -ment, -ture (cher), -age (ij), -(s)sion (also ‘shn).

If you see ‘-ier’, then chances are that the ‘i’ has been changed from a ‘y’ when adding the ‘er’.

For example, ‘easier’ - take off the ‘er’, (easi) change the ‘i’ to ‘y’ = easy; prettier > pretti > pretty.

This all boils down to finding the 'root' word which others are built on. Once you get used to one pattern, then move on to another, and so on. Each time you conquer one, your confidence will improve, then you’re off!

Slowly but Surely

Don't expect to read a novel right away! Choose magazines about subjects that really interest you - gardening, cars, wildlife, DIY, etc. You will already know lots of the vocabulary which goes with your subject, so you know what’s coming. You can fit the words into what you expect which makes it much easier.

If you want to challenge yourself with fiction, choose a short story to begin with, again about something which appeals to you. This might sound obvious but so many people just pick up a book, tackle it, find it too difficult or boring, lose confidence and give up. To help decide if a book is at the right level for you, use the Fogg test (see link below).

How did you learn as a child? You stood up first, took a few steps, got your balance, then tried more and more. Don’t expect to fly before you can walk through the process! However, remember that you will fly as far as you want to go.

Dictation, Spell-checkers, Proof-reading, Voice-actived Software

If you need to write, let’s say, reports for work and you have the luxury of a secretary, then you can dictate your words which are then typed up for you.

If left to your own devices, use a PC and just write what you want to say without bothering about the spelling. Most people spell, if not correctly, phonetically which is usually understandable to others. Someone else can then proof-read and correct the spelling as necessary.

If you have no-one else to do this, there is voice-activated software which requires a little time to set up and learn but means that you can produce text yourself. If you are required to do this in the workplace, then companies should be dyslexia friendly these days and so should provide the software for you - I bet you wouldn’t be the only one, even in an office of up to only 20 people. Go to any of the dyslexia sites links below for advice on software or just put 'voice activated software' into search.

Suffix '-ise': I See Everything!



To Improve your Long-term Memory

Play games:

  • Kim's Game - get someone to set out 10 objects on a tray, covered; uncover for 1 minute, recover, then see if you can remember all 10. An alternative is - recover, the other person takes away one object, uncover and you have to say which one has gone.
  • chinese whispers - a short message is whispered into someone's ear, repeated to the next person and so on, then the last person says out loud whatever message has been received - it can be hilarious, but the object for you is to get it as accurate as possible so be the recipient more than once in each round
  • find rhyming words - use beats and music - this helps visual & aural memory
  • ‘I went to the market and bought....’ ; the first person names an object for a shopping list, the second says that object, then another of his/her own choice, the third repeats those two plus another, and so on. You're out if you forget one. The longer you can keep it going, the more likely you are to win!
  • practise ‘chunking’ phone numbers, e.g. 063498124356 becomes 06 34 98 12 43 56 - get someone to test you or play the game and see who can remember it first - extend this game to see who can remember it after a few hours or even the next day!
  • when you’ve done that, you can practise ‘chunking’ letters in words, though sometimes this needs to be done in letter-sound chunks, e.g. shelf - sh el f; adventure - ad ven ture
  • Pairs, or pelmanism - duplicated letters, words or pictures, placed them face down on a surface, 2 turned over by each person and kept if they are identical, or replaced in exactly the same place if they don't match - the object is to remember where they are, to gain as many pairs as possible; the winner is the one with the most pairs. This helps spatial awareness too.

Give yourself treats or rewards for each session of work - you deserve it!

Professional help will mean faster progress (you can still use the above to practise) and there are adult literacy classes or private tutors all over the country.

Kim's Game

Kim's Game

Pairs or Pelmanism - Keep the pairs you match

Pairs or Pelmanism - Keep the pairs you match


  • celebrate your skills and interests
  • be open and practical about your dyslexia - others will be interested and sympathetic (if they’re not, they’re not worth being with!)
  • ask work or college to support you
  • exercise your memory
  • find recognisable parts of words and build on your growing reading knowledge

This might take quite a time and involve some professional help but persevere! Nothing comes without hard work but the reward will be worth it.

Good Luck!

Take Part in a Survey

Help & Sources

  • Dyslexia USA, Dyslexia America

    Dyslexia USA America - For everyone with an interest in dyslexia: dyslexia testing and assessment in USA America; resources and organizations in USA United States of America

  • Fogg's test of readability

© 2012 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 16, 2013:

Hello again jcressler! Fortunately I didn't have to do too much research for this one; it's what I trained for and what I've done for years, though I'm always looking at alternative ways to teach all ages.

As to your reversing words/numbers, this can happen due to accidents (eg car accidents or bumps on the head) or it can be due to some other trauma and is called 'acquired dyslexia'. It doesn't mean that's what you've got though. It could be just tiredness or distraction; if it bothers you, try monitoring it and see when it happens. If it only happens when you're writing down, then maybe your mind is way ahead of your pen - easy to solve with proof-reading which we all should do of course. Reading your work, I doubt very much that you have any problems!

James E Cressler from Orlando, Florida on February 16, 2013:

Ann another well researched and interesting article. I have noticed now that I'm in my mid-fifties that words to come out backwards. I read correctly, but what comes out on a keyboard or especially an algebra formula routinely is reversed. I wonder about it as it never happened before my middle age.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on October 01, 2012:

Hello Rebecca. Thank you so much for leaving your interesting comments. I believe your dyslexia is greatly influenced by your diet as you say, though is probably there to some degree despite it. Do you have dyslexics in the family? You have a valuable story which is worth sharing in more detail. It would be worth joining hubpages and writing a hub about it, as I'm sure there are others who would benefit from your experience and knowledge. I'm keen to hear more about your 'journey'. Thanks for reading my hub and taking the time to share your experiences and thoughts. I hope to hear more from you. Ann

rebecca on September 30, 2012:

Im 37 and just diagnosed myself with dyslexia. i finished my second ever book by a dr amen change your brain your life which was only successfully read from start to finish due to my change in diet. i have worked in accounting for 15 years and stayed completely away from words where possible. I don't like accounting it is just something that comes easy to me. i have typed since i was 11. in school i would always hate handwritting my writing was always in print and it would looka mess. i would re-write out again and again. Never could i read a book without making up words or forgetting everything i just read. my fiancé tells me to sound out the word which is difficult as i can't say it correctly. my new diet is thanks to dr max gerson and the free youtube documentary ‘the beautiful truth‘. I also give thanks to dr daniel amen m.d. for learning how the brain works and diagnosing myself with A.D.D. many peoplewith A.D.D. are sensitive to foods they eat. i want to be a nutritionist specialising in the world of fertility. its extremely important for me to spell..and not make up words as i read them. nowmy otitis media problems as a child no doubt hindered my dyslexia. Which i personally believe all is related to diet. From a child i have had bad breath not due to dentil hygene but to my liver not working thus malnutricain to my brain!!! I have taken this seriously and started my coffee enimas to get my liver working and n-acetylc cystein suppliments to help stimulate brain cells. i learnt that juicing veggies and fruits daily enters the blood stream almost as quick as alcohol. My diet is changing my brain im becoming smarter :) i can feel the cells working and im not so foggy up there which i was told by doctors is normal its not! My panic attacks of anxiety are dramatically improved which means i will be able to go back to work. I want to share my experience that threw diet im am changing my brain which is changing my life:)

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 13, 2012:

Hello Ronnie, Interesting to hear your story. It's quite a common one. Brilliant that you excelled at those things! Yes, some good teachers understand well and can make a huge difference. Hubs seem to have a spell checker but that's about all as far as I know; I could be wrong as I'm still feeling my way around all the facilities! Thanks for your valuable contribution.

R. J. Lefebvre on February 12, 2012:


Thanks for your hub, its very revealing. I did not realize I had this problem until my teanage sons began showing problems in high school. I learned they were having the same problems ie, spelling, reading, writing, etc. On the other hand they performed quite well as creative thinkers, they just turned 40 years old and working quite well, except some difficulty reading, writing and spelling.

I recall when I was young (appx 3rd or 4th grade) when my teacher asked me to draw a seen on the chaulk board, with many colors while she taught class. I amazed myself, the class, and the adults. When I was in the 5th or 6th grade a fellow student and I passed a science test in the high 90s while the remainder of the class failed, or barely earned a C. Apparently I did not realize my differences until my sons lived through some of the same. I can not write without my electronic dictionary & thesaurus; am I right to say hubpages has none? The teachers that made a difference for me were about less than a dozen, I appreciated them emensly. Some one is waiting on me, got to go!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 11, 2012:

The Tomatis therapy is more relevant to those with language disorder due to listening difficulties and speech disorders. However, there is often an overlap with dyslexia so this can be favourable to all.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on February 11, 2012:

Thank you billlybuc for your comments. Glad you found it useful.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 11, 2012:

I can't even imagine how difficult this must be for someone with this affliction; great hub and it really raised my awareness.

Charles James from Portugal on February 11, 2012:

I strongly suggest you investigate Tomatis therapy which is widely available in France and in some UK locations.

I have seen it work. I know it has beren used on clients over 80 years old.

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