Dyslexia in adults: common characteristics and symptoms

Specific learning disorders make it difficult for affected children to face academic tasks; where they must learn to read, write and calculate to meet the first challenges posed by the education system.

Such child problems can generate profound consequences on an emotional level if they are not detected in time or intervened by a multidisciplinary team, reaching an extended age until adulthood (but transforming as demands change).

In this article we will discuss how dyslexia is expressed in adults , one of the most frequent diagnoses of this category, and how it conditions work or other relevant areas of their life (family, friendship, etc.).

Dyslexia in adults

Dyslexia is a disorder that usually begins during childhood (evolutionary subtype), although sometimes it debuts at later times in life (acquired subtype) as a result of severe head trauma or a stroke. At the clinical level it is expressed as a difficulty limited to reading and / or writing (omission, addition or substitution of letters), although sometimes problems also occur in mathematical calculation (dyscalculia).

Three specific types of dyslexia have been identified : phonological (difficulty in reading long, novel, infrequent or pseudo-words), superficial (good reading of pseudo-words but with a tendency to make mistakes by omission / substitution of letters and by confusion of homophonic words ) and deep (involvement of the phonological and visual pathways, with errors in function words, semantic errors and problems in reading pseudowords).

Next we will see the main symptoms that can occur in adults with dyslexia, many of which are usually an extension of those that were lived during childhood (in evolutionary dyslexias). It is essential to keep in mind that in many cases the diagnosis was not received in childhood .

1. Labor difficulties

One of the usual problems in adults with dyslexia is the difficulty in adapting to jobs that require a significant administrative burden . It makes explicit the preference for those positions oriented to manual / automated activities, as opposed to those that require greater attention to multiple demands or the writing of texts with which to remedy bureaucratic demands of the company.

It is for this reason that many times they fear promotions in which the responsibility can oscillate from one to the other side, since an enormous distrust towards their own abilities is usually established when they involve reading or composing texts. This situation can lead to the loss of opportunities for internal promotion, with which they would improve their quality of life and receive rewarded efforts in their career.

2. Problems of self-esteem

Adults with dyslexia usually have significant erosion of self-esteem associated with poor performance in various tasks , which is accentuated in cases in which a diagnosis was not received during childhood. This is due to the fact that, when the problem has been detected in time, errors are usually attributed to the learning disorder itself and not to other causes that could compromise the image itself (limited intelligence, laziness, etc.).

Some adults with dyslexia had to endure teasing from their peers for having difficulty reading or writing correctly, and there are even cases in which teachers contributed to the decline in children’s perception of themselves and their ability (due to ignorance of disorders that may affect learning ability). These experiences of shame, primitive at the time of life in which they took place, can cause the adult to question their intelligence and grow among insecurities that negatively shape their self-esteem.

The situation paves the way for mood and anxiety disorders, as has been consistently found in scientific studies on this point. These comorbidities, as we saw, are more common among adults with dyslexia who never received a diagnosis throughout childhood.

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3. Difficulty reading

Adults with dyslexia have difficulty reading, as they often say that the letters seem to “move or even vibrate”, compromising the understanding of more or less long texts (the person would “skip” some line or even repeat the one just read) . All this is accentuated when the typography or color of letters and words alternates . In fact, they usually have a clear preference for sans serif-type spellings (which use the most elementary strokes, without frills or ornaments).

The pace of reading is also altered, both “loudly” and mentally , so they require more time than the average number of people to study a document. Clumsiness may appear during pronunciation, so that the syllables that make up each word (altering fluency) are excessively accentuated and punctuation marks are ignored or exaggerated. It is an erratic and forced reading, which requires the investment of so many resources that limits the ability to remember what has been read.

It is very common for the person to resort to rereading passages or paragraphs that he had previously reviewed; especially when they contain technicalities, neologisms, foreigners, polysyllables or infrequent words. All this implies that it is particularly difficult to extract the central idea from any more or less broad text, as well as separate what is relevant from what is not. Writing a summary is usually an unapproachable challenge for people suffering from severe cases of dyslexia.

A last difficulty that is usually detected in reading refers to problems in knowing how the sound of certain letters is articulated based on grammar rules . For example, the letter “c” can be pronounced soft (plot) or strong (rock), depending on the vowel it accompanies (“e” or “i” in the first case and “a”, “o” or “U” in the second). There may be a difficulty in choosing the most suitable sound automatically during reading.

4. Absence of reading habit

Most adults with dyslexia report significant reading difficulties, as this is the nuclear symptom of the disorder. Many indicate that the problem dates back to the first years of life , although no diagnosis or evaluation will be carried out. That is why they could never consolidate a reading habit, preferring activities that could arise spontaneously and without much conscious effort. That is, recreational activities that will not represent a fight against adversity itself.

Very rarely literature is a hobby of the dyslexic adult, who prefers short texts to long novels or convoluted plot. This fact is not related at all to the ability to understand the information , but is associated with the format through which it is recorded and accessed by the nervous system for further processing. The reception of the same data through auditory channels, or in the form of images, is remembered more accurately and for a longer time.

5. Problems in written communication

People with dyslexia have problems at the time of writing, doing it generally in a slow way and using a calligraphy that lacks aesthetic sense. Many times there is confusion in the stroke of the letters whose shape is very similar or has a mirror relationship (such as “d” and “b” or “q” and “p”), which can also happen in their reading (especially when they are isolated and not as part of words). This slowness in writing makes the writing of texts perceived as a laborious or impossible task.

Adults with dyslexia may experience difficulties when copying dictation, that is, by listening and writing simultaneously . This phenomenon is due to the fact that language processing requires such a high volume of cognitive resources that divided attention cannot be managed when several verbal stimuli compete with each other (writing, listening and / or reading at the same time and correctly ). This phenomenon is evident in childhood, in dictation tasks that take place in the academic context.

Finally, spelling is also frequently affected (especially deaf or similarly sounding letters when pronounced). Often you can detect in your written products the omission of words within phrases, or even letters within words, making reading and comprehension difficult. It is common that, if they have the need to write in the workplace, these errors motivate the complaints of colleagues.

6. Difficulty in discrimination left / right

Many people with dyslexia, being adults, have difficulty identifying quickly (without much thought) which of the two sides of their body is the left and which is the right, or on which of these two sides is an object relative to a central point.

The symptom does not occur in all cases or with the same severity , nor is it exclusive to people with dyslexia. Only in a very exceptional way can the sense of “above” and “below” be compromised, which happens in cases where spatial vision is profoundly altered (orientation, understanding of maps, etc.).

There are also studies that have detected that people with dyslexia usually process verbal stimuli that occur in the left half of their perceptual field more slowly than readers without this disorder (approximately 15 milliseconds). All this suggests a hypofunction of the parietal lobe of the right hemisphere, since we must remember that the detection of stimuli in any hemisphere is processed contralaterally.

7. Problems in oral communication

Most adults with dyslexia communicate verbally without difficulty, but there is a percentage of them in which problems also occur in this area. The most common are the delay in responding to the questions asked (as if they were thinking what they are going to say too long) and the reluctance to speak in public.

This last impediment is usually the result of an emotional conflict caused by the teasing of classmates when reading aloud.

The recitation of poetry is especially difficult for adults with dyslexia, especially when it requires improvisation , as they have trouble finding rhyming or consonant rhymes. This is accentuated by the fact that the last syllables of the words are the most difficult to pronounce correctly, but also the most relevant to give a poem a metric sense.

The beauty of a verbal stimulus (which is the object of poetry) is relegated to a second order of importance in contrast to formal aspects.

  • You may be interested: ” The 28 types of communication and their characteristics “

8. Sequential planning problems

Adults with dyslexia have trouble organizing information sequentially, that is, to baste the fragments of a verbal discourse serially. Instead they usually make non-linear assessments that contemplate the entire message, which contributes to the presentation of unconventional mental processing strategies , which have often been described in the literature as a potential strong point in dyslexics (creativity , divergent thinking or reasoning “out of the box”).

However, such difficulty in sequencing can have some negative consequences on everyday life, namely: forgetting appointments (which is usually part of what has come to be called prospective memory, but it really is an executive function), problems to understand several instructions at once (divided attention) and disorganization (since there is difficulty in prioritizing and prioritizing tasks).

9. Attention problems

Attention problems are common in adults with dyslexia, and are often referred to as an inability to maintain prolonged focus or a substantial distraction .

It is also pointed out that irrelevant stimuli attract too much attention, so it becomes difficult to dedicate a sustained effort to a message if it competes with many verbal stimuli at the same time (such as in a cafeteria where many voices are heard around) .

10. Prevalence of visual skills

People with dyslexia may discover over time that they process verbal information better when they manage to structure it through schemas or other resources that endow it with visual nuances, and also evoke images more accurately than words. This makes them remember others more easily by their face than by their name , and it costs them to learn new concepts.

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