Dyslexia Test for Adults – Dyslexia, ADHD, ADD or Something Else?

Oct 7, 2020 | About Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyslexia Adults

Dyslexia Test for Adults

What is it that leads someone to decide they need a dyslexia test as an adult?

Typically, an adult may question if they could be dyslexic if they can read but they find themselves going over sentences several times to make sense of them. Or maybe they are a poor speller and find it hard to focus. They have usually struggled throughout school and their lack of confidence may have led them to make poor choices in life. But the trigger to investigate further whether they are dyslexic and what can be done about it, is often when they start to feel increased frustration and a lack of confidence when performing their job or their role as a parent. 

Across their life, other questions emerge from a variety of additional sensitivities, coping issues, mental states and physical side effects that they seldom link to a learning disability (not a word I would use, but is currently used a lot in mainstream).

During an adult dyslexia test, when the answer to some questions may point to issues other than dyslexia, or are additional to dyslexia, I have found that there are murky boundaries for people to navigate. 

Is it Beneficial to “Label” an Adult as Dyslexic?

Is it important to add a defining label to one’s challenges?

Possibly not, especially if there is no need or desire to change anything. 

However, if an adult makes the effort to seek help or clarity, there often is enough motivation to do something about it. In order to find the proper path to a changed outcome, it is beneficial to know and recognise patterns that point to different channels of solutions.

But identifying dyslexia in adults is not clear cut in an assessment as I will highlight by a few examples.

Maria was 35 when she came to me wanting to know if she was dyslexic. She was bright and creative, ambitious to have her own online business, but also juggled a family with four young children and a part-time job, helping in her husband’s workshop.

She wanted to know if her challenges to read the information for her course and insecurity when writing emails (apart from taking one hour for each short email) were part of dyslexia. And she wanted to know what could help her find things easier. 

Maria’s creativity and visual learning style all pointed to a diagnosis of dyslexia. On the phone, before she came to see me for a dyslexia assessment, I had the impression that Maria would be a clear-cut dyslexic individual. I thought from our discussion that correcting the dyslexia could be done with a program for visual learners – rather than focusing on phonics which she said had driven her crazy at school.

However, when we met for the dyslexia assessment, there was another side emerging that was beyond the questions that I asked which pointed to hyperactivity (ADHD) as a main driver. Hyperactivity and/or ADD (attention deficit disorder, without hyperactivity) can not only masquerade as dyslexia, but be the driving force.

Dyslexia Test for Adults

Hyperactivity and/or ADD (attention deficit disorder, without hyperactivity) can not only masquerade as dyslexia, but be the driving force.

How ADHD and ADD Can Appear in a Dyslexia Test for Adults

With dyslexia, there usually is no issue around attention problems until the written word is introduced. In other words, bright creative young people, even if they are quite active in childhood, don’t show any signs of a short attention span, until they reach kindergarten or school. Then the confusion sets in. 

Being mostly visual or tactile learners, the words they are first introduced to (two-letter words like in, to, by, so) don’t have a clear picture. Actually, the majority of words they read are ‘abstract’ words. Comprehension becomes guessing work and being very smart, they often make sense of reading by checking with the accompanying picture. Once chapter books are read, they become stuck and increasingly frustrated.

Now Mary was different. Even at and before preschool, she was fast and had a sharp and very active mind and the active body to match. Her attention was everywhere and she didn’t miss any detail in her environment. There is a different brain activity already in childhood, dopamine levels are high and when a hyperactive child starts school and is asked to sit at a desk and not move for extended periods, they actually feel sick. So even moving their feet, clicking a pen, scribbling or texting is a relief for them. 

Being at school, these fast minds are missing information with the short attention span, often keen to be sent out of class on errands or as a punishment. 

Like in Mary’s case, that resulted in dyslexia-like symptoms and other poor learning habits. Being a visual learner, Mary would still benefit from a dyslexia correction program – but not straight away.

Without giving Mary the tools to slow down her brain just enough to process information in a more linear way, thereby having access to both sides of the brain and making literacy much easier, the journey would be too hard to walk and to maintain. 

Additionally, there are concepts that are fundamental to navigating the slower pace of life in areas such as literacy, social interactions, understanding maths and maintaining the transformation of these smart individuals like Mary are seeking.

Without concepts such as ‘change’, ‘consequence’, ‘time’ etc there will be a lack of foundation to build a new structure that will stand the test of time. So these areas would be where the focus would be first placed to create new learning pathways.

Aspergers May Also Appear as Dyslexia

Other adults have shown signs of Asperger Syndrome during an assessment, a totally different bag of issues to those of Mary. I would not want to or try to add an AS (Autism Spectrum) label on anyone – and showing some signs and sensitivities are really not enough of an indicator. Dyslexia is sometimes, but not always, present with these highly intelligent and sensitive souls. 

They too need concepts and focusing tools to ground them into their body and help them to cope with sensitivities, especially around noise.

Indicators of Dyslexia in Adults – A Basic Dyslexia Test for Adults

These examples show that dyslexia tests and assessments are not clear cut in showing if someone has dyslexia. I’ve found that for adults  who want to know if they are ‘purely’ dyslexic, the following characteristics are a good indicator. Nobody will display all of them, but usually, even if only 10 of them apply to you, chances are that you may be dyslexic.

These characteristics are often inconsistent, and vary depending upon the day or situation and there is often a misconception that if someone can do something one day, but not the next, they cannot be dyslexic. Yet, that is one of the signs of dyslexia. In a state of orientation, focus is easier and a task like reading can be maintained, at least for a while. But confusion or frustrations throws their mind off-course and creates disorientation. It makes perception alter and mistakes much more common. 

There are two lists below. Click on each tab and review each item. Tick each one that applies to you:

  • Work at a job that will hide your difficulties or doesn’t require a lot of reading and writing.
  • Work in a higher position that requires a secretary to write etc.
  • Hide literacy difficulties from your colleagues, friends and family.
  • Become frustrated attending “boring meetings” and slow or orderly tasks – often feeling you already have the answer and how to do it.
  • Get easily frustrated or anxious with new situations, boss or co-workers.
  • Feel overwhelmed by new or unexpected tasks.
  • Choose or prefer a visual, tactile, kinaesthetic career like: Designer, Architect, Engineer, Trade, Mechanic, Artist, Interior Decorator, Actor, Musician, Athlete, Sportsman, Inventor, Builder or Business Executive (usually with assistants).
  • Display lack of concentration or difficulty to focus on one task – may prefer to multi-task.
  • Pass on promotion to avoid having to write reports.
  • Avoid tests –  have difficulty passing standardised tests, sometimes blocking achievements or promotions.
  • Consider yourself highly successful and driven – or an ‘underachiever’, not living up to potential.
  • Come up with creative new ideas, that are out-of-the-box.
  • Try to avoid reading Manuals, rather learning by experience, hands-on or demonstrations.
  • Watch the YouTube clip on how-to-do anything.
  • See yourself as practical, street smarts and a good judge of character.
  • Make choices intuitively or instinctively.
  • Display a sixth sense, or read people’s energy.
  • Remember having struggled in school, with reading, writing and/or Maths.
  • Rely on others to assist you, having become a skilful delegator.
  • Make frequent spelling mistakes.
  • Have poor recall of conversations or sequence of events, often arguing the opposite.
  • Have a dyslexic child or children and sometimes feel guilty seeing them struggle.
  • Feel insecure or avoid reading to your own children or helping them with homework.
  • Get easily distracted, stressed, frustrated and/or overwhelmed.
  • Appear to “zone out” and retreat to your own world.
  • Play computer or video games.
  • Get told you mispronounce words, without realising it.
  • Excel at sport.
  • Have an excellent memory of some events and hardly remember stories from your school days.
  • Remember people’s faces, but not their names.
  • Get accused of not listening.
  • Find it hard to remember verbal instructions.
  • Avoid reading out loud.
  • Read silently or speed-read.
  • Fun to be around, coming up with humour and games.
  • Find that comprehension depends on the subject matter.
  • Frequently have to re-read sentences in order to comprehend.
  • Quickly become tired or bored of reading.
  • Rely on your partner for literacy tasks.
  • Like writing capital letters only or use poor handwriting to mask spelling mistakes.
  • Guess the use of punctuation marks
  • Find hard Maths easier than simple Maths.
  • Have left/right confusions.
  • Lose track of time and are either always late or obsessively punctual, finding it hard to estimate time passed.
  • Lack self-esteem.
  • Function poorly in situations of stress or distraction.
  • Live rather disorderly or are you compulsively orderly.

At work, DO YOU:

  • Work at a job that will hide your difficulties or doesn’t require a lot of reading and writing.
  • Work in a higher position that requires a secretary to write etc.
  • Hide literacy difficulties from your colleagues, friends and family.
  • Become frustrated attending “boring meetings” and slow or orderly tasks – often feeling you already have the answer and how to do it.
  • Get easily frustrated or anxious with new situations, boss or co-workers.
  • Feel overwhelmed by new or unexpected tasks.
  • Choose or prefer a visual, tactile, kinaesthetic career like: Designer, Architect, Engineer, Trade, Mechanic, Artist, Interior Decorator, Actor, Musician, Athlete, Sportsman, Inventor, Builder or Business Executive (usually with assistants).
  • Display lack of concentration or difficulty to focus on one task – may prefer to multi-task.
  • Pass on promotion to avoid having to write reports.
  • Avoid tests –  have difficulty passing standardised tests, sometimes blocking achievements or promotions.
  • Consider yourself highly successful and driven – or an ‘underachiever’, not living up to potential.
  • Come up with creative new ideas, that are out-of-the-box.
  • Try to avoid reading Manuals, rather learning by experience, hands-on or demonstrations.
  • Watch the YouTube clip on how-to-do anything.
  • See yourself as practical, street smarts and a good judge of character.
  • Make choices intuitively or instinctively.
  • Display a sixth sense, or read people’s energy.
  • Remember having struggled in school, with reading, writing and/or Maths.
  • Rely on others to assist you, having become a skilful delegator.
  • Make frequent spelling mistakes.

At home, DO YOU:

  • Have poor recall of conversations or sequence of events, often arguing the opposite.
  • Have a dyslexic child or children and sometimes feel guilty seeing them struggle.
  • Feel insecure or avoid reading to your own children or helping them with homework.
  • Get easily distracted, stressed, frustrated and/or overwhelmed.
  • Appear to “zone out” and retreat to your own world.
  • Play computer or video games.
  • Get told you mispronounce words, without realising it.
  • Excel at sport.
  • Have an excellent memory of some events and hardly remember stories from your school days.
  • Remember people’s faces, but not their names.
  • Get accused of not listening.
  • Find it hard to remember verbal instructions.
  • Avoid reading out loud.
  • Read silently or speed-read.
  • Fun to be around, coming up with humour and games.
  • Find that comprehension depends on the subject matter.
  • Frequently have to re-read sentences in order to comprehend.
  • Quickly become tired or bored of reading.
  • Rely on your partner for literacy tasks.
  • Like writing capital letters only or use poor handwriting to mask spelling mistakes.
  • Guess the use of punctuation marks
  • Find hard Maths easier than simple Maths.
  • Have left/right confusions.
  • Lose track of time and are either always late or obsessively punctual, finding it hard to estimate time passed.
  • Lack self-esteem.
  • Function poorly in situations of stress or distraction.
  • Live rather disorderly or are you compulsively orderly.

As I mentioned, these points are indicators and even if only ten of these relate to you, this may be an indicator of dyslexia.

Many adults realise they want to get more information about their learning style and to look at solutions to improve literacy and numeracy. This can be particularly useful in helping at work, during education or for parenting. If you want a one-on-one dyslexia assessment with Barbara Hoi from Sydney Dyslexia click here for details. Assessments can be completed in person or remotely and will give you insights of your individual learning style and a path forward. 

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