Discovering Dyslexia aged 50

Have you ever suspected you may have dyslexia, but as a child, you never were assessed? Until recently, I had a feeling that I had a learning difficulty but could not clarify exactly what it was. Today, educators often pick up on the early signs of dyslexia in schools, but it went unnoticed in many children growing up in the 70s. In later years, as an adult, I continued to wonder if I was a slow learner or if I had learning challenges that could be supported. Until recently, I thought I was the only person who suspected they had dyslexia. Then when sharing my thoughts with a friend, she said she also felt the same way. Therefore, I thought it might be helpful to others if I share my story about discovering dyslexia in adulthood and, more importantly, what impact it made on my life.

What Is Dyslexia?

While I am no expert in dyslexia, it is generally agreed that dyslexia is a learning difficulty that impacts learners’ reading, writing and spelling. There are different types of dyslexia; some factors relate to speech, sound, visual and memory. The dyslexia association of Ireland provides information and support for people with dyslexia (see attached link

How Dyslexic Impacted My Life

I suspected I was dyslexic when I started my Early Childhood Education and Care Degree at age 43. Despite working hard at reading and writing for years, my reading skills were slow to improve, I had challenges retaining information and spelling correctly was a major problem. This resulted in a growing feeling that I was slower than others. Although I often felt stupid, I also loved learning and enjoyed the college debates and group meetings. Dyslexia is different for every individual. In my case, during the academic discussions, I had no difficulties. It was only with reading, spelling and retaining information that caused a problem. Because I had a laptop with spell check, the writing was manageable, the reading meant I worked the weekends to keep up with my peer group and got through my degree without much difficulty. So why bother getting an assessment seven years later, aged 50?

Should I Get an Assessment?

Deciding to get an assessment is a personal choice. There are many reasons why you may choose not to. For example, private consultation is expensive, or you may feel no need for an assessment because the problems related to dyslexia do not impact your life.

For me, there were many reasons why I wanted to clarify if I had dyslexia. For example, as a college student standing in front of a class and writing notes on a whiteboard was a major embarrassment because of my bad spelling. Also, as a preschool educator, I believed understanding the condition better would allow me to share the experience with diagnosed children and provide support so children were not put in a position where they could feel embarrassed about reading aloud or spelling mistakes. I believed the more I understood, the better informed I would be when working with others.

The Assessment

The assessment took the form of a four-hour examination involving various tests. The tests included reading, writing an essay, making patterns with blocks, using images to predict answers, math tests and other exercises. After the assessment, the educational psychologist diagnosis dyslexia and followed up by posting a detailed report of this diagnosis.

The Impact of the Assessment

Since I got the diagnosis in October 2021, I have felt empowered. Knowing that there were specific reasons for the challenges I experienced during my education helped me understand my experiences were real and not imagined. The diagnosis also made me aware that even if I was not dyslexic, I should not have felt embarrassed as a slow reader and bad speller. Instead, I should have asked for help. Going forward, I would like to encourage others, regardless of learning difficulties, to reach out and ask for help if they are struggling. If you don’t get a positive response, ask someone else.

Thank you for reading my story. Please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.

This research is funded by the Irish Research Council.

Dr Catherine (Kitty) O'Reilly

Dr Catherine (Kitty) O'Reilly Collage

Posted on 11th November, 2021, under Family