Eyes and Dyslexia
Around 35-40% of people with dyslexic difficulties are estimated to experience visual disturbance or discomfort when reading print. They may experience one or several of the following:
- Blurred letters or words which go out of focus.
- Letters which move or present with back to front appearance or shimmering or shaking.
- Headaches from reading.
- Words or letters which break into two and appear as double.
- Find it easier to read large, widely spaced print, than small and crowded.
- Difficulty with tracking across the page.
- Upset by glare on the page or oversensitive to bright lights.
In some cases any of these symptoms can significantly affect reading ability. It can also make reading very tiring. Of course a child will not necessarily recognise what they see as a problem, as this is how they always see text.
If a child complains of a least one of these problems or has difficulty at school, they should be referred to an optometrist or orthoptist with expertise in this particular field.
Many dyslexic people are sensitive to the glare of white backgrounds on a page, white board or computer screen. This can make the reading of text much harder.
The use of cream or pastel coloured backgrounds can mitigate this difficulty as can coloured filters either as an overlay or as tinted reading glasses. - People with reading difficulties sometimes have a weakness in eye co-ordination or focussing and an eyecare practitioner might recommend treating this with eye exercises or glasses. If these problems are present, they should be detected and treated before coloured filters are prescribed.
Research in the UK and in Australia shows that people who need coloured filters, who are said to have visual stress, need to have exactly the right colour. Many optometrists and orthoptists use a special instrument, the Intuitive Colorimeter, to determine the exact colour that is necessary for coloured glasses.
The choice of colour of text on white backgrounds can also affect clarity e.g. using red on a whiteboard can render the text almost invisible for some dyslexic students. For information on dyslexia friendly text see Dyslexia Style Guide.
Where to go for a specialist eye assessment and overlays.
You are advised to ensure that any practitioner is properly trained and qualified in this area.
Society for Coloured Lens Providers.
A list of recommended practitioners following an agreed code of conduct.
Local Dyslexia Associations.
Contact your Local Dyslexia Association for recommendations of suitable local practitioners.
Contact your GP for a referral to an appropriate specialist.
In some hospitals the orthoptist may have expertise in this field.
Dyslexia Research Trust have Eye Clinics in Reading and Oxford.
Tel: 0118 958 5950
A leading research organisation into the visual aspects of dyslexia.
Visual Perception Unit, University of Essex.
Information on Colour in the Treatment of Visual Stress
References to practitioners and suppliers.
Tel: 01206 872 381
Bradford University Optometry Eye Clinic.
Free initial assessment for visual stress.
Tel: 01274 234649
Aston University (Birmingham) Optometry Depatrment.
Not for profit Learning and Vision Clinic.
Tel: 0121 204 3900
University Optometry Departments.
It would be worth contacting Optometry Departments of universities to see if they offer a service of assessments.
The Institute of Optometry.
Runs courses for teachers and eyecare practitioners about vision and reading difficulties and has a clinic for people with reading problems.
Tel: 020 7407 4183
Fax: 020 7403 8007
Institute of Optometry Sales Ltd.
Supply the Wilkins Intuitive Overlays, The Wilkins Rate of Reading Tests and other items for teachers and eyecare professionals.
Tel: 020 7378 0330
Cerium Visual Technologies.
List of optometrists in UK who have a Wilkins Intuitive Colorimeter and can prescribe Precision Tinted. Also supplier of coloured overlays.
Tel: 01580 765 211
Fax: 01580 765 573
Cantor & Nissel.
ChromaGen Haploscopic lenses are a type of colour based system for spectacles or contact lenses.
Licensed practitioners round the UK.
Tel: 01280 702 002
Crossbow Education produce a pack of 10 inexpensive "Eye Level Reading Rulers", in the full range of colours recommended by leading vision scientists. Particularly helpful for focusing and tracking as well as combatting white glare.
Crossbow also produce coloured overlays in the same ten colours as the reading rulers, as well as tinted exercise books and pads, and the "virtual" reading ruler and overlay for use on the computer.
Visual Stress Assessment Pack.The pack is written and designed for ease of use by non-specialists, and includes everything necessary to carry out a thorough assessment.
The BDA Shop stocks a range of coloured overlays, both multiple packs of different colours and individual colours.
Dyslexia and Vision. Bruce J.W. Evans. Wiley
Visual Factors in Reading. Edited by Piers Cornelisson & Chris Singleton. Wiley