Visual Assessments in Reading Difficulty and Dyslexia
Some normally intelligent children and adults have difficulty in learning to read fluently and to spell.
There are certain, often subtle, eye movement and vision problems that are more common in specific reading difficulty or dyslexia. The correction of these problems by eye exercises or with spectacles, whilst not immediately curing the reading difficulty, can make the process of learning to read more comfortable.
However, although probably a majority of younger people with reading difficulty have perfect eyesight and eye movements, some will notice visual distortions when trying to read a page of print- blurring, glare or movement of words or letters. This is called visual stress. Research by the Medical Research Council and the Institute of Optometry has shown that these visual distortions can be helped by the use of coloured overlays and precision tinted spectacle lenses (Meares-Irlen syndrome), which in turn helps progress with reading.
Peter Warren in Market Harborough has had a particular interest in dyslexia and related eye problems for many years and his MSc included study of the subject. Our Market Harborough and Stony Stratford practices are equipped with Intuitive Colorimeters, specialist instruments which enable controlled variation of coloured light to assess the benefit of colour on reading for the individual, as well as other equipment to assess eye movements and muscle balance for the investigation of eye and vision problems in dyslexia and reading difficulty.
All of our Optometrists are pleased to see patients, existing and new, in any practice who may have reading difficulty or dyslexia, to offer initial screening before referring patients on to Market Harborough or Stony Stratford if necessary.
A routine eye examination is necessary initially to assess the basic condition of the eyes, which is followed, if indicated, by more specialised tests and procedures relating to the reading difficulty.
It is usually necessary to allow an hour for the consultation and it is helpful to bring along any relevant reports from Special Needs Teachers or Educational Psychologists.
To make an appointment for a consultation, or for further information, please contact the practice of your choice.
Visual Stress (Meares-Irlen syndrome)
This can be explained as sensitivity to certain visual patterns, especially stripes. The visual distortions of print and text, and rapid fatigue when reading, which is common in this condition, can occur despite normal vision. The symptoms can often be reduced by the use of coloured filters –overlays or spectacle lenses.
Some symptoms of Meares-Irlen syndrome
- Movement/wobbling of text
- Blurring of print
- Letters changing shape or size
- Patterns seen in the gaps between words or lines of print
- Halos of colour around letters or words
- Tiring easily whilst reading
- Headaches or eye irritation
- Sore, watery eyes
Some signs of Meares-Irlen syndrome
- Moving closer to or further away from the book
- Skipping words or lines
- Rubbing eyes and frequent blinking
- Poor comprehension of text read
- Frustration and poor self-esteem
The symptoms and signs of visual stress can often be reduced by the use of colour when reading. The reduction only occurs when the colour is selected to suit the individual. Initially this can be assessed by the trial of coloured overlays placed over the printed text. If coloured overlays help, then coloured lenses in spectacles will be more practical in use, but for various reasons, the most effective precision tinted lenses are unlikely to be the same colour as the selected overlay.
The assessment for the best and most effective coloured lenses is undertaken with the aid of the Intuitive Colorimeter. The degree of improvement in reading ability does vary, but can often be considerable –an improvement in reading age of one or two years within a few weeks of acquiring the lenses is not unusual.