How Can We Help?
Many children and adults find reading rather difficult or uncomfortable because they experience visual discomfort, or Visual Stress, when looking at a page of text:
Visual Stress, also known as Meares-Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, is a term sometimes used to refer to some or all of the following symptoms, when these symptoms can be relieved by use of colour. It is indicated by poor reading ability, skipping words or lines, inattention and restlessness when reading, excessive rubbing or blinking of eyes or avoidance of reading altogether. Symptoms of Visual Stress include:
Blurring of print
Words changing shape or size
Print fading or becoming darker
Words running into each other
Patterns of “white rivers” appearing between the words
Rapid tiring when reading
Sore eyes or eyestrain
Any of these symptoms can affect reading fluency and comprehension despite otherwise normal good vision and intelligence This is not the same as dyslexia which can be described as an unexpected problem in learning to read and spell in people who seem otherwise capable and intelligent.
This is because visual problems are not the cause of dyslexia, although visual stress can contribute to reading difficulties and is often also found in dyslexics as well as many other conditions such as autism, ADHD, brain injuries, photosensitive epilepsy and photosensitive migraine.
Scientific research has shown that the symptoms of Visual Stress can be alleviated by the use of colour. Coloured overlays can be placed over a page of text or Precision Tinted Lenses can be worn in spectacles. The specific colour required is different for each person and needs to be carefully assessed. The optimum colour for an overlay is not always the same as that needed in spectacles.
Anyone who is having difficulty with reading or experiencing symptoms of visual stress should firstly have a full visual assessment to rule out any other problems with vision such as myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), astigmatism or difficulty using the two eyes together (binocular vision) or eye-focusing. These problems may be helped with prescription spectacles, prismor bifocal lenses or eye exercises (vision therapy), as appropriate.
Pattern Glare Test
A pattern glare test will be carried out for any individual with reading difficulty, where use of colour may help. This involves looking at a series of black and white patterns to see if visual distortion is present and to what degree.
Depending on the age (and other factors) of the sufferer we may carry out an overlay assessment, Many different colours are compared and a simple test is used to determine whether the chosen coloured overlay affects reading fluency. The chosen overlay can then be taken away and used forreading. This is an inexpensive way to see if colour will be helpful and is a much easier method of choosing for younger patients.
Colorimetry is recommended for adults, older children and younger children with a sustained benefit from overlays. The optimum colour for Precision Tinted Lenses is determined by a machine called an Intuitive Colorimeter, developed by Professor Arnold Wilkins of the University of Essex together with the Medical Research Council. It works by passing coloured gels in front of a light source and has over 100,000 different colour combinations to help relieve visual stress.
The optimal colour is chosen by a process of elimination in which the colour, saturation and hue are independently adjusted for the patient’s comfort. The colour can then be made into precision tinted lenses for the wearer’s comfort and convenience. It is considered advisable to have an annual colorimetry check as a change in the optimal colour can occur over time.