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Reading Difficulties

Specific Reading Difficulties and Dyslexia

Some children and adults can experience visual distortion when reading print which makes reading difficult and uncomfortable. It can occur in people who are good readers as well as those with reading difficulties and dyslexia.

Approximately 5-10% of the population is thought to have some degree of dyslexia, with boys being more affected than girls. Optometrists do not diagnose dyslexia, but investigate visual problems that can contribute to reading difficulties.

Our dyslexic consultation service is available to help anybody, of any age, with dyslexia or any other learning difficulties.

What are the possible symptoms?

  • Words move around when reading.
  • Blurring and doubling of letters or words on the page.
  • Losing your place easily when reading.
  • Leaving out words or lines when reading.
  • Making more mistakes than expected when copying.
  • Poor spelling.
  • Light or coloured patches or patterns appearing on the page.

Our approach

Research has shown a link between binocular vision disorders and specific learning difficulties (particularly dyslexia). Problems such as incorrect focusing of the eye, poor muscle co-ordination or insufficient muscle strength all have an influence and these can be treated with simple exercises and spectacles. For this reason, it is important that a thorough eye examination is done first.

Although exercise and spectacles often dramatically reduces symptoms in many individuals who are struggling with reading and writing, those who are still having difficulties are recommended to have a Coloured Overlay Assessment.

If you have any concerns about yourself or your child you will not regret having a consultation. It could well be the start of a more productive and overall more enjoyable era of reading and learning.

Assessment with Coloured Overlays

Meares-Irlen syndrome is the name given to individuals whose symptoms are reduced or eliminated by placing plastic sheets of a precise colour over the page of text or sheet music.

The difference that can be seen with the use of coloured overlays can be phenomenal, with not only an increase in reading speeds but also an increase in confidence and concentration resulting in a new found enjoyment of reading and learning.

The appropriate colour for reducing symptoms varies from person to person and has to be chosen with great care and precision.

The overlays may only be needed for a period of months and on occasion the colour required may change, so it is a good idea to repeat the selection every six months.

The overlays are not suitable for written work, but if school children find an overlay useful for reading, they may prefer to write on coloured paper having a shade similar to that of the overlay.

If coloured overlays are used persistently for several months and are clearly beneficial, coloured spectacle lenses may be considered. Glasses are more convenient to use, and they can reduce eyestrain from stimuli other than books, such as whiteboards. The larger range of colour available with lenses may be helpful in obtaining the best effect.

The most effective colour for use with overlays is not the same as that for use in spectacles, and must be assessed by use of an Intuitive Colorimeter, and although we do not have one at Simmons we can at this stage refer you on.

Coloured lenses are not recommended for children younger than seven years of age due to difficulty of assessment.

Bernell Developmental Eye Movement (DEM) Test.

The eyes are required to move and then fixate repeatedly in a co-ordinated manner taking in information which the brain then has to translate to get meaning from text. 

Problems with eye tracking can cause words to be missed out when reading and difficulty locating the next line of text.

We can assess eye tracking using the Bernell Developmental Eye Movement Test and prescribe exercises to improve this if necessary.