Further Visual Difficulties - Visual Stress

Last week, Liz shared her experiences on the importance of sight and hearing checks. I am following on as, with all three of my children, I had taken them for a sight check and their vision was apparently ok. However, I was still concerned as they did odd things, such as moving the page closer and further away and my daughter would not look at piano music, instead, trying to play by memory.

We moved to a different optician who specialised in something called Visual Stress or Irlen Syndrome and all three were diagnosed. The remediation is simple - a coloured overlay or tinted glasses (it does have to be the right colour for each individual).

I therefore thought it worth sharing the following information from the British Dyslexia Association in case it rings true with anyone else. This is commonly associated with dyslexia, although none of my children are dyslexic but are still affected.

People with visual stress 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 a specialist 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.

  • 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 the Dyslexia Style Guide on the BDA website.

If you would like to see for yourself some ways that text appear for those with Visual Stress, do visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FARizLljRkc