top of page

Visual Dyslexia? Or Visual Stress? Myth busting

Dyslexia and visual stress (Irlens (TM))

Early in their life dyslexics show differences in some or all of the following;

· Speed of rapid naming – they are slower to name pictures of items and colours despite being able to do it correctly.

· Memory, short term and/or working memory. These are different from each other. Working memory difficulties will have a big impact on their ability to do practical work, understand science and come to conclusions or make deductions.

· Phonological awareness and processing. This is the ability to distinguish new words and sounds in words. You will notice in science as they will struggle to pronounce some of the complex scientific words, they will also struggle to spell them.

· Visual processing, this is noticeable in their inability to correctly draw graphs, pie charts, tables, diagrams of apparatus and may affect their ability to arrange apparatus correctly. They may spell incorrectly as they may not see if it looks wrong, they may get letters and words in the incorrect order, both for reading and writing. They may read words other than the ones they can see. They may not be capable of independently reading quietly as they will not know they have mis-read something and may not be aware they are still doing this at secondary school as no-one has listened to them read for a while now.

They will need practical instructions to presented in all three formats – on the board, on paper in front of them, verbally, the instructions explained.

They may dislike reading aloud to the class; don’t tell people to read, just give them the opportunity to volunteer. If they haven’t read aloud for a while you could ask them by name if they would like a go.

They often prefer to answer short questions rather than long ones. They may prefer to make notes as bullet points or mind maps. They may prefer to use a laptop to type their work. They don’t like word searches, but they are very helpful for learning spelling and learning to read what is there. They will take a long time over word searches, especially if any of the words are written backwards or upwards.

They are not often good at planning out long answers and will need support learning how to do this. They may have a lot of trouble learning for tests and need support in how to organise revision from the start of their attendance at your school.

They may not write a lot down, they need lots of encouragement and it is not wrong to hold them back for a help session to get the work done. The child may have their own ideas as to when a help session would work best for them. They will need help remembering to come to the help session. If they can never do the required amount of work, they may have a real problem with handwriting speed/neatness and an intervention is needed.

Visual Stress

Dyslexics may or may not be helped by coloured overlays. Even where this helps, this is not a cure. Visual stress and dyslexia are not synonymous, however a lot of dyslexics (about 20% - 50%) are helped by the correct colour.

Sometimes a coloured overlay may alleviate discomfort when reading but it may not reduce error rate nor help them read faster. A reduction of error rate and ability to read faster is a good way of checking if the coloured glasses or overlay are having an effect. Where a coloured overlay decreases discomfort but does not improve reading speed and accuracy, it may be that glasses would provide a better improvement.

Coloured overlays should not be treated as some kind of magic. There is some truth in their ability to help (see John Stein’s work, Oxford University), but the colours the child choses often have no relation with the colours which actually help. Children choose a colour that they like. The proven colours in order of how often they are correct are; Orangy yellow, cyan, greeny blue. No others have any scientific evidence.

Many children and SENCo’s become obsessed by them and insist they need you to make the projector screen correct for them. If you do this, you may find that an undiagnosed child in your class needs the ‘opposite’ colour and this will be stressing them even more. Hence it is better that they use coloured lenses – cheaply available from Happyeye, and can be bought in bulk by schools.

Recent Posts

See All

What is phonics?

Phonics is segmenting and blending to assist reading and spelling. Looking at onset and rime. Looking at spelling patterns and spelling rules. Looking at prefixes, suffixes and roots of words. Looking

Some notes for parents

This is for parents who's children are just starting school and you want to help them learn to read. Supporting your early learner. The following advice is also applicable for anyone who is struggling


bottom of page