Using Colour for the relief of Visual Stress
Visual Stress is a perception problem which makes it difficult to see clearly. The contrast between printed words on a white surface makes the letters appear jumbled, animated or simply bored. It is therefore extremely important that Visual Stress is diagnosed at an early stage.
Visual Stress refers to reading difficulties, light sensitivity and headaches from exposure to disturbing visual patterns. It can be responsible for print distortion and rapid fatigue when reading. The symptoms can occur despite normal vision and can often be reduced by coloured filters ( overlays or lenses ).What are the symptoms?
Visual Stress when reading has been in the past been referred to as Mears – Irlen syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.
( All or some of the following may be present )
• Movement of print
• Blurring of print
• Letters changing in size or shape
• Letters fading or becoming darker
• Patterns appearing, sometimes described as “worms” or “rivers”
• Illusions of colour- blobs of colour on the page or colour surrounding letters or words
• Rapid tiring
• Headache or visual discomfort
• Sore, red or watering eyes
What signs should parents look for?
• Moving closer to or away from the page, becoming restless
• Quickly using finger as a marker
• Skipping words and lines
• Rubbing eyes and blinking excessively
• Low self esteem
Frustration and low self – esteem can occur in children who are under- achieving due to visual stress. Early diagnosis of the problem is essential. The longer it takes to identify and remedy Visual Stress the greater the loss of confidence that can result.
Is this Dyslexia?“Dyslexia” is a term used to describe various specific learning difficulties that affect ability to read and spell correctly.
Visual Stress is NOT Dyslexia but can be a major part of the problem in poor readers including those who are labelled “ Dyslexic”. If Visual Stress can be identified and treated, any remaining difficulties become easier to deal with.
Visual Stress very often occurs in non dyslexic individuals.
Visual Stress and Photosensitive MigraineThere are many triggers for migraine such as stress or hormonal factors. For some people light patterns or stressful text can trigger migraine but may not display problems with reading. Coloured filters can help reduce the frequency of these visually precipitated attacks.
Visual Stress relating to other neurological conditions such as Autism, MS, ME and Parkinson’s has also been shown to reduce with use of colour.
Scientific research has shown that Visual Stress can be reduced by colouring the page using spectral filters.
These are either placed directly over the page ( coloured overlays ) or they are worn as spectacles ( Precision Tinted Lenses ). The colour is specific to each individual and has to be selected with precision. The best colour for use as overlays is unlikely to be the same as that for spectacles. Coloured overlays can be used by teachers for screening, but individuals who find overlays helpful usually derive greater benefit from Precision Tinted Lenses. A full eye examination is followed by an assessment with an instrument called the Intuitive Colorimeter. This assessment is carried out by specialised optometrists and specifies the optimal tint appropriate for spectacles and contact lenses.
The optimal tint can permit a more fluent, efficient and comfortable reading.
Some describe the effect as “Magical”.
How to find out if colour can help?1. Eye Examination
With an Optometrist specialising in COLORIMETRY. This is to rule out any other eye problems.
2. Overlay Assessment
This determines a colour which proves beneficial and an overlay ( plastic coloured transparent sheet ) is used on a trial basis. Thousands of teachers in schools around the U.K use overlay assessments in the classroom. Most Optometrists specialising in COLORIMETRY will also carry out the assessment.
3. Colorimetry Assessment
If overlays are beneficial the optometrist may suggest colorimetry as the next stage. This will result in prescribing of spectacles with coloured lenses. The colour will be specific to each patients needs, much more precise than the overlays and very often a different colour than the chosen overlay. Coloured lenses are much more convenient than overlays for board and computer work.
Patients may be referred by their GP directly to an Orthoptist at a hospital eye clinic. The assessments may be undertaken here but as not all hospitals have a Colorimeter they may refer to a high street optometrist.
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