Reading & Learning Difficulties
Your child has probably been referred by a specialist teacher, educational or clinical psychologist or your GP. Can visual problems cause educational underachievement?
There are many types and causes of learning under achievement in children.
Some general facts
- Visual anomalies are more prevalent amongst children with dyslexia
- Such visual problems are correlates of the dyslexia and not the cause but still need to be dealt with
- Visual anomalies can however be the cause of reading difficulties in children who are not dyslexic
So, if your child has been formally diagnosed as being dyslexic,please understand that it is unlikely that a visual problem that we find is the cause of your child's educational difficulties. However, if your child is underachieving and is not dyslexic, then if we find a visual or ocular motor problem, this may indeed be a contributing factor or even the main cause. In either case it is important to diagnose and treat any visual anomalies which may be adding to your child's difficulty or in some cases, causing it.
The vision and visual problems we are talking of may include not only obvious sight or focusing problems such as hypermetropia (long-sight) or astigmatism but also more subtle problems with eye muscle control and strength (particularly vergence) and accommodation (focusing). The relationship has been well researched and documented in evidence-based studies published in peer reviewed journals.
There is scarce evidence that so-called “poor tracking” is a cause of reading difficulties. On the contrary, there is evidence is that tracking difficulties are themselves the effect of the learning difficulties, poor concentration or fidgitiness and not the cause. Eye exercises or visual training to improve “tracking” should be seen as a non-evidence based (that is, "alternative") intervention and is not recommended.
If we diagnose visual and ocular motor problems that might be associated with your child’s difficulties we will advise on treatment and management. Treatments may, for example, take the form of:
- precise correction of sight problems such as significant hypermetropia (long-sight) with spectacles
- a course of evidence based orthoptic eye exercises,to alleviate convergence weakness and other ocular motor and accommodation (focusing) anomalies
- spectacles incorporating prisms for those ocular motor anomalies that might not respond to exercises
- the prescription of tinted lenses which is discussed below
There is scientific clinical evidence that some dyslexic children's visual symptoms can be alleviated by the prescribing of specific tinted lenses. Nevertheless, this area of intervention still causes some controversy and we aim to follow protocols that reduce the chance that a tint is prescribed that only has a placebo effect. Tinted lenses do not "cure" dyslexia but can make reading print more comfortable.
Children attending the practice will often be screened with Intuitive coloured overlays as an initial step. Sometimes performance with a colour will be checked using the Wilkins Rate of Reading Test. If a coloured sheet seems to help during our evaluation we will ask your child to use it for reading at home and school for a few weeks. If the colour really does seem to help then your child should return for a special investigation called Intuitive Colorimetry. This is designed to determine the exact colour characteristics required for Cerium Precision tinted spectacles. The equipment used was developed by the Applied Psychology Unit at the Medical Research Council, Cambridge. Barnard Levit Optometrists was the very first practice in the world to use the Intuitive Colorimeter in August 1993.
We are unable to prescribe Cerium Precision tinted lenses until a Visual Assessment, by one of our optometrists has been carried out to rule out other more conventional visual problems.
Students in higher education may receive financial assistance from Student Finance England (SFE).