Though I no longer consider myself dyslexic, a combination of occasional hearing problems, sensitivity to light and curiosity drove me down to London to take a full assessment at The Sound Learning Centre. As their name implies, the Centre uses sound therapy to treat children and adults with various learning problems. As well as sound they use light therapy and exercise programmess focusing on primitive reflexes. For more details of the treatments available, see The Sound Learning Centre Open Day.
On arrival I was immediately reminded of the friendly and relaxed nature of the staff that I had encountered on my previous visit to their open day. Pauline Allen, who runs the Centre with her husband Phil, handles the assessment process and the first part is filling out a number of questionnaires. A nice touch that showed the Centre are as used to adult clients as they are to children is that Pauline checked that I was happy filling in forms. I’ve been to a number of events run for dyslexics where the organisers hadn’t considered that dyslexics might not be comfortable with or even able to fill in a form. The questionnaires are geared up to being filled in by the parents as they collect information about the pregnancy, birth and early development of the patient. Not something the average adult can answer about themselves but this doesn’t matter to the assessment as much of this data is collected for research and background information.
VisionAndLearning.org is a good general overview of how vision effects learning. This is not specific to dyslexia but covers a ranges of issues such as poor eye sight, lack of binocular vision, hand eye coordination and many other problems which are intertwined with learning difficulties such as ADHD and dyslexia.
Following on from our previous story on Coloured Lenses, a Japanese company in colaberation with a UK opticians can now supply coloured contact lens suitable for dyslexics.
Whilst many children with dyslexia or ADD / ADHD have good eye sight according to standard visual acuity tests, there is some evidence to suggest that other aspects of vision which do not get routinely tested may have problems. This includes the visual field or how good you are at seeing things which are in your peripheral vision. If you wish to try out your field of vision, try out this visual field tester.
Background information on visual processing.
Statement from the American Academy of Optometry and the American Optometric Association relating to dyslexia.
Parent’s Checklist from the Optometrists Network for parents investigating possible causes for their child’s problems with Attention Deficit Disorder (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), attention span, hyperactivity, behavior, learning and/or reading.
A friend mentioned in passing that Nottingham University, UK had standardised on the Verdana font because it was the easiest for dyslexics to read. I had never heard that Verdana was a good font to use before but I had previously looked at Read Regular, a font design especially for dyslexics. Personally I don’t like it but this might be to do the web site’s background pattern that I find very hard on my eyes. Advice on dyslexia friendly fonts and general layout can be found on the British Dyslexia Association website and on Dyslexic.com. TechDis who appear to do research in this area have a comprehensive guide to style and fonts for website [PDF]. The results of a study of reading speeds and subjective preferences show that Verdana was the best font but this wasn’t specifically limited to dyslexia.
You can try out the effect of fonts, alignment and contrast on readability in this online experiment.
The use of coloured overlays or tinted lens has always been one of the more controversial dyslexia coping methods. First promoted by the Irlen Institute in the early 1980’s it was treated with some skepticism, partly because the idea that colour may help reading was radical but also because the Irlen Institute was a very commercial organisation. In dyslexia education, being highly commercial can attract a lot of negativity from teachers and academics. However over the years the use of colour (or color for our US readers) has become more creditable. Most research has shown that personally selected colour filters are most effective and the use of filters of any colour can help though some studies have shown no improvement. A summary of recent research can be found here.
My reading has been quite good from the age of ten but I was finding that working with computers all day was giving me serious eye strain and headaches. When I found out about how research confirmed that coloured lens helps reduce the strain on the eye I booked an appointment with a local optician who has an Intutative Colorimeter. This device allows the user to identify which colour, if any, suits them. I was surprised how much a difference a rose coloured tint helped my reading speed and I immediately order some glasses with the same tint. The glasses made an immediate impact and vastly reduced the eye strain I suffered. Now I only use my rose tinted glasses when working on computers and often when reading books.
As an alternatives to tinted glasses you may wish to try simple coloured folders brought at Office World or other stationery stores. Many people have reported improvements by trying several different colours and picking the one that ‘feels right’. For a more scientific and expensive approach, TintaVision have centres around the UK and can produce highly personalised coloured overlays.
Related advice from the British Dyslexia Association.
The latest issue of Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience includes a paper on the difficulties of dyslexics have with visual motion and how this relates to problems with reading.
“Developmental dyslexia is associated with deficits in the processing of visual motion stimuli, and some evidence suggests that these motion processing deficits are related to various reading subskills deficits. …. Results suggest that there are in fact two distinct motion processing deficits in developmental dyslexia, rather than one as assumed by previous research, and that each of these deficits is associated with a different type of reading subskills deficit. A deficit in detecting coherent motion is selectively associated with low accuracy on reading subskills tests, and a deficit in discriminating velocities is selectively associated with slow performance on these same tests. In addition, … The two distinct patterns of motion processing and reading deficits demonstrated by this study may reflect separable underlying neurocognitive mechanisms of developmental dyslexia.”