Dyslexia affects more than just reading and writing, it can also impact memory, coordination and organisation. Each person’s experience of dyslexia will be unique. Here we take a look at how dyslexia affects vision.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness (identifying sounds in words), verbal memory and verbal processing speed.

Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. It is best thought of as a ‘continuum’ i.e. not a distinct category of symptoms, because there are no clear cut-off points. Someone with dyslexia may also have difficulties with language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.

The British Dyslexia Association estimates that around 10 per cent of the UK’s population is dyslexic, it is more common in boys than girls. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition but, with support, it can be managed.

How does dyslexia affect vision?

Dyslexia makes it difficult for a person to process information they hear and see. While those with phonological dyslexia will struggle to repeat rhymes and sequences they have heard, visual dyslexia will impact how they see words and letters. Dyslexics will therefore put a lot of stress on their eyes trying to focus on what they are reading.

As part of the diagnosis of dyslexia, it is important to rule out visual problems and to treat them where necessary.

What is visual dyslexia?

Visual dyslexia is a catch-all phrase for people who have difficulty reading as a result of the incorrect processing of visual information received by the brain. This could be made worse as a result of a physical problem with the eyes, for example being long or short-sighted or as a result of binocular vision anomalies i.e. problems with your eyes working together. In many cases the brain struggles to process visual information more in different levels of brightness or using different colour contrasts

In some cases, an inability to process visual information and the tendency to stare harder can result in blurred or double vision and generally tired eyes. Glasses, contact lenses or eye exercises can help alleviate physical problems with vision. This can help children to overcome dyslexia symptoms by reducing any other strain on the eyes.

Visual dyslexia symptoms

Visual dyslexia often mimics the symptoms of vision loss, so it can be hard to detect at first. It’s also hard for a child who has been dyslexic from birth to accurately describe what they see because, to them, it is normal.

The key areas to look out for are:

Physical symptoms:

Such as rubbing eyes, blinking lots, squinting, difficulty in bright lights, headaches/migraines, tired eyes, sensitivity to screens, motion sickness, and general balance and coordination problems. 

Reading problems:

This includes missing words when reading out loud, letters that move or disappear from the page, blurry words both near and far, transposing letters – such as reading ‘tip’ for ‘pit’.

Is there a test for visual dyslexia?

Our optometrists cannot diagnose dyslexia – a diagnosis is done by a specialist in the field. However, prior to referral to a specialist dealing with dyslexia, our optometrists can check the health, vision and binocular vision of the child and rule out any possible weaknesses.

Our eye tests are sufficiently comprehensive to enable the optometrist to assess eye health and identify the likely causes of visual problems that affect reading and other near work. This should include an assessment of the ability of the eyes to focus and work together correctly (binocular accommodation and convergence).

If the symptoms persist, despite having good vision or with glasses, a more in-depth assessment will then be required by a dyslexia expert.

Can you get glasses for dyslexia?

If the dyslexia is caused by, or made worse, by problems with vision then yes, glasses or contact lenses would help. For some people certain tints on glasses can also help make it easier to read – the colour and density of the tint will vary from person to person. A dyslexia specialist will be able to advise other corrective measures such as coloured overlays and certain font types and sizes.

If you are concerned about your vision or eye health or want to find out more information on how dyslexia impacts vision, get in touch with our expert optometrists at your local store by booking an appointment here.

FAQs

Is dyslexia a visual processing disorder?

There are several different types of dyslexia, of which visual dyslexia is one. In some cases, people with dyslexia can see the words ok but can’t decipher the ‘sounds’ they make – this would be known as phonological dyslexia.