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 which primarily affects reading and writing skills but can also impact on other areas such as organisational skills.

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 and is best thought of as a ‘continuum’ i.e. not a distinct category of symptoms. 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. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition but, with support, the use of assistive technologies, and appropriate reasonable adjustments, it can be managed.

Is there an eye test for dyslexia?

Our optometrists cannot diagnose dyslexia – dyslexia can only be formally diagnosed through a diagnostic assessment carried out by a certified assessor such as a specialist teacher with an assessment practising certificate (APC) or a registered psychologist.

However, prior to referral to a specialist dealing with dyslexia, and if concerns are raised about issues with a child’s vision, our optometrists can check for and correct any underlying vision problems. It is, for example, important to rule out common vision problems such as long and short sight and correct them where necessary with glasses or  contact lenses.

Our eye tests are sufficiently comprehensive to enable the optometrist to assess eye health and identify the likely causes of any visual problems that may impact on 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).

What is visual stress?

The term ‘visual stress’ is used by some optometrists to describe a sensitivity to visual patterns which can cause visual perceptual problems and may interfere with reading. This can occur in some people including those with dyslexia. However, it is important to clarify that visual stress is not the same as dyslexia.

Can you get glasses for dyslexia?

Coloured overlays (thin sheets of coloured transparent plastic that can be placed over white sheets of text) and coloured lenses may be considered as a treatment for visual stress; however, the evidence of this intervention is inconclusive. Some people do report that coloured overlays and lenses help to ease symptoms of visual stress but it is important to point out that these treatments will not treat ‘dyslexic’ difficulties. Most dyslexic people will not have visual stress.

Our optometrists can discuss whether an investigation of visual perceptual problems such as visual stress and possible solutions might be useful but will be clear about the current position within research. This will help our customers make an informed decision about whether they choose to proceed.

If you’ve noticed a recent change in your vision, or would like some expert advice, get in touch with our optometrists at your local store by booking an appointment here.