Dyslexia not linked to eyesight?

Today on the BBC News website there was an article that researchers claim that Dyslexia is not linked to eyesight.  After carrying out eye tests on more than 5,800 children, they did not find any differences in the vision of those with dyslexia. That is good but then it went on to say that

This raises doubts about the value of using coloured overlays or lenses to help dyslexic children with reading.   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-32836733

Somehow they have missed the point. This is what Moira Thomson MBE the Educational Director of CPD Bytes has to say.

‘I have never claimed that coloured overlays or tinted glasses were effective for only people who have dyslexia – I wear glasses with a tint for reading and I am not dyslexic.  For one of my dyslexic brothers, a blue overlay helps with reading by preventing movement of the text – he also has visual convergence issues – his eyes do not work together to focus at a reasonable distance for reading.  This makes it harder for him to resolve his dyslexic issues with reading.

My other dyslexic brother does not find an overlay helpful.  He does not have other visual issues.

What I have found when working with people who have reading issues (including those with dyslexia)- is that – for some people who also have visual processing problems – including those with binocular instability or convergence issues (that’s what I have) – using overlays may help.

Coloured overlays or tinted glasses may be essential for those who are sensitive to light – I am hypersensitive to strong light – and I cannot read in bright sunlight – and I am not dyslexic.  A coloured overlay or my tinted glasses are essential to help me see the printed page.  My sensitivity to light also causes nausea and migraine headaches if I spend some time in the shade (or dim light) and move into bright sunlight – my reactive lenses do not completely prevent this as they take a few seconds to go dark, though they help.

Neither Helen Irlen nor Arnold Wilkins – who introduced the use of colour to help with reading – claimed that this worked only for those with dyslexia.  Helen Irlen was working with reading impaired students – some of whom were dyslexic – and Arnold Wilkins was investigating visual triggers for migraine and epilepsy.

Irlen found that some of her reading impaired students were helped by using coloured overlays – and went on to investigate that.  One of the epilepsy/migraine triggers Wilkins found was lines of black print (all the same length) on a white page.  This was later identified as a likely contributor to the concentration issues of children/young people with ADHD.  Using colour to relieve the stark black/white contrast (and ensuring that text was not ‘right justified, so making lines unequal in length) was found to reduce the instances of epileptic episodes or migraines.  Incidentally, it was also found to help those with ADHD to concentrate for longer periods.

CPD Bytes courses do not claim that coloured overlays or tinted spectacles work only for dyslexics.  However, our courses do explore some of the visual issues that some people with dyslexia may also experience that can be helped by using colour.

For many years, dyslexia has been defined as being underpinned by phonological difficulties – and these combine visual and auditory processing – so visual processing issues may be part of a dyslexic profile.  For those dyslexics who also experience other visual issues, or who may have co-occurring epilepsy, migraine or the neuro-chemical imbalance of ADHD – use of a coloured overlay, text presented on a non-white background or tinted lenses will continue to be necessary aids to support reading and concentration.

I know that I will have to continue using my tinted glasses – and I am sure that many others – whether they have dyslexia or not – will do so too.’