Visual stress, also known as Meares-Irlen syndrome is a common problem that patients with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties can suffer from. Currently, there is no scientific explanation for why some people experience visual stress. When we read, we need many different skills, such as recognising certain symbols, perception of words, decoding words, cognitive skills, eye movement tracking, focusing on words, along with a lot more. No wonder some people can find reading an extremely difficult task!
Firstly, the specific learning difficulties the patient suffers from should always be dealt with by a health practitioner. The coloured overlays are simply sheets of transparent plastic that can be any colour in any tint or depth of colour. It can be placed over objects such as books, tablets, and computers, which should not interfere with the clarity of the image the person is viewing. They tend to have a matte surface, so the image quality stays as crisp as possible, and a glossy surface which reflects light from it. The overlays work by changing the contrast of the whole page, so that when you are looking at black text on a white page, the white page will be a different colour, with the black text staying the same colour and contrast.
Coloured overlays can help individuals, including children, read more fluently, stopping discomfort and even headaches that can be a symptom of visual stress. This in turn can help with when people rub their eyes, poor concentration and inefficient reading speed. However, there is not a set colour that everyone can look through, everyone prefers different colours! Every person is drawn towards a different hue (tint) which is a different saturation (depth of colour) that works best for them and their symptoms. Some people may even prefer two coloured overlays, to achieve the effect they want, which may be two different colours, or one colour in different tints.
These coloured overlays are also not to be confused with tinted glasses, as tinted glasses may not have the same effect as the coloured overlays do, even if they are the same colour. However, tinted glasses may have other benefits that coloured overlays do not. So make sure to do as much research as possible, consulting in practitioners that specialise in visual stress treatment.
So we know coloured overlays can help with symptoms that visual stress can produce, such as glare, headaches when reading, movement and blurring of print. However, not just people with specific learning difficulties can benefit from the uses of a coloured overlay. In general, people can suffer from visual stress even if they are particularly good readers.
Our recommendations would be to visit an Optician as most can facilitate a colored overlay examination, if you feel as if your reading could be improved. They will do many tests to work out if your reading can be improved with coloured overlays. The practitioner will then work out which colours you are preferring, and if they really help by testing your reading speed.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you find yourself getting tired quickly after reading a few paragraphs?
- Do you easily forget what you have just read?
- Do you find yourself skipping lines while reading a certain amount of text?
- Does reading occasionally leave you feeling nauseous?
- Do you find letters jump/move around on a page?
- Do people around you tend to read faster than you?
Another reason an overlay could be beneficial is the glare that is seen from screens when reading. An overlay that cuts out harmful blue light can help reduce eye strain, in turn improving reading speed, and reducing symptoms of visual stress. These can be relatively inexpensive and a simple, quick fix. Lastly, remember in essence Ocushield is a color overlay which can also help certain users, for example, a rare condition called visual snow where‘ transitory or persisting visual symptom where people see snow or television-like static in parts or the whole of their visual fields, constantly in all light conditions even visible in day-light.’
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