Dyslexia is not a visual problem, or a gift

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Dyslexia means severe difficulty reading words, despite adequate intervention and effort. It can start in adulthood after a stroke or injury, but typically begins in childhood for no immediately obvious reason. A detailed definition can be found here.

Is dyslexia a visual problem?

Dyslexia is not a visual problem, it’s a language-based problem. Like many others, I’ve said this before (here, here, here, here, here, and here) but the zombie idea of ‘visual dyslexia’ still seems to be wasting children’s time, and parents’ and taxpayers’ money, so it bears repeating.

The American Academy of Paediatrics’ Opthamologists’ Joint Statement on Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and Vision says:

“Vision problems can interfere with the process of learning; however, vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities. Scientific evidence does not support the efficacy of eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses for improving the long-term educational performance in these complex pediatric neurocognitive conditions. Diagnostic and treatment approaches that lack scientific evidence of efficacy, including eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses, are not endorsed and should not be recommended”.

American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Ophthalmology Executive Committee, 2008-2009, reaffirmed 2014, https://www.aao.org/clinical-statement/joint-statement-learning-disabilities-dyslexia-vis

This statement has been endorsed by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Opthamologists. It has five pages of scientific references. Please share it with anyone who is considering vision-based dyslexia interventions like behavioural optometry, coloured overlays, Irlen lenses, the Lawson anti-suppression device, or special dyslexia fonts.

For more detail on controversial vision theories and therapies, visit the American Academy of Opthamology website, read this 2019 article in The Conversation, this 2018 article on the website Science Based Medicine and/or this article by Dr Kerry Hempenstall in the 2020 International Dyslexia Association journal. A 2019 systematic review re “Irlen Syndrome” (read it here), found lack of evidence that Irlen Syndrome exists, and lack of evidence that the treatments proposed for it work.

Children’s learning time is precious, and parents’ and taxpayers’ money needs to be spent wisely.

Do dyslexic people have special talents/gifts?

There are lots of smart, talented, capable people with dyslexia. Some have achieved great things in mathematics, science, art, architecture, entrepreneurship and other fields. They have shown that it’s possible to have dyslexia and still succeed in life.

It’s complete nonsense to flip this and suggest dyslexia gives you special talents and makes you more likely to succeed in life than average. The plural of anecdote is not data.

However, these claims persist, and interventions which lack scientific evidence are still being promoted and taken seriously. A Melbourne school this week helped market a Davis Dyslexia webinar, with an ad making extravagant claims about the special talents of people with dyslexia. Happily, readers of this blog alerted the school leadership to what turned out to be a mistake by the marketing team (thanks, Karen, Heidi and Nancy!), and the ad was removed, kudos to the school for acting so swiftly.

To establish a correlation between dyslexia and life achievement, scientific researchers would need to study a large, random sample of the population. They’d measure reading skills and levels of success/achievement (however that’s defined, I’m sure sociologists have ideas). They’d statistically analyse their data.

Three outcomes would be possible: 1) no correlation beyond what could be accounted for by random chance, 2) a correlation with above-average achievement, and 3) a correlation with below-average achievement. Even if a correlation were found between dyslexia and high achievement, correlation is not the same thing as causation. A third factor might be involved, or there might be multiple factors.

After this blog post was published, I heard from one of the co-authors of a 2021 systematic review of research into whether dyslexia conveys a creative benefit. Their results suggest that “individuals with dyslexia as a group are no more creative or show greater variability in creativity than peers without dyslexia”.

The whole ‘gift of dyslexia’ idea is also IMHO also rather cruel. It’s like telling a dyslexic child, ‘Not only are you expected to overcome your dyslexia, but I expect you to excel at something like art, architecture or entrepreneurship. No pressure.’

Children with word-level reading difficulties, whether they have dyslexia diagnoses or not, should have intensive, systematic, synthetic phonics teaching as part of a literacy curriculum based on scientific research (a useful, free evaluate-your-curriculum checklist is here). Like other children, they should be told they’re expected to play, have fun, rest and do their best at things that matter and things they love, however they decide to spend their one wild and precious life.

57 thoughts on “Dyslexia is not a visual problem, or a gift

  1. Karen

    I have had many ‘discussions’ with these presenters but they will not accept that phonology and phonics are essential for beginner readers and developing readers at any stage. They advocate learning everything visually and making words out of clay. Just sad for parents who believe these ‘therapies’ will remediate their children’s disorders. I think I will talk to Mentone about this. .

    Reply
    1. George Sahely

      Hello Karen
      I would be very surprised if any Qualified Behavioural Optometrist would make such a claim. I cannot speak for other practitioners who may make claims regarding vision.

      “Clearly phonics are vital in reading; probably more so than visual disorders when it comes to early readers. That is why most professionals advocate a multi-disciplinary approach to helping children through their learning difficulties.

      Reply
  2. Sarah Varey

    I like this.
    My comment is reserved for the last sentence, which looks like it was added for a punchy exit line, but I think is problematic, “they should be told they’re expected to do their very best…”
    It is a very achievement-focused statement – it’s also ok to be dreamy and drift and not always do one’s “very best”.
    Maintaining engagement and repeated practice does result in progress, but that’s a different vibe from extolling extreme effort.

    Reply
    1. alison Post author

      Ah sorry, I just meant that children with dyslexia shouldn’t be pushed or expected to star in fields that don’t require a lot of literacy. Don’t you think it’s OK to tell children, “just do your best” and accept whatever that turns out to be, it might be a day of excellent rest and fun. I didn’t mean to imply that children should always be pushed to achieve external standards. It says YOUR best, not WHAT I THINK is best.

      Reply
  3. Helene Mau

    Hi Alison,
    Thank you once again for an interesting post, I love reading them!
    I am an MSL instructor and teacher and while I completely where you are coming from, I find it best to focus on the strengths of a dyslexic brain. I always tell my students that ‘I can teach you to read and write but I can’t teach you what you already know.’ I refer here to the incredible creative side of a dyslexic brain that has strong problem solving skills and can think outside the square.
    I am fully aware that not all dyslexics go on to be Albert Einstein’s but if this inspires them to push through I will use it as a motivator! I have had enormous success building confidence this way over the years.
    Thanks again for your posts, I really enjoy them!

    Reply
    1. alison Post author

      Hi Helene, I’ve been working with children for over 30 years and think most kids are creative, problem-solvers, and think outside the square. It’s been hilarious watching some of the creative ways they’ve coped with lockdown here in Melbourne, the playgrounds were closed so tree climbing came back with a vengeance, and they’ve created an incredible BMX bike track with jumps near a local creek. I am not aware of any evidence that dyslexic kids are MORE creative, problem-solving or think more laterally than other kids, but I think it’s absolutely fine to look kids in the eye and say “I think you’re creative, a problem solver, you think laterally, and you can learn to read and spell too, I’ll help you”, as part of motivating them to do their work. Because a lot of older kids have an internal “I’m dumb” narrative I also often say to kids, “I can see how smart you are, and I know you can do this” (which can be said truthfully to any kid, if you’ve pitched the work at the right level). Unconditional positive regard, we all enjoy it and are motivated by it! Thanks for the nice feedback, and all the very best, Alison

      Reply
  4. Sarah Handscomb

    Thank you Alison for another easy to read and forensically thorough blog post. Have been interested in the writing of Stanislas Deheane ‘Reading in The Brain’ in which he identifies the importance of quality phonics instruction for remediation, and where he discusses the plasticity of the brain, encouraging us to move on from the idea of a ‘fixed’ state of play for students with dyslexia. Seems that high quality SSP instruction is preferenced, again!

    Reply
  5. George Sahely

    Good morning.
    Since the Western World has in recent years specifically defined Dyslexia as a language based disorder, then, by definition, Visual remedies cannot “treat’ dyslexia. So on the basis of definitions, I agree with you
    .
    Having said that, I think it is utterly disgraceful and frankly unprofessional that you denigrate other Professions which have a role in helping children with the more broader terminology of “learning difficulties”. You are seeing the world through the narrow prism of a language based world, and relying on political statements by the union body of Ophthalmologists as a basis for denigrating other procedures which may help children.

    Ophthalmologists are excellent professionals who are suburb at treating eye disease. However they have little or no study, background, nor understanding of the features and management of Learning Difficulties. For every study they quote against the link between vision and learning, thee will be a multitude of others which supports the alternative view. Some, such as yourself, show confirmational bias and rely on those studies which support their world view. In that process, you literally and sadly do children a disservice.

    I work with many “professional” speech therapists, who understand the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to helping children who are experiencing difficulties with their learning. These Professionals recognise the importance of managing all aspects of a child’s learning difficulty, rather than focussing on one sphere of their learning.

    For the record I do not use coloured nor Irlen filters. I am however proudly a Behavioural Optometrist. Every day I assess the vision and visual skills of children referred by caring teachers, psychologists, speech therapist and (yes) sometimes Ophthalmologists. Where I can, I will treat any visual dysfunction which may CONTRIBUTE to a child’s learning problems; that does not mean however that I am treating Dyslexia. I am equally proud to refer to my local Speech Therapists to address a child’s language delay whilst I address the child’s co-existing visual disorders; be they refractive, functional or developmental.

    Reply
    1. alison Post author

      Hi George, since you’re a behavioural optometrist, I’m not surprised by your comment. I am not aware of any robust scientific evidence for behavioural optometry, and wonder why you don’t stick to evidence-based practice? Optometry is an important profession and I hold the optometrists who have provided me with my glasses for decades in very high regard. I wonder what your professional code of ethics says about providing services that are not based on sound scientific evidence? My own professional body, Speech Pathology Australia, is very strict about the need to practice in an evidence-based way. Doesn’t the professional body for optometrists require this?

      Reply
      1. Claire Battersby

        I am saddened by this attack.
        Teachers and educators live in a world of shades of grey and allied health people live in a world of black and whites. I say this from being qualified and having worked in both.
        As an allied health professional who gets to work with one child at a time, with often the support of another adult in the room, who is provided with time to collect evidence based resources and measures progress based on standardised tests, you MAY have very little insight into the demands of managing 25 little people at a time, all with their own emotional states, all with their own contexts and all having differing motivations and capacities to progress with their learning.
        As an allied health professional if your standardised test and intervention do not work, traditionally you wipe your slate clean and send the client off to someone else. In an educational context if a kid is not learning you have to get creative to figure out why and get creative with interventions and strategies. I applaud people who people who work across disciples, who acknowledge the world is not black and white and are prepared to try new approaches. If the standardised tests and interventions were not working, surely trying something based on experience, knowledge of the child and agreed outcome goals is worth pursuing? How else can new approaches ever be developed?
        I am not knowledgeable about behavioural optometry but am not be opposed to considering that kids can have delays and difficulties with all sorts of their biological processing and development and I see no reason to think that vision should be any different. Perhaps there is not a wealth of peer reviewed studies in this field, and maybe that is a political/funding/timing issue. When there is a small field of professionals busily working to help individuals it leaves much less time to apply for grants, complete studies etc. No published reports does not equal not effective.

        Reply
        1. alison Post author

          I have not attacked anyone. I have promoted evidence-based practice and aim to steer people away from non-evidence-based practice. You’re right that I am not dealing with large groups of children at one time but you’re absolutely wrong that I handball kids who are not making progress to someone else. I also have to think creatively about how to ensure progress (we go out of our way with games and prizes, if an ASD child loves alpacas, I will get alpaca toys, alpaca stickers, an alpaca hat, whatever to engage them), but I never compromise on basing my intervention on scientific evidence and models. For sure, we don’t know everything, but professionals always do have to base our intervention on what we do know, and leave the experiments to researchers who also have a strict ethical code, I agree that they are under-funded. My professional association’s code of ethics is very clear about this, and I expect yours is too.

          Reply
          1. Claire Battersby

            I understand your thinking. I am just a firm believer that the evidence you are claiming justifies your interventions actually may not be relevant to the kid you are applying it to. Perhaps their context excludes them from the study participants used in the research? Evidence based is a great starting point, but what about when that doesn’t work?
            Right now I have a student on my caseload who, long story short, has been deprived of audition/access to verbal language for the first 10 years of his life.
            He has access not. Thankfully there is not a lot of kids who have been subjected to this so not much evidence on how to best support this kid. So I do nothing as there is no evidence? I know this is an extreme case but there are echoes of it in so many students. Yes, use of evidence based practise makes sense – to a point.

        2. AJ

          I’m an OT and SP. I like to imagine I don’t work looking at the children I work with through black or white lens so to speak. And I work within a classroom to support teachers through a tiered based learning approach. I also get to work with the “tricky” ones who otherwise fall through the cracks because teachers, I’ve been told repeatedly are through necessity taught to “teach to the middle”. I am lucky enough to be able to model effective approaches to communicating with and “managing behavioural” kids who through their behaviour are communicating unmet needs. Maybe I am one of outlier the shades of grey in a sea of black and white AHPs…but I doubt it. I’m not that rare I’m sure.

          Reply
      2. George Sahely

        Hello Alison,
        Very interesting reply, and it is pleasing to see you are open to an intellectual debate rather than personal attacks such as claiming I do not “stick to evidence-based practice” (particularly when you have zero idea of how I personally practice given our Practices are many miles apart and we have never co-managed patients). Yet you still choose to question my ethics.

        You clearly are not aware that Behavioural Optometry is part of the post. Graduate Masters Program at the University of NSW, where their curriculum is based heavily on an enormous body of scientific literature.

        I am also sorry to report to you that, despite your perceptions, Optometry’s governing body, Optometry Australia, both is”strict about the need to practice in an evidence-based way” and has a strong code of ethics, and yet simultaneously endorses Behavioural Optometry”. Indeed several of the recent Optometry Australia Presidents have been Behavioural Optometrists. I am not sure how that fits in with your perception that Behavioural Optometry is in some way fringe or unethical.

        No doubt that will surprise you, though your comments tell me that you do not have a genuine understanding of the full scope of Optometry beyond your own experience of having glasses. Optometry Australia also have very strict guidelines on not claiming Professional Superiority and /or denigrating other professional bodies!

        I am unsure what experiences you have had which lead to you forming what I would perceive as a narrow view of learning difficulties. Equally I am saddened that you seem threatened by other philosophies which have the same end goal as yourself; helping children with learning difficulties to reach their full potential.

        One problem we have is that “Behavioural”Optometry”is not a protected title, so any Optometrist may use that term; whether they have a post. grad qualification in the field or not. I am also aware of other “non-optometrists” who claim to treat what they call “visual dyslexia”. You should not confuse those people with qualified Behavioural Optometrists and in the process prevent even a single child having their visual needs properly assessed and managed. In THAT, you do children and their parents a great disservice.

        Anyway, there seems little point in continuing this conversation. I have learnt much from spending time with professional Speech therapists, Educational Psychologists and Occupational Therapists. I can only cheekily suggest that you may learn just a little from spending some time with a (qualified) Behavioural Optometrist.

        Reply
        1. alison Post author

          Dear George, I assume there is sound scientific evidence for the use of Behavioural Optometry to treat disorders other than dyslexia/learning difficulties, and this explains the UNSW Graduate Masters program subject. I’ve just been looking at their course description. However, universities also offer degrees in Chiropractic and Osteopathy, and I’m not sure about their evidence base these days, but I know a great deal of doubt was cast on it for many years. The concept of subluxations was, and perhaps still is, highly controversial.

          My concern is with the apparent dearth of scientific evidence for the use of Behavioural Optometry to treat dyslexia/learning difficulties, not with the field more generally. Are there any peer-reviewed meta-analyses of RCTs showing it helps overcome these difficulties by helping children read more successfully? Please send me the references, so that I can update my knowledge and my blog. I assure you that I have a scientific mindset, and if I am presented with peer-reviewed research published in a reputable scientific journal supporting the hypothesis that behavioural optometry improves word-level reading and spelling problems, I’ll write a blog post about it.

          I also had a look at the Optometry Australia Code of Conduct, which doesn’t mention evidence-based practice, something Speech Pathology Australia never STOPS going on about. But maybe Optometrists use another term or have another document discussing this that I couldn’t see. I’ve written to Optometry Australia about this 2019 RANZCO statement: https://ranzco.edu/news/ophthalmologists-condemn-channel-7-report-on-behavioural-optometry, asking about their position on the use of Behavioural Optometry to treat learning difficulties.

          Reply
          1. George Sahely

            As I said Alison, I see little point in continuing this conversation with you personally. I have this little thing about not conversing with those who question my ethics. Hopefully you can find a Behavioural Optometrist closer to your Practice with whom you can work together.

            I am pleased that you have taken the time to contact Optometry Australia to learn a little about this topic, though perhaps you would have been advised to do so before you denigrated an entire profession.

            Equally I would recommend exploring the website of ACBO; the Australasian College of Behavioural Optometry. No doubt you will again be surprised when you see their policy statement specifically states that we DO NOT treat Dyslexia or directly “fix” learning difficulties, though that we assess and treat all those visual correlates associated WITH learning difficulties.
            THAT is why other, professional, Speech Therapists frequently refer to a Behavioural Optometrist when they wish to maximise the learning capacity of the children they are trying to help.

            So much can be learned for the benefit of children IF professionals works together, rather than “protecting their turf”. I have written to both Optometry Australia and to Speech Pathology Australia to advise of your Post and of this “conversation”; in the hope that those who matter can ensure our professions work together rather than snipe at other Allied Health colleagues.

    2. Claire Battersby

      Thank you for making this point. Whilst well designed studies can show what is most likely to support people who fit within the bell curve of outcomes, they do not account for every outlier and every context.
      People are complex and a variety of biological, motivational and contextual factors play into how kids engage and progress with their learning. One size will never fit all and knowing individuals who are outliers and taught themselves to read at young ages – who can read and understand university level texts by age 7, I will never agree to the mantra that systematic synthetic phonics ‘harms no-one’. Maybe some kids, the ones who are terrible spellers but teach themselves to read age 2 or 3 know even more effective ways of learning to read – it just hasn’t been identified or studied yet!?

      Reply
      1. alison Post author

        Dear Claire, yes there are a small number of children who don’t require much teaching to learn to read, so teachers need to differentiate up for them, while they ensure that all the children in their class have the foundational skills they need. Sometimes having to do something else, or wait for other children to catch up, is not harmful in the way that not learning to read is harmful. There certainly are things we don’t yet know about how reading and spelling develops, but professionals can only act on what we do know, and use intervention that does reflect the best available evidence.

        Reply
        1. Claire Battersby

          I think your idea of what constitutes harm is a personal judgement, possibly not based on evidence? With technological advances of text to speech and speech to text, perhaps teaching the ‘first principles’ of reading texts is an inefficient process? Perhaps insisting on progress with phonemes rather than competency with technology is harmful? In time, handwriting and reading may not be needed, just like an abacas? What if ‘books’ were not the primary focus of education..
          But these questions are outside the current discussion and certainly trying to base teaching on students strengths is known to be effective. Judging a fish on how well they can fly and a duck on how fast they can run will make them always feel failures.

          Reply
          1. alison Post author

            Claire, you’re going off into speculative territory now, people have been saying the kinds of things you are saying for the 30+ years I’ve been in the sector, but learning to read, spell and handwrite still really matter, and those who can’t do them aren’t doing very well. I don’t think what you are saying passes the pub test so I’ll sign out of our conversation now. Alison

  6. Heidi Gregory

    Well done Alison, you are to be congratulated for your post.
    As a parent who is always on the lookout for Snake Oil, I love this post.
    Too many times well meaning schools are encouraged to reach out to the dyslexia community especially during Dyslexia Awareness Month but in the case of this school, it doesn’t look as though any governance or research has been done around the Davis Dyslexia program or the qualifications of the facilitators. Fortunately, there is plenty of excellent resources that parents and schools can turn to, to enable them to look at the efficacy of programs. In the case of Mentone, that is lacking, and they are not alone (Alison’s edit midday 5/4/21: the post was actually a mistake by the school marketing team, and has been taken down, and I’m confident it won’t happen again). Many schools fail to ensure that our kids are receiving the best evidence-based programs and provide access to the best intervention tools. I suggest that anyone who is reading this blog immediately purchase Caroline Bowen and Pam Snow’s book, ” Making Sense of Interventions for Children with Developmental Disorders. It’s available on Kindle. Parents and teachers need safeguards and this is a perfect example of schools believing the hype and marketing (testimonials, recommendations or anecdotes) around “alternatives” to Systematic Synthetic Phonics and explicit teaching practices. Thank you so much.

    Reply
    1. Heidi Gregory

      Thank you Alison for your edited response. Often schools unknowingly present these types of programs on recommendations from well-meaning parents, (“it worked for us, give it a go, what harm can it do?) It can do significant harm, to the wallets of parents, school reputation and most importantly the self-esteem of our children.

      Ben Goldacre coined the term “opportunity costs” in which he says, ‘the things you could have done, but didn’t, because you were distracted by doing something less useful.’ As a community we need to focus on evidence based practice for our kids, that is measurable and meaningful. Our children have a right to learn to read and the program mentioned in this blog does not do that. No independently published evidence, or meta analysis examining the quantifiable success of the Davis Program exists. What does exist however is plenty of Academics, scholars and experts telling us why it doesn’t work (see Bowen and Snow above). This rigour can apply to any program that makes claims that dyslexia is “curable in XX amount of lessons” or the program is good for brain training or balance or any number of areas covered in the RANZCO Policy and Guidelines section of its website – Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and Vision. If these programs did work, Literacy difficulties would not exist.

      Thank you again Alison for your dedication and your expertise, it is invaluable to our dyslexia community.

      Reply
  7. Karen starkiss

    I feel I have to respond to to comments about not all students requiring explicit phonics instruction. I think Pam Snow summed it up beautifully in a parent Q and A session:
    Q-Don’t some children learn to read without explicit phonics instruction?
    A-Yes, they do. The problem is, there is no way for a teacher of five-year old’s to know at the start of their first year of school, who’s who in terms of the level of ease with which children will learn to read. For this reason, effective explicit phonics instruction is like fluoride in the teaching water; it protects every child against the decay of low reading achievement. It won’t prevent every academic difficulty that children might encounter in the future, but it will ensure that at a population level, every child is better off.

    Pam Snow also quoted Professor Catherine Snow (no relation) of Harvard University and her colleague Professor Connie Juel of Stanford University observed in 2005 that Explicit teaching of alphabetic decoding skills is helpful for all children, harmful for none, and crucial for some.

    Reply
  8. Ingrid Sherwood

    Eyeglasses and colored overlays don’t improve dyslexia. They improve visual acuity and visual perception respectively.

    Reply
      1. Ingrid Sherwood

        Dear Alison, I appreciate the article you linked. But it makes me want to cry, like I cried the day my Irlen screener placed a green overlay over the “Dutch page,” and the print stood still for me for the first time in my then 50 years. I could see as sharply as I did after I got my eyeglasses and after I had my cataract surgery. In training to become an Irlen screener, I was hoping to help children with reading difficulties; never did I imagine that I would help myself. I never had difficulties learning to read. Why must some children keep their finger on every word as they read while the eyes of others just glide along the lines of print? Some children ask me for markers or colors, while others shake their head no. By the way, colored overlays are considered “Assistive Technology” and recognized for state tests in (at least) Texas and Virginia. Colored overlays are no more invasive than pencil grips and no more claim to “cure dyslexia” than a pencil grip claims to “cure handwriting.” If a naked page of print didn’t twinkle for me, I might not believe that Irlen Syndrome exists either.

        Reply
        1. alison Post author

          Ingrid, I am not questioning your experience, but it’s still a subjective one and a sample size of one. Health professionals must follow the scientific method and have larger sample sizes and use objective methods to work out what the most effective treatments are.

          Reply
          1. Ingrid Sherwood

            Thanks for your response, Alison. “Irlen Syndrome” appears to overlap (almost typed overlay) at least two fields: health and education. As an educator, I gravitate toward non-invasive ways of helping children read and claim only to try to help one child at a time. Here is a link to PUBLISHED RESEACH on the irlen.com website. Thanks again.

          2. alison Post author

            Yes, I agree that non-invasive intervention is preferable to invasive intervention. Both systematic phonics and coloured overlays are non-invasive. The main difference is that the effectiveness of systematic synthetic phonics has been demonstrated by robust scientific research.

          3. Ingrid Sherwood

            Thanks, Alison. I couldn’t agree more. I am trained in several synthetic, systematic phonics programs, which certainly help all children, especially those with reading difficultites. But phonics doesn’t make the print stand still for those with visual perception difficulties. You can have reading difficulties, visual perception difficulties, or both. They are two different issues. The use of colored overlays is not proposed for dyslexia, only for those with visaul perception difficulties, which can range from print twinkling on the page to trouble getting on and off an elevator, whether or not one has reading difficulties. Thanks again.

          4. alison Post author

            Ingrid, I’ve added some references to my blog post that might help explain why I disagree with you, as I don’t have time to write more on this at present. Thank you, Alison

          5. alison Post author

            There are several systematic reviews of the research on Irlen syndrome, and I’ve found two that are really recent, from 2019. The abstract of the first one says:
            “Scotopic sensitivity syndrome, later called Meares-Irlen syndrome or simply Irlen syndrome (IS) has been described as symptoms of poor reading ability due to poor color matching and distorted graphic images. Individuals with this syndrome are considered slow, ineffective readers with low comprehension and visual fatigue. It is still uncertain whether the disease pathophysiology is an independent entity or part of the dyslexia spectrum. Nevertheless, treatments with lenses and colored filters have been proposed to alleviate the effect of the luminous contrast and improve patients’ reading performance. However, no evidence of treatment effectiveness has been achieved.” You can read the whole thing here:
            https://www.scielo.br/j/anp/a/hBbLhfnC9tvVypQzknnS7hg/?lang=en

            The second one’s abstract says:
            “Background: Scotopic sensitivity syndrome, later called Meares-Irlen syndrome or simply Irlen syndrome (IS) has been described as symptoms of poor reading ability due to poor color matching and distorted graphic images. Individuals with this syndrome are considered slow, ineffective readers with low comprehension and visual fatigue. It is still uncertain whether the disease pathophysiology is an independent entity or part of the dyslexia spectrum. Nevertheless, treatments with lenses and colored filters have been proposed to alleviate the effect of the luminous contrast and improve patients’ reading performance. However, no evidence of treatment effectiveness has been achieved. Objective: The aim of the present study was to obtain evidence about IS etiology, diagnosis and intervention efficacy. Methods: A systematic review was performed covering the available studies on IS, assessing the available data according to their level of evidence, focusing on diagnostic tools, proposed interventions and related outcomes. Results: The data showed high heterogeneity among studies, and lack of evidence on the existence of IS and treatment effectiveness. Conclusion: The syndrome as described, as well as its treatments, require further strong evidence.” You can read the article for yourself here:
            https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332205658_Irlen_syndrome_systematic_review_and_level_of_evidence_analysis

  9. Heidi Gregory

    It’s not in the eyes
    This Dyslexia Week, RANZCO & the ADA are demystifying dyslexia to ensure children get the correct
    support in a timely manner.

    RANZCO and the Australian Dyslexia Association (ADA) want parents and teachers to be on the lookout
    for the signs of dyslexia. There are many misconceptions about the cause and treatment of this learning
    disorder. Timely diagnosis and the correct treatment are key.
    Dyslexia is an impairment of reading that can affect anyone. Importantly, dyslexia is not a vision
    problem. Dyslexia is not the result of problems with someone’s eyes or vision or ability to focus and
    track words and letters across a page. Dyslexia cannot be treated or managed by an optometrist or
    ophthalmologist using eye exercises or glasses.
    Dyslexia is a language processing disorder. It is often, but not always, accompanied by a history of
    language delay or speech therapy.
    Paediatric Ophthalmologist, Dr Maree Flaherty, notes that “the reversal of letters, numbers and words
    are not a sign of dyslexia, and do not occur with increased frequency in dyslexia”.
    RANZCO and the ADA are working to improve understanding of dyslexia, which is the most common
    of the specific learning disorders that affect between 5 and 15% of Australian school-aged children.
    Dyslexia does not go away as children get older and will continue into adulthood. However, through
    intervention and regular appropriate support it can be managed.
    What to look for?
    Parents and teachers should be on the lookout for children who seem to be having difficulty learning to
    read despite normal intelligence and adequate educational opportunity.

    https://ranzco.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/RANZCO-ADA-Media-Release-Dyslexia-Week-2021.pdf

    Reply
    1. George Sahely

      Good afternoon Heidi,
      If you have read my comments above you will know that I, as a Behavioural Optometrist, do not make any claims about specifically treating Dyslexia; so I think we are on the same page there. I also make that point that I refer many patients to Ophthalmologists for their medical opinion and care.

      However, in advocating for RANZCO’s Policy Statement as described above, may I ask how many hours does an Ophthalmologist, in their 11+ years of detailed and critical medical study, actually spend learning about Dyslexia, Learning Difficulties, and Cognitive Developmental Delays?

      Unless that answer is in the order of “several years” (rather then the reality of perhaps 1 week), why would advocates of child academic development hold that Policy statement as in any way a Gold standard?

      Reply
      1. Heidi Gregory

        Dear George,
        I have looked at your association page particularly here: https://www.acbo.org.au/professionals/menu/news/235-pattern-glare-tinted-lenses.
        Through the Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists (Steve Leslie) provides a ringing endorsement for Professor John Stein.

        To my knowledge, none of Professor Stein’s research has been subject to a meta-analysis and it lacks independent peer review. Academics and the general public have known for some time that dyslexia is a language based neurological condition and not a visual condition, as you have pointed out.

        However, as you can see, Professor Stein is a strong supporter of coloured lenses and fish oil for dyslexia, his profile link from the page is here, here and here:

        https://www.ox.ac.uk/news-and-events/find-an-expert/professor-john-stein.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIx6ITYfNbU and here: https://web.archive.org/web/20061014090733/http://www.physiol.ox.ac.uk/~jfs/

        I would suggest this evidence serves to illustrate RANZCO need to distribute regular media statements regarding the continued support of BO’s for plastic coloured products as an intervention tool for literacy difficulties.

        Heidi

        Reply
        1. George Sahely

          Heidi, I think you missed some vital points in somehow coming to your conclusion above.

          Firstly the man to who you refer, Prof. Stein, is an Emeritus Professor of Physiology at Oxford University, not a Behavioural Optometrist. Like many in the UK, he uses the words Dyslexia differently (covering any and all learning difficulties) to most in Australia (where it is by convention and recent definition, a language based neurological disorder).

          Secondly Stephen Leslie, a Behavioural Optometrist , on your link refers to the use of tinted lenses and states, and I quote,
          “It covers the use of tinted lenses for people who experience pattern glare in
          conditions such as photosensitive migraine, photosensitive epilepsy, concussion
          and whiplash, visual snow, and in people who experience moving and jumping
          words who have been diagnosed with dyslexia”.

          So again, ACBO’s official policy is that management through tinted lenses (which I personally do no use) is for the management of a Visual Disorder, NOT Dyslexia. THAT makes RANZCO’s media statement irrelevant (see my notes regarding a Straw man argument above).

          Reply
          1. Heidi

            George, I am very pleased to read that you do not use lenses to correct reading or numeracy difficulties. That is the job of a professional who has been trained to use systematic synthetic phonics and/or explicit teaching.

            For the readers of this blog, I am leaving you with this article by the highly respected and oft quoted Dr Kerry Hempenstall.

            https://mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?m=13959&i=655062&view=articleBrowser&article_id=3634764&fbclid=IwAR0DvzmYtf-aIDG0eKMYtqdFDWX10dQDmjYGwGPs4ro0LG3cPbZd8RQ99D8&ver=html5

            Heidi.

      2. alison Post author

        Dear George, I have deleted the last part of your comment re the motivations of Opthamologists, as I am the publisher of this blog and I find it unacceptable. It is perfectly fine to use blog comments to have a robust discussion about whether or not an intervention has sound scientific evidence. Please provide us with references for well-designed scientific research (RCTs or meta-analyses) supporting the use of behavioural optometry for learning difficulties.

        Reply
        1. George Sahely

          Alison please stop using a classical Straw Man argument to support your denigration of Behavioural Optometry……

          1.You state Dyslexia is a language based delay so therefore Optometry has no role to play in helping children
          2. Optometry itself states that it does not treat Dyslexia nor learning difficulties, though addresses the visual problems known to co-exist in children with learning difficulties.
          3. Yet you then demand studies to show that Optometry can treat learning difficulties, despite what we said in point 2 above.

          You then use that Straw man argument to advocate that children with learning difficulties not be managed by Behavioural Optometrists (whose course extensively covers cognitive visual development), though by the purely medically trained Ophthalmologists.

          Do you realise that such a proposition is exactly the same as, and as crazy as, arguing that a child with a learning difficulty should only be assessed by an audiologist and not by a speech therapist? Equally, given the huge overlap in Occupational Therapy and Behavioural Optometry, to discard the latter would mean to criticize the former; a patently irresponsible proposition.

          If one understands the seemingly non-controversial statement that disorders of vision may impact on a child’s learning and ability to function to their potential in the classroom (be they anomalous accommodation, vergence, strabismus, amblyopia, fusion, visual-motor integration, non-motor visual analysis, visualisation, oculomotor control, auditory-visual integration, spatial awareness etc. etc. etc.), then one understands the role of Optometry as part of a multi-disciplinary approach to maximising the ability of a child to function in class (all without the Optometrist ever claiming to treat any associated Dyslexia).

          So if I rephrase your request for studies and direct it towards the more appropriate question of whether Optometry can be of help to children who present with learning difficulties (again WITHOUT TREATING ANY DYSLEXIA OR LD ITSELF), then here’s just a very few…

          1. Scheiman MM, Rouse MW. Optometric management of learning related vision problems.
          2. Barrett BT. A critical evaluation of the evidence supporting the practice of behavioural vision therapy. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics 2009; 29: 4-25.
          3. Young BS et al. A study of visual efficiency necessary for beginning reading. (Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southwest Regional Conference of the International Reading Association (14th, San Antonio, TX, Jan 30 – February 1, 1986)).
          4. Birnbaum MH. Nearpoint visual stress: a physiological model. J Am Optom Assoc. 1984; 55: 825-35.
          5. Rosner J, Gruber J. Differences in the perceptual skills development of young myopes and hyperopes. Am J Optom Physiol Opt. 1985; 62: 501-4.
          6. Rosner J, Rosner J. Some observations of the relationship between the visual perceptual skills development of young hyperopes and age of first lens correction. Clin Exper Optom 1986; 69: 166-8
          7. Rosner J, Rosner J. Comparison of visual characteristics in children with and without learning difficulties. Am J Optom Physiol Optics 1987; 84: 531-3.
          8. Ludlam WM, Ludlam DE. Effects of prism induced accommodative convergence stress on reading comprehension test scores. J Am Optom Assoc 1988; 59: 440-5.
          9. Borsting E. Measures of visual attention in children with and without visual efficiency problems. J Behav Optom 1991; 2: 151-6.
          10. Kulp MT, Schmidt PP. Effect of oculomotor and other visual skills on reading performance: a literature review. Optom Vis Sci 1996; 73, 283-92.
          11. Sterner B, Abrahamsson M; Sjöström A. Accommodative facility training with a long term follow-up in a sample of school aged children showing accommodative dysfunction. Doc Ophthal 1999; 99: 93- 101.
          12. Abdi S, Rydberg A. Asthenopia in school children, orthoptic and ophthalmologic findings and treatment Doc Ophthal 2005 111, 65-72.
          13. Rawstron JA, Burley CD, Elder MJ. A systematic review of the applicability and efficacy of eye exercises. J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus. 2005; 42: 82-8.
          14. Motsch S, Muhlendyck H. Differentiation between dyslexia and ocular causes of reading disorders. Ophthalmologe 2001 98: 660-4.
          15. Kapoula Z, Bucci MP, Jurion F, Ayoun J, Afkhami F, Brémond-Gignac D. Evidence for frequent divergent impairment in French dyslexic children: deficit of convergence relaxation or of divergence per se? Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthal 2006 245; 931-6. Visual Efficiency Skills – Origins and Effects on Visual Perception: a Review of the Literature By Christine Nearchou BScOptom PGCertOcTherMelb FACBO FCOVD FVCO July 2009 © Copyright ACBO 2016 All Rights Reserved. 9
          16. Palomo-Alvarez C, Puell MC. Accommodative function in school children with reading difficulties. Graefes Arch for Clin Exp Ophthal 2008; 246; 1769-74.
          17. Kapoula Z, Bucci MP. Postural control in dyslexic and non-dyslexic children. J Neurol 2007; 254: 1174- 83.
          18. Bucci MP, Brémond-Gignac D, Kapoula Z. Poor binocular coordination of saccades in dyslexic children Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2008; 246: 417-28.
          19. Hoffman DM, Girshick AR, Akeley K, Banks MS. Vergence–accommodation conflicts hinder visual performance and cause visual fatigue. J Vision, 8(3):33, 1-30, http://journalofvision.org/8/3/33/
          20. Bharadwaj SR, Candy TR. Cues for the control of ocular accommodation and vergence during postnatal human development. J Vision 2008; 8: 1-16, http://journalofvision.org/8/16/14/
          21. O’Leary CI, Evans BJW. Double masked randomized placebo controlled trial of the effect of prismatic corrections on rate of reading and the relationship with symptoms. Ophthal Physiol Optics 2006; 26, 555-65.
          22. Gallaway M, Boas MB. The impact of vergence and accommodative therapy on reading eye movements and reading speed. Optom Vis Dev 2007; 38: 115-20.
          23. Borsting E, Rouse M, Chu R. Measuring ADHD behaviors in children with symptomatic accommodative dysfunction or convergence insufficiency: a preliminary study Optometry. 2005; 76: 588-92.
          24. Roch-Levecq A-C, Brody BL, Thomas RG, Brown SI. Ametropia, preschoolers’ cognitive abilities and effects of spectacle correction. Arch Ophthalmol. 2008; 126: 252-8.
          25. Garzia RP, Nicholson SB, Gaines CS, Murphy MA, Kramer A, Potts J. Effects of near point stress on psycholinguistic processing in reading. J Am Optom Assoc 1989; 60: 38-44.
          26. Vision, Learning and Dyslexia: A Joint Organizational Policy Statement of the American Academy of Optometry and the American Optometric Association. http://www.aoa.org/x5420.xml (accessed September 2009)
          27. American Optometric Association. Optometric Clinical Practice Guideline. Care of the patient with accommodative and vergence dysfunction. 2006. http://www.aoa.org/documents/CPG-18.pdf (accessed June 2009).

          Reply
          1. alison Post author

            Hi George, I have never said, and never would say, “Optometry has no role to play in helping children”. I got glasses when I was 12 from an optometrist, and it helped me a lot.

            You say “Optometry itself states that it does not treat Dyslexia nor learning difficulties” and this does seem to be what many optometrists say nowadays. This is a fairly new development. I could dredge through my client files and find dozens of Optometrists’ reports saying that a child’s learning difficulties were partly a result of their vision difficulties, and proposing a course of vision therapy involving things like training eye saccades, though my understanding is that abnormal eye saccades are more likely to be a consequence than a cause of dyslexia. In the very recent past, one of the big chain optometry providers had information on its website about optometrists treating dyslexia. There still are a few Optometrists who say that they assess and/or treat dyslexia and/or learning difficulties. These are just a few examples I found by googling today:

            The statement “Vision therapy aimed at the improvement of the child’s visual efficiency and processing, is a highly effective treatment for dyslexia” can be found on this US web page: http://www.optometrists.org/childrens-vision/vision-for-school/dyslexia. There are many other US sites saying similar things.

            One of my local optometrists’ websites says “our children’s optometrists may complete visual dyslexia testing”, see https://fitzroynortheyecentre.com.au/suburbs/kew.

            This website advertises assessment and therapy for “visually related dyslexia” http://www.eyecuoptometrist.com.au.

            These Australian Optometrists offer dyslexia assessments: https://www.eyeq.com.au/optometrist/nowra.

            This Optometrist says letter reversals are a vision problem (they’re not, see the work of Stanislas Dehaene, author of Reading in the Brain), and offers therapy to correct this, see https://eye5.com.au/what-we-do/learning-difficulties/letter-reversals.

            Perhaps you’d like to get in touch with the Australian Optometrists to discuss?

  10. George Sahely

    Alison feel free to complain directly to Optometry Australia if you wish; I’ll leave that to you again.

    May I suggest that your understanding of the role of Behavioural Optometrists would be enhanced (and perhaps be less threatened by) if you used the guidelines of our Professional Bodies as the basis of normality, rather than picking and choosing from websites of some individual practitioners.

    There will always be individual practitioners who, for whatever reason ( I could propose a hypothesis, though you’d probably censor that comment) make controversial comments; sometimes even silly ones. For example, unlike many of the well rounded Speech pathologists I work with, some Speechies apparently still believe that old theory that reversal problems are never visual in aetiology……! For the sake of everyone’s sanity I won’t go down that rabbit hole with you though. Even RANZCO make the point that persistent reversals are not a feature of Dyslexia itself.

    I’m also not sure that referring to one of the big chains in Optometry is useful; these international corporations are, to be vague and generous, a little different to most qualified Behavioural Optometrists.

    You are critical above of some Optometric reports because they make statements such as “a child’s learning difficulties were partly a result of their vision difficulties”. I would argue very strongly that such a comment MAY be absolutely correct. If a child, whom you have diagnosed with “dyslexia”, has an accompanying binocular vision or visual cognitive delay, it borders on neglect to not address those “partly related” issues. Done correctly such remediation (glasses or therapy) will certainly make the child “more teachable”. That is NOT the same as claiming to treat the underlying cause of Dyslexia or a Reading Learning Difficulty.; that is the job of teachers and remedial experts. Until that difference is understood, you will forever recycle your Straw man theory and just believe that Optometry’s only role is prescribing for Refractive errors.

    You also write “my understanding is that abnormal eye saccades are more likely to be a consequence than a cause of dyslexia”. Throw the word “some” into that statement and we might agree. No doubt a child with phonemic issues and poor reading abilities will often show secondary defects in saccadic eye movement control.

    However you surely couldn’t be arguing that all reading oculomotor dysfunctions are caused by Dyslexia?
    Saccadic Eye movement control is a fine motor skill, and defects may be related to poor gross and fine motor delays (ask any Occupational Therapist), or to strabismus, poor accommodation control, disorders of binocular vision, just to name a few causes other than Dyslexia. If one does not understand or recognise that, then one is literally allowing a child to suffer with those other visual spatial conditions; ones which are treated easily by an Optometrist. Clinical testing can differentiate between a primary or secondary saccadic eye movement problem; it’s not that hard.

    I’m just hitting my head against a brick wall here. The only ones who suffer from the clearly disparate ideas of some secular professionals are the children; and sadly that is to the shame of all of us.

    Reply
    1. alison Post author

      Hi George, thanks for prompting me to explore/think about this issue further, I’ve now added extra references to the blog post and will recirculate it. I hope that it will be a useful reference point for parents who are wondering whether their child’s reading problem is a visual one.

      Reply
  11. AJ

    I’ve read most of the comments and debate here. It strikes me as interesting in that most Speechies I know – who work in the field where Dyslexia is common place – express reluctance or uncertainty about being more actively involved in diagnosis and thus early intervention. This, to my way of thinking, seems odd. Somehow Psychologists generally take this on as part of their day to day. As a dually qualified SP and OT I’m obviously supportive of a MD approach to assisting a child. But all things considered, my view is that Speech Pathologists really need to get on board and advocate more strongly for their unique diagnostic and clinical skill set, particularly in the area of Dyslexia.

    Reply
    1. alison Post author

      Yes, I agree, but the DSM5 diagnostic criteria are problematic, they don’t even assess the known underlying deficits like phonemic awareness, rapid automatised naming or phonological memory, and some parts of them make no sense e.g. the DSM says that Specific Learning Disorder’s prevalence is 5-15% in children and about 4% in adults, yet we call it a lifelong neurologically-based disorder. Serious literacy difficulties are much more prevalent than 4% in adults, the ABS says about 13% of adults have extremely weak literacy skills, and many more are just getting by, see https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/education/programme-international-assessment-adult-competencies-australia/latest-release. There is no operational definition for the 6 months intervention criterion, so it seems (from the diagnostic reports I’ve read) that anything goes, I’ve seen Reading Recovery and unspecified type tutoring considered to tick that box, so it’s possible to get a diagnosis even if you’re just an instructional casualty. Till these problems are ironed out, schools stop using early literacy programs that generate instructional casualties, and proper RTI is in place to respond to diagnoses in schools, I’m not terribly keen to offer dyslexia assessments, I’d rather work on prevention and remediation. Diagnoses might provide some comfort but they don’t seem to me to help much in terms of knowing what to do to assist.

      Reply
      1. AJ

        That would be my next point Alison. A lot of SPs are equally uncertain how to make sense of the dx once a referral is made for therapy. Therapy is equally foreign terrain for many SPs working with children in particular. Many clinics who receive referrals for this condition also fail to provide much in the way of clinical training for new therapists (which is cursory at best at university), yet Dyslexia is clearly on our scope of practice. Unless I’m mistaken.

        Reply
      2. AJ

        You touch right on the point Alison. A lot of SPs are equally uncertain how to make sense of the dx once a referral is made for therapy. Therapy is equally foreign terrain for many SPs working with children in particular. Many clinics who receive referrals for this condition also fail to provide much in the way of clinical training for new therapists (which is cursory at best at university), yet Dyslexia is clearly on our scope of practice. Unless I’m mistaken.

        Reply
  12. Ingrid Sherwood

    Alison, I appreciate that you added some references to your blog post that might help explain why you disagree with me. I’m still confused as to why you deny the effectiveness of colored overlays when, in fact, they have helped many people, dyslexics and non-dyslexics, find comfort in reading. The abstract does not deny Irlen but states, “The syndrome as described, as well as its treatments, require further strong evidence.”
    Bravo for anything that facilitates reading for those who struggle. As a reading interventionist, I spend my days teaching synthetic, systematic phonics.
    Meanwhile, if a child shows signs of reading discomfort, I ask the child one simple question: “When you look at a page, what does it look like?” Recently, a child told me that the words fall off the page. Click to see some of the unprompted and unexpected responses that Helen Irlen got: https://aaic.org.au/irlen-syndrome/distortions
    Here’s the Irlen Syndrome Sample Print Distortions youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FARizLljRkc
    Bravo for anything that helps correct distortions, whether the distortions be a matter of acuity or perception.
    Bravo for anything that helps a child. I wish I had asked the children sooner, “What does the page look like?”

    Reply
    1. alison Post author

      There’s no evidence that coloured overlays have more than a placebo effect, and I’m not trying to provide comfort to anyone, I’m trying to communicate clearly about the evidence. If people find comfort in coloured overlays then that’s their business and they are welcome to use them. But professionals should focus on intervention that has strong, objective evidence behind it, treatments with only subjective evidence tend to have an opportunity cost, either in time or money. So good on you for using systematic synthetic phonics.

      Reply
  13. Maria De Ionno

    Perhaps the ideas of the Blind Men and the Elephant are relevant here.

    The discussion appears to equate the learning of letter-sound correlation to the ability to perceive / process sound and visual information to reading literature etc.

    These are not either/or topics.

    They are not on the same place on the learning pyramid.

    Let’s value each one’s attempt to help children reach their goals and not leave children lost because something that could help them has been misinterpreted by someone in authority….

    It is important to interrogate and evaluate the evidence on which certain claims are made, as well as read conclusions

    Reply
    1. alison Post author

      Hi Maria, I assure you that I don’t equate paired associate learning with the ability to perceive/process sound and visual information, or with reading literature, I’m not even sure how anyone would do that. I value the efforts of everyone who is using scientific evidence as the basis of their work to help children learn to read and write. According to http://www.irlencentral.com.au/contact-providers, you’re an Irlen provider, so I don’t expect you to agree with my blog post. Alison

      Reply
      1. Ingrid Sherwood

        Alison,
        Children DO report that print twinkles, swirls, shakes, ripples, waves, fades, blurs, and washes out, while their eye doctors do not observe any problems with acuity.
        Many states DO recognize colored overlays as ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY because, when needed, color DOES help.
        The abstract you posted DOES state that, ““The [Irlen] syndrome as described, as well as its treatments, require further strong evidence.”
        These are the facts.
        I hope that your pages never twinkle, cause it’s a bear.
        Please give Irlen a chance in your opinion.
        Ingrid

        Reply
        1. alison Post author

          Yes, and children also report that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden, especially if you ask them whether they have seen any fairies there. If you read multiple scientific papers you will know that they tend to state their conclusions very conservatively, and that ‘require further strong evidence’ is scientist-speak for ‘lacks evidence’. If proper scientific evidence ever suggests that Irlen syndrome is more real than fairies, I’ll gladly give it a chance.

          Reply
  14. Maria De Ionno

    Hello Alison

    Thanks for your comment, but please don’t make pre-judgements.

    If you look through your invoices of a couple of years back you will find that I purchased materials from you because i think they are great.

    I believe strongly that systematic synthetic phonics is necessary for most students and especially those with reading difficulties (though even Shaywitz was criticised for claiming that phonics was the way to go when she had not organised “proper” controls in her early experiments.)

    I have been a classroom teacher and a psychologist before adding Irlen to my armory of supports for those students with visual perception (not vision) problems, who at the moment have nothing else that that I know of that stops the print distortions which slow down reading,

    If you have something that does that, please let me know. I am always looking for new ways of helping.

    On a non-educational point, do you believe that Microsoft would have put the ability to change colour behind words in their Immersive Reader without doing research? Why have optometrists included coloured tints separately from sunglasses? There is over 30 years of evidence of individuals finding coloured filters useful.

    There are thirty peer-reviewed papers which support Irlen (apart from hundreds of other papers). I can send you details if you would like.

    It is important to look at research to back up positions. I do. I understand that you might consider my OT therapist client today whose reading speed increased three-fold while testing her tints as placebo. Would you you also consider that after seeing Spec Scan differences of an individual with Irlen wearing and not wearing Irlen lenses? I cannot believe that is placebo. Nor the results of current brain research from Cornell University, assessing the effect of colour.

    In relation to the Ophthalmology paper, my understanding that the original paper was critical of optometrists dealing with vision and dyslexia who were taking over business. In that original paper they merely said that more research was needed in relation to colour. But the research is in…and yes there is disagreement. There always is in science. But does it have to be vitriolic?

    How about the practitioners use what is helpful, recognising that not everything is helpful for everyone..and even though I don’t think Dyslexia is a “gift” in our current society, let the play doh or clay letters, which to me show complete multisensory integration of form be used, when properly combined with sound, for those individuals who cannot easily learn to recognise letters in other ways.
    Cheers

    Reply
    1. Ingrid Sherwood

      Perfectly stated, Maria!
      Next time I see twinkles, I’m going to call them my little “fairies.” And I will make them go away when I cover them with my green Irlen overlay.

      Reply
  15. George Sahely

    Further to the question as to how a vision problem other than basic eyesight (20/20 vision) could affect a child’s ability to learn in the classroom, I thought the short linked video below gives some insight. In this demonstration 4 Canadian teachers had simple functional vision problems simulated through prism and contact lenses, and their comments on how it affected their ability to process visual information are telling.

    Reply

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