Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Visual Stress, coloured overlays and tinted glasses, click on the question to see the answer:
What is Visual Stress?
Visual Stress, (previously known as known as Meares-Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome) is the term used to describe a number of symptoms which make reading difficult and often unpleasant. It most commonly affects academic tasks, such as reading, but can also affect everyday tasks, such as oversensitivy to car headlights at night, and overly lit places, such as supermarkets Most sufferers have a 'pick and mix' selection of symptoms ranging from mild to severe, symptoms become more pronounced after 10 minutes of reading.
Symptoms of Visual Stress:
Blurring of print.
‘Squashed up’ print .
Movement of print – wiggling or vibration of letters.
Letters muddling or words ‘falling off the page’.
Letters changing or doubling.
Letters fading or becoming darker.
Patterns appearing in the print.
Illusions of colour – splodges of colour moving on the page.
Nausea, discomfort or even pain caused by glare from the page.
Rivers of light snaking through the text (often described as waterfalls).
Headaches, tired or sore eyes.
Signs when reading:
· Moving closer to or away from the page or frequently changing position.
Excessive blinking or looking away from the page.
Tiring quickly. Concentration may be poor and attention span may be short.
Poor assimilation of reading text.
Losing place easily.
Speed or rate of reading is slower than expected for intelligence level.
What are coloured overlays?
Coloured overlays are rectangles of thin coloured plastic. Coloured overlays are designed to be placed over a page of a book or any other written material. They come in a wide selection of colours and can be doubled up (one on top of another) to create stronger, darker colours.
How do you use coloured overlays?
Place the overlay over the text you are reading. The overlay must be flat to the page with no air bubbles underneath, they must not be creased, bent or written on as this will make it too difficult to read through them.
How common is the condition?
So many people grow up with no idea that they have Visual Stress.
Often sufferers are all too aware that they read more slowly than their peers but are at a loss to explain why. For some, it is only after seeing text through a prescribed overlay that they can appreciate the extent of their own symptoms.
It is estimated that 20% of the population would benefit from coloured overlays, and for 5% using colour to read would make a dramatic difference to their education.
Symptoms become worse the longer a person reads, as eyes get tired, so many people avoid reading for long periods of time or may prefer magazines or comic books that are easier to read than full pages of small print.
Many sufferers are unaware that the way in which they see text is not 'the norm'. After all, the visual distortions have always been there, some days they may be worse than others, some print styles in books are easier to read than others, but this can be dismissed as tiredness or lack of enthusiasm.
What are the benefits of coloured overlays?
The right colour of overlay will minimise symptoms for the user. This allows the user to read more quickly and also for longer. One headmistress said ' overlays are all about eye-comfort' which is an excellent way to describe the reduction of visual perceptual distortions.
What happens in an assessment?
The aim of an assessment is to discover if a person has any symptoms of Visual Stress, if they do, it is essential that the correct colour of overlay is prescribed. Some colours can make symptoms worse while others can be very helpful in alleviating them, each person is different. Professional procedures are followed to prescribe the optimum colour.
Signs and Symptoms will be established
A wide selection of overlays representing the colour spectrum will be used
The final choice of colour will be 'doubled up' to fine tune the shade (double overlays are not always required but the patient will be given the opportunity to select them if they are more effective than a single shade).
The test can take up to 1 hour because it is subjective the patient should be allowed to take their time to ensure that they are confident and happy with their final choice of overlay. The assessor is there to help to guide the patient through the selection process making sure that symptoms and distortions are eliminated as much as possible.
If I need a coloured overlay, does it mean I'm dyslexic?
Visual Stress is a perception disorder it is not a learning difficulty like dyslexia. Some of the symptoms seem the same but the treatment differs greatly. Visual Stress is not connected to dyslexia, a person can have either condition or even both at the same time. Visual Stress is treated with overlays or tinted glasses, dyslexia is managed through varying techniques such as multi-sensory teaching, working with personal learning styles, and learning new dyslexia friendly study skills. Dyslexia has many strengths, although we tend to focus on the difficulties. Unfortunately, there are no advantages to Visual Stress.
If you or your child has dyslexia there are some very useful contacts and information in our 'useful info' section at the top of the page.
People often say that coloured overlays are for dyslexia - they are not! Coloured overlays are for the treatment of Visual Stress which is a more common eye condition, in the same way that short sighted people wear glasses to correct their vision, people with Visual Stress use colour to correct their vision.
What are the benefits of coloured glasses?
Coloured overlays are designed specifically to read with, the advantage of glasses is that you can wear them to write with too. Tinted glasses can be worn to limit the glare from fluorescent lighting and white boards. They can be also useful when working at a PC monitor, even for supermarket shopping to read product labels and write cheques - the list is endless!
Generally, it is advisable that people (most particularly children) try out their overlay first for a couple of months to establish how beneficial they are to them, before investing in tinted glasses.
Why do I need a special test to get coloured glasses?
The colour of your tinted glasses will rarely be the same colour as your overlay because the brain processes the effects of overlays and glasses in different ways. When using an overlay, your eyes are adapted to white light, but while wearing tinted glasses your eyes are adapted to everything being coloured not just the page of a book.
The test needed to prescribe the colour for the lenses is done with a machine called The Intuitive Colorimeter (for more information: www.ceriumvistech.co.uk and www.essex.ac.uk/psychology/overlays . The machine emulates what it would be like to read text while wearing coloured glasses, it is possible to choose from thousands of shades and hues to arrive at the optimum colour for you lenses.
Do you need to wear coloured glasses all the time?
They can be worn whenever a person feels they will benefit from the colour, they don't have to be worn all the time. Children may need a gentle reminder to put them on (just as they often need reminding to wear prescription lenses) but it is best left to the wearer's judgement.
Will a normal sight test at the optometrists pick up on Visual Stress?
No, the tests are quite different, it is very possible for a people with Visual Stress to have perfect vision. Prescription lenses do not help to elevate the symptoms of Visual Stress, it is colour that makes the difference. Everyone must have a regular eye test before any symptoms of Visual Stress are investigated.
Can colour be harmful in anyway?
Some colours can aggravate symptoms, or feel very uncomfortable, and therefore only qualified assessors can help you choose your colour in an assessment. No-one can choose your colour for you; an assessor will show you a good range of colours for you to choose from. It is not enough to try, for example, yellow and blue to see which you "like". For this reason it is important that the correct colour of overlay is prescribed.
The long -term effects of wearing tinted glasses are not known at the moment.
Is the condition hereditary?
Research is still on going, but there is evidence that Visual Stress runs in families, it is strongly advised that other family members are tested if a child or parent is found to have the condition.
Can Visual Stress be cured?
In the same way that prescription glasses are used to 'correct' short-sightedness, coloured overlays are used to minimise visual distortions. Overlays are not a cure, they are an aid just as glasses are. There are no long-term studies, to prove one way or the other, whether people "grow out of" Visual Stress. Some people may stop using colour during their teenage years, but may begin using colour again at university, or when they have a job. More research is needed to understand why people sometimes stop using colour.