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No need to feel blue if your child has visual dyslexia

Jo Lamiri Jo Lamiri | 19:08 UK time, Saturday, 23 April 2011

Dyslexia is a real drag... not just for the children who endure it, but for parents who are at their wits’ end trying to work out how to stop their offspring from falling behind at school. Often it is not detected in school as many teachers do not have the expertise to see when a child might be struggling with dyslexia.

An adviser to the previous government, Sir Jim Rose published a report in 2009 calling for primary school teachers to receive training to help them identify children with dyslexia and provide the support they need. The current government has not yet commented on this proposal. 

Our son, Sam, is now 15 but when he was at primary school we noticed he had a real issue with reading – he found it difficult so would never pick up a book for pleasure. 

homework @Jacek Chabraszewski - Fotolia.com

That all changed when he was about eight. We were told about  a publisher that specialises in books for dyslexics...many of them with boy-friendly storylines (boys generally are more reluctant readers than girls and more boys than girls are dyslexic).  

The books are printed on a light cream paper and the font used is sympathetic to dyslexics, who prefer a ‘clean’ sans serif font for ease of reading; in fact, a special font, Read Regular, has been developed for dyslexics too. The stories are good: although the language used is quite straightforward, the storylines are pacey, which means that the child isn’t patronised with a baby book but still gains confidence from reading and understanding.

The main factor that helped Sam, though, was when we heard about a company that specialises in tinted lenses for glasses – imported from Japan, where this type of treatment is well established. I was initially sceptical but we went off to see a specialist for an assessment. 

Sam sat at a desk with a large lamp shining on to the page of writing. The specialist inserted a yellow-coloured slide into the lamp which shone yellow light on to the page. For Sam, this made no difference. Green then red had the same lack of effect. But when they added a blue-tinted lens Sam was astonished. “The words aren’t wobbling any more Mum!” Of course, I hadn’t realised they ever did, but just imagine how difficult that would be if you’re trying to learn to read. I had to blink back tears.

Our next step was to visit an optician that specialises in supplying coloured-lens spectacles to dyslexics. Sam’s eyes were also tested in the usual way but the optician then used lenses with different depth of blue until the optimum shade was reached. Sam has normal eyesight, so his glasses simply had coloured glass in them. 

He wore them at school and, from a reading age that was two years behind his actual age, he progressed in a few months to a reading age that tallied with his chronological age. The glasses also seemed to have a positive effect on his Maths. About a year later, Sam felt he had no more ‘wobbling’ problems and he stopped wearing the glasses. He then became an avid reader, devouring all the books other children his age were reading - amazing what a bit of blue glass can achieve.

For further information contact the Dyslexia Action and the British Dyslexia Association.

Check out the BBC Ouch page on famous dyslexics.

Jo Lamiri is a freelance writer.

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