What are the signs my child might be suffering from visual stress?
Your child may complain of headaches, glare, blurred vision and letters or words moving around. They may have difficulty in keeping their place while reading (often called tracking difficulties) and need to follow words with their finger or a ruler.
Other symptoms include difficulties in learning sequences (for example days of the week or the months of the year), a tendency to clumsiness, poor concentration and phonological problems (finding it hard to sort out the sounds within words).
What are the signs my child might have dyslexia?
The most obvious sign of dyslexia is slow reading progress. Other signs include visual symptoms, difficulty with learning phonics, poor spelling, memory difficulties and slow processing. Extra teaching may be making only a very small difference.
A child might appear to read reasonably well for their age, but be able to explain ideas orally and show superior understanding that suggests their reading should be much better. Such bright children with dyslexia may not be noticed because their reading ability has been assessed as normal.
How can I help my child with reading?
The main essential is to keep practicing. The more a child is exposed to reading, the more it will encourage the right connections in the brain to develop. It is important to make reading as fun and stress free as possible at home but to make sure you are not avoiding it. A child with dyslexia may have to do something four times as often as a child without dyslexia, for it to stick in their memory.
Playing word games with your child and reading together in a relaxing setting are both good for helping their reading. Lots of positive encouragement around progress is essential. Remember to talk about the books and characters to help them engage with the story.
Should I give my child fish oil Omega-3 supplements?
Yes. Modern diets do not include enough of the good fatty acids that come from fish but contain far too much Omega-6s.
Omega-3s are needed to develop the brain's reading network properly. So encourage your child to eat oily fish such as salmon or mackerel at least twice a week. Otherwise give them supplements.
Should I take my child to an optician?
Yes. The first thing you should do is take your child for an eye test (free for children) to rule out any common visual problems such as needing prescription glasses for near or far work. The optician will also check the health of their eyes.
If they are still experiencing visual symptoms when viewing text, after ruling out common sight problems, then they should have a specialist visual assessment with an Othoptist who is trained to diagnose and treat visual stress. We perform these tests in our clinic - please contact us for more information.
I have been told that dyslexia is not visual. Are coloured filters a placebo?
You have to see to be able to read, so it is ridiculous to disregard the importance of visual processing in reading. There is a considerable amount of research that clearly demonstrates that treating visual symptoms with appropriate coloured filters can often help these children to read.
If your child is complaining about blurring, letters and words moving and difficulty "following" the words when reading, yet the optician finds that they have normal vision, there is a high probability that blue or yellow filters will help.
What should I talk to my child's school/teacher about?
You should make sure you discuss your child's problems with their teacher and the school's special educational needs coordinator (SENCO). Then you should ensure that the school is following recommendations made by the SENCO, any dyslexia tutor or us.
You should request that your child is seated facing the board directly (not at an angle as this can cause light to reflect in ways that can disturb vision) and close to the front.
Ask teachers to provide any work they require copied onto a sheet of paper and broken into chunks, as copying from the board is difficult. Ask them to provide a summary of instructions on paper on the child's table for them to refer to, in case they struggle to remember verbal instructions.
A ruler may help with tracking while reading, but images should be covered up to avoid distraction. A child struggling with reading will often try to 'guess' the content of the writing by looking at the picture.
Why don't you do dyslexia testing?
The definition of dyslexia has becoming increasingly broad and the term dyslexia covers a whole host of difficulties. The term dyslexia now implies a general learning difficulty, which it isn’t.
Diagnosing dyslexia used to involve measuring a person's general IQ/Ability compared with their ability to read and spell. If their general IQ/ability was significantly higher than their ability to read and spell a diagnosis of dyslexia could be given.
Diagnosing dyslexia now involves a wide range of tests and showing significant differences in ability in any of the areas can allow a diagnosis of dyslexia. This means that the tests now identify that there is a problem rather than identifying what it is.
The diagnosis of dyslexia itself does not indicate how a child can be helped and no longer secures them any extra assistance in school or additional time in exams.The DRT and Local Education Authorities believe that the best approach is to determine the individual child’s needs and then make recommendations based on their specific needs.
That’s why we don’t focus on the diagnosis of dyslexia. We focus on identifying the specific problems that are causing the child to experience difficulties with reading and providing solutions, such as coloured filters, omega 3 supplements and alternative teaching methods to counter these problems.