There are a number of visual skills that are necessary for reading. Deficiency or poor performance in one or more of these skills can lead to reading difficulties. For example poor or inaccurate focussing will lead to the print going blurry or mean that the subject will be restless or hold the reading material at an inappropriate or constantly varying distance. Practicing focussing skills doing exercises like accommodative rock with lens flippers or Hart Chart rock will improve this and lead to improved performance.
Some qualified people will insist that exercises don’t work. If that is the case then we may as well give up trying to learn anything. Human beings learn on a 'see one do one teach one' principle. A child will see another child perform a task such as throwing a ball. They will try and emulate the same with varying success. A little encouragement and practice and their skill and accuracy will improve. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to observe the vision skills necessary for reading which makes this whole process much harder. These functions are acquired skills and improve with training. Bizarrely it is now widely accepted that vision training in Sports vision is a valuable tool to improve sports performance. Most big football and other sports clubs employ vision therapists to screen players and suggest means of improving visual performance. As I have suggested reading is just another skill, a sport which requires visual skills which if not naturally acquired can be trained.
Vision therapy is an individualised treatment programme prescribed to eliminate or improve conditions such as lazy eye (amblyopia), crossed eyes (strabismus), focusing, eye teaming and learning related vision disorders. It is appropriate for both children and adults. Special lenses, prisms, filters and instruments are used along with specialised exercises to help individuals learn to use or coordinate their eyes and brain more effectively .
You will need to book an assessment where we will undertake a range of tests and exercises to find out what problems you or your child might be experiencing and talk to you about what might be available to help.
At the end of an assessment there are generally three avenues available to help you or the patient;
The easiest and probably the cheapest way is to provide you or the patient with a pair of spectacles. Where possible we will always attempt to find a prescription which will help with the problem you or the patient faces. Obviously if you need glasses generally that prescription will be provided but we would hope that those glasses will be already being worn before you or the patient attends for the assessment. It might be possible to adjust the spectacles to further help you or the patients specific needs or provide a new pair to help. These glasses would perhaps reduce the demand on the eyes when reading or supply support and help for the eyes that get tired quickly.
The second method is to explore the use of colour. Patients who suffer from visually evoked migraine headaches or pattern glare find the use of colour particularly helpful. Pattern glare is commonly experienced by everyone when looking at stripes or very jazzy designs that can make you dizzy, disorientated, nauseous or promote headaches.Some people can experience pattern glare when looking at a paragraph of text and tell us that the text moves around, blurs or mingles. Reports of vibration and shimmer are also common. In these cases we would always start with a colour overlay or acetate assessment. If the use of overlays is found to be beneficial over a period of some weeks then we would proceed to an assessment on the Intuitive Colorimeter which will give a recipe for a specifically tinted lens that can be combined with any prescription and worn as spectacles for reading.
Both of the methods above, where appropriate, provide an instantaneous improvement in visual performance and are particularly useful for people who are experiencing problems in the short term. For instance if you are studying for exams or people who have taken a break from their regular work. The effects are limited and usually allow you to overcome problems in the short term but rarely provide a permanent or lasting solution. Sometimes however they provide an easing of symptoms and relief from visual stress that can allow visual skills to develop naturally and so gradually a person will find that they can increasingly manage without any help from the glasses.
Disabled students are funded by the Department of Education for Colorimetry Assessment and Precision Tinted Lenses under the Disability Student Services.
For a child with with mild dyslexia who has some skills but struggles to keep up might be helped by the above BUT a child with basic and profound problems where their skills are at a very low level with find little benefit. In these cases it is necessary to start with the basics and teach or guide people to develop these visual skills. Vision training is offered in blocks of six sessions. These sessions are one to one and last half an hour. We teach four separate procedures which the patient takes home to practice. Some patients will be able to do this without help, most will need a mentor to encourage and offer help where required. It is important that the procedures are repeated daily. It is no use doing a procedure once and then leaving it for a week. A few minutes per procedure each day is all that is required. patients are seen fortnightly to allow them to progress.
Freddie was a bright boy who despite a great deal of support both at school and at home was finding increasing difficulties with any close work tasks. He learnt to read very well but had failed to maintain his progress and by the age of nine was dropping behind the rest of the class. Although he had 20/20 vision he complained of "fizzy vision", found it difficult to read for more than a paragraph and struggled to read new words. Observation revealed eye rubbing, poor concentration and a general reluctance to view things closer than 60 cms. Freddie had a difficulty maintaining clear vision close too and compensated by holding things very close causing a great deal of eye strain and a reluctance to read. Glasses relieved the near vision stress and a course of vision therapy improved his ability to accommodate and developed visual skills that allowed him to begin to catch up at school straight away.