'We wish we had known about it years ago' - Visual stress under the spotlight as tinted glasses help children and adults
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 00:00 05 February 2018
Copyright: Archant 2018
A Norwich woman who is passionate about tackling visual stress has spoken out about the importance of getting the correct diagnosis to ensure the right help.
Ruth Codling, who runs her business Clarity from her home in Hethersett, provides tinted glasses to help people suffering with visual stress, also known as Meares-Irlen Syndrome.
“50pc of dyslexic people suffer from visual stress,” Ruth said.
“But a lot of people are misdiagnosed with being dyslexic when it’s actually visual stress. And I want to make people aware of the condition because people just don’t know.”
Ruth, 41, said for people with visual stress, words can move around the page or become blurry - often leading to children thinking they are unintelligent and struggling at school.
But often the cure was through using tinted glasses, known as colorimetry.
Liz Maw, 39, from Norwich, took her daughters 14-year-old Holly and 17-year-old Ellie to see Ruth. She said: “Both my daughters have dyslexia and I was aware of the visual stress that the condition can cause, which makes reading both difficult and tiring.”
While reading on a Kindle with a cream background had helped Holly at home, at school she could not use it.
“So I took Holly to Ruth to see if coloured glasses might help her with reading school textbooks and the whiteboard,” Liz said.
“As a result Ruth recommended pink-tinted glasses for Holly - they transformed her reading. Ellie - who has always been an avid reader - was intrigued and tried Holly’s glasses on and could immediately see that while they weren’t designed for her, they were of benefit.”
Deciding which colour is needed is a detailed, step-by-step process and involved a machine which costs thousands of pounds.
But soon, Ellie got a pair of her own.
Another child helped by Ruth was Joel Bradley, a 13-year-old Acle Academy pupil.
His mother Joanne, who works for the NHS and lives in Acle, said Joel was diagnosed with dyslexia in year four, and the school provided him with coloured overlays which helped. But he was still struggling with his reading.
“He had been complaining for a while of seeing coloured dots all over the text,” she said. “And it turns out that the words all merged together with no spaces.
“Joel’s glasses made a huge difference. He no longer avoided reading and his confidence improved. He no longer complained of visual stress symptoms such as migraines and word distortion and his handwriting improved massively. Joel initially needed extra support in school but over the last year this has stopped as he no longer needs this.”
Sir John Leman High School student 12-year-old Jamie Bretton, from Oulton Broad, had been wearing high prescription glasses since the age of five - up until then his mother Denise had thought his eye sight was normal, and was reassured by opticians. But when he started school the nurse found he could not complete the sight test.
Denise, who runs a clay pigeon trap business with husband Mike, said they eventually saw a specialist at James Paget Hospital, in Gorleston.
She said: “By the time we got there the specialist could not believe that his optician had not noticed that he actually had major problems with his vision. Jamie had so many different tests and had his head in just about every machine they had there - he was so good, never once complaining. We then had a further appointment at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital where we had to sit in a completely dark room and he had electrodes on his eyeballs and another load of tests.”
After treatment at the hospital, and again being let down by his opticians, Jamie was struggling to read the whiteboard at St Felix Prep School, in Southwold - but with extra help he succeeded.
But when he moved to Sir John Leman High School in Beccles, in September 2016, the team there were “exemplary”, Denise said.
After a number of different aids, they found a dark blue overlay helped Jamie - and after finding an optician they trust, he referred them to Ruth.
“Jamie needs four colours in his glasses and when he looked through these for the first time he was just absolutely amazed at how clearly he could see,” Denise said.
“His speed of reading increased instantly. He’s been using the glasses at school every since. Jamie tells us that they have made a tremendous difference to him.”
She added: “We had never heard of visual stress before we met Ruth and wish we had known about it years ago.”
And the process has helped adults too. Annabelle Leach, 48, a student at City College Norwich working towards a childhood studies degree said she did not find out she had visual stress and dyslexia until she was over 40.
The mother from Norwich said: “Wearing colorimetry glasses has totally changed my life. I would never have had the confidence to study for a degree without them.”
And Annabelle was so impressed she asked Ruth to test her youngest son Owen, 12, who said he’d been having visual stress.
“Since having his glasses Owen has become a lot more confident with his school work and his grades have improved.”
For Ruth, these successes showed the importance of the glasses to some, even though colorimetry was not widespread.
“I think because a lot of opticians don’t do it or don’t know a lot about it, and because the NHS don’t fund it, it’s not out there. If they funded it up to 16 like with a prescription it would help, but for children with visual stress they don’t see it like that.”
Now, Ruth is hoping to spread the word about colorimetry, and help more people gain their confidence with reading again.
• For more information on colorimetry, visit www.claritycolorimetry.co.uk