Visual stress testing in schools

Testing for visual stress in schools

Symptoms of visual stress are experienced by a surprisingly large proportion of school children (between 5 – 20% depending on the severity). We believe that children experiencing undetected visual stress could be massively helped through our school system. Namely through visual stress testing in schools.

The importance of testing

It’s difficult for parents to know and understand exactly what they need to be aware of if a child is having problems with reading. This is especially the case in young children who have only just began their reading journey. Each child learns and develops at different rates so just because a child takes longer to understand phonics for example, it doesn’t mean that they have any kind of learning or medical issue which needs diagnosis.

However, keeping an eye out for early signs is not a bad thing, and can only benefit a child who might be taking a little longer than his or her peers with reading.

Teachers are in a position where they understand and have the knowledge of the key stage and level a child should be performing at. They also spend both one to one and general observation time with the children in a learning environment. If for example, a teacher is fully aware of the symptoms to watch for, they would be able to suggest to a parent that they suspect an overlay test could be beneficial.  

So, what should parents and teachers look out for?

In general, a child suffering with visual stress may tire quickly, and work quality may deteriorate rapidly; concentration may be poor, and attention span short; and they may dislike reading and show reluctance to attempt literacy tasks. There will often be associated problems of frustration, low self-esteem and behavioural difficulties. If you are a parent with concerns it’s always a good idea to talk to the school. Speak to their Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO).

Here are some of the more common signs of visual stress:

  • Individuals move close to or away from the page
  • Individual frequently change their head and body position
  • Frequently looking away from the page
  • Excessive yawning
  • Needing to track with their finger
  • Rubbing their eyes frequently
  • Excessive blinking
  • Reading slowly and haltingly regularly

A big issue relating to diagnosis is that opticians don’t test for Meares-Irlen Syndrome. More often than not opticians don’t know a lot about it. This, and the fact that the NHS doesn’t have funding for the required tests means that knowledge is sparse. If the NHS funded testing up to the age of 16, just like a prescription, it would improve statistics dramatically. But, more importantly a child’s development and wellbeing.

How easy would it be for schools to test for Meares-Irlen Syndrome?

The answer is that with training, early testing is an easy process under the correct guidance.

The first stage in testing for visual stress is simple and a quick process. An overlay assessment will indicate if there is an issue and whether a child needs to seek professional testing. At Clarity Colorimetry, we can teach schools how to conduct these simple tests. These tests will help their students if they are showing signs of Meares-Irlen syndrome.

  1. Firstly, a rate of reading test to assess objective benefit.
  2. Secondly, 10 colours are used to determine if colour helps. The test conductor will be taught how to carry this out. A sequence of colour overlays used to apply over text. All with clear guidance as to which combinations would benefit the student.
  3. Thirdly, if colour is found to be beneficial, the patient will need to trial the concept. This will be for approximately 4 weeks to determine if the overlays are an effective method. In total the overlay test takes approximately 15 minutes.
  4. If the child could be suffering with the condition an appointment is needed to visit a specialist. This involves the use of an Intuitive Colorimeter. A device that illuminates a page of text with coloured light which is then varied in hue, saturation and brightness.    

If coloured overlay tests were available in schools, just imagine how this could impact children’s reading abilities. It would improve reading statistics in our school system and the wellbeing of the students.  

If you are a teacher or governor, wed love the opportunity to demonstrate how easy the test is. As well as how a simple test could massively help a struggling student.  To book a presentation, please contact us by phone, email or complete the online contact form.