Dyslexia means poor word recognition and results in reading difficulties. This sounds simple enough but understanding it among the many causes of reading problems and managing a dyslexic individual is complex.
As Behavioural optometrists, we can identify vision problems in your child’s eyes and prescribe appropriate lenses and/or vision training procedures. For example, astigmatism that distorts words can be eliminated by appropriate lens prescription. Difficulty with eye teaming such as fixation, tracking, focusing and convergence can be managed with supportive lenses, prisms and vision therapy. Visual perceptual problems such as poor visual memory can often be eliminated with appropriate optometric vision therapy.
There is however other causes of reading problems that include poor motivation to learn, poor motor development, impaired hearing, attention problems, lack of education, English as a second language and low intelligence can interfere with learning to read. These factors are ‘general’ causes of reading difficulties that must be investigated first by various childcare professionals such as a special education teacher, psychologist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist and paediatricians.
When all general causes have being ruled out, a careful optometric case history and testing for dyslexia such as the Home Dyslexia Screener and/or the Dyslexia Determination Test (DDT) should be done. Testing can reveal three basic types of dyslexia:
The child makes an abnormal number of letter reversals when writing
The child is unable to attack words phonetically when trying to read or spell i.e. SOLW vs SLOW
The child reads and spells words on a phonetic basis rather than with accurate pronunciation and writing i.e. BIXNIX vs BUSINESS
Although behavioural optometrists cannot directly address dyslexia, we can teach the dyslexic how to better manage visual difficulties through various therapies. Vision therapy can be very useful for improving their eye coordination and movement skills, which are often insufficient in a dyslexic and therefore can make it easier for them to manage their spelling and reading difficulties. Coloured lenses are used in some cases to make it easier for dyslexic to improve their visual performance.
It is therefore recommended for child with dyslexia or dyslexia-like symptoms to have their visual system assessed by a behavioural optometrist as most dyslexic can benefit from optometric intervention. If the child is suspected of having dyslexia but has not formally been diagnosed, the optometrist can refer to and co-manage with an educational psychologist, and any visual related syndromes mimicking dyslexia may be managed effectively by the behavioural optometrist.