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Learning difficulties and migraine

Vision and Specific Learning Difficulties

The link between good vision and learning cannot be overestimated, as visual problems – if left uncorrected – can contribute to problems at school with reading, writing and concentration.  All children should have their eyes examined at regular intervals and the optometrist should always be told if parents are worried about their child’s progress at school.  Sometimes these problems are picked up during a normal school eye examination but it is more usual for schools to suggest an eye examination because a child is having difficulties.

Visual Factors Associated With Learning Difficulties

Experts agree that there is a higher chance of visual problems in children with reading, spelling and writing difficulties.  These problems may be due to specific learning difficulties which in a severe form may be diagnosed as dyslexia.

Symptoms include a dislike of reading, a below average reading age, poor concentration, untidy handwriting and poor spelling.  Other associated problems may be migraine type headaches, the dislike of fluorescent lighting, discomfort with computer work and hyperactivity.

Children will often talk about words jumping around the page and running together, blurring of vision during concentrated close work and headaches.  Patterns of contrasting lines close together can be uncomfortable; this is known as Meares-Irlen syndrome or pattern glare.

The Power of Colour

At The I Practice we can help with identification of visually related problems and in many cases, help by relieving the symptoms.

A specialised examination will show if these difficulties can be helped with conventional spectacles, through muscle exercises to make sure that the eyes work properly together or if special transparent coloured sheets of plastic and tinted lenses will remove the visual distortions.

We try to make the tests as relaxing as we can for children and normally arrange three half hourly appointments.


The Eye Examination

This would find out if vision is normal and if the eyes are healthy.  Parents are asked to complete a questionnaire about you or your child’s visual and family history.  If spectacles are needed or muscle exercises prescribed, then a further appointment will be made in about six weeks to check progress.  If this has resolved the specific learning difficulties then no further action is required.

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Coloured Overlays

If the symptoms are still present then a test is carried out using transparent coloured overlays.  If this makes reading more comfortable, then a sheet of the chosen colour is used for reading at school and home for six weeks.


An Innovative Field Of Optics

If the overlay is used consistently and there is an improvement in reading and concentration, then a colour for tinted lenses can be determine using the Intuitive Colorimeter.  This machine is able to determine the exact colour tint required for the lens, to obtain the most beneficial results.

When a person has been prescribed precision tinted lenses, the colour of tint that is required can, like any optical prescription, change over time.  Therefore we usually review the patient between six and twelve months and check the colour at regular intervals.


Tinted lenses and migraine

It has been established that some forms of migraine have a visual trigger.  Typically sufferers may have a dislike of fluorescent lights, computer screens and strong patterns consisting of contrasting and closely spaced patterns of lines.  Striped shirts, escalator steps and partly opened Venetian blinds are examples of this.  There may also be a history of specific learning difficulties.  Research has established that tined lenses can help in relieving or eliminating this type of migraine.​

Common signs of Reading Difficulties

  • Reversing and/or confusing letters or words

  • Rubbing eyes or blinking excessively

  • Using a finger as a marker when reading

  • Skipping or omitting words

  • Reading slowly

  • Poor concentration

  • Words blurring or moving about

  • Problems with glare from the pages

  • Headaches when reading

  • Sore eyes when reading

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