Dyslexia and Me: What you see, What I see

Dyslexia and Me

People often ask me what it’s like visually when I am reading. When you grow up looking through your own eyes, I guess you don’t realise that you’re seeing things so differently until someone asks. The best way I have found to describe my vision is like pixels on a computer or TV screen. Each of the pixels makes up a more solid colour through RGB. When I look at solid colours or shades, I can still see other colours flashing around, though I know it is a white wall or a red book or a pitch black room. Even when there is no light at all, I still see colours. In fact, it becomes even worse! I walk a lot slower and cautiously in the dark because my vision to make out shapes is distorted by flashing ‘pixels’ of colour that cloud my vision.

At New Year 2013/14, we headed out along a path by the river at 11:30pm to watch the fireworks and to welcome in the new year. The only light was from the houses around and reflections on the water. In these types of circumstance, I may as well be blind. I already have issues with my balance and coordination which make me cautious on muddy paths, but with so little light, my vision was of little use. I had to look at the ground and get my boyfriend to walk slowly in front of me so I could see his feet and his path to know where I was going. There was a fence at the side so there was no way I would have fallen into the river, but I may have ended up flat on my backside in the mud!

Pixel Eye

When I tell people about my ‘pixel-vision’, the usual reaction is ‘WOW! That’s so cool!’ Believe me, it isn’t! I have eyestrain a lot, despite wearing glasses to the correct prescription. I suffer from a lot of headaches and migraines, especially when I have a lot of reading or writing to do. I need to take regular breaks when doing so or I burn myself out! And I don’t mean the usual ‘I worked so hard I burnt myself out’ I mean ‘my eyes are burning so much from all this reading’!

But it’s not just reading and writing. As I said, I get lost in the dark as my vision clouds over, but it’s even worse in white rooms! I had classes at my Erasmus university that were in pure white rooms, with a white board and artificial lighting. There were times where I would end up with my eyes closed and head on the desk while I listened to the lecture, hoping my lecturer didn’t think I had fallen asleep. I also had a laptop on with an added glare. Fortunately I have ClaroView, a software that can change the screen of my laptop to a different colour such as blue. It’s like an electronic overlay. What I discovered though while sat in that classroom has changed my fashion sense forever.

With the amount of light hitting my eyes causing me to have crashing headaches, I ended up wearing a cap into class one day and found it extremely beneficial! While most people would wear a cap to block the sun from hitting their eyes, I use it to block light in general, especially from artificial lighting. I have seen a massive difference from doing so! I have far fewer headaches and migraines as I used to. White rooms are still my arch nemesis though despite this. Magnolia and cream don’t have the same effect though. My bedroom has white walls, but I have clutter on the walls; calendars, gig tickets, posters, leaves sent to me from a friend in Cork, a drawing a friend gave me etc. Clinically white rooms leave me in a miserable state, but if there are other colours or other things to catch or focus my eye, I feel far more comfortable.

Pixel Me

My hats get a lot of comments. ‘Why do you never take that thing off?’ ‘We never see you without your hat!’ And I think a lot of people are very sceptical of how beneficial it is in reducing the number of headaches I have. What’s worrying me now is that when I graduate, if I have to work in an office (like I have in the past) with white walls, am I going to have a return to the migraines I used to have when I worked before? How do you tell an employer that you’re wearing a hat to stop you having headaches and migraines when it looks ‘unprofessional’?

I can remember in school other kids who wore caps (long before I discovered the benefits) being told to take them off. If I had found this technique out when I was younger, would my school have had the same attitude to me wearing a cap all the time? I am still waiting for a lecturer to tell me off for wearing a hat inside. Fortunately when I have explained absences from class and the reason for the cap, lecturers have been very understanding!

I created a gif years ago to show someone in student support at university how I see things when I read. This was the result:


Along with the png file at the top of this blog post, hopefully you will have a better understanding of my vision. Though the one at the top is perhaps more accurate in ‘pixel’ size, the gif shows how these pixels and shadows are not static and it’s the movement that makes me skip lines when reading long passages. I don’t see letters back to front or upside down. It’s only when I write by hand that I invert letters, but it’s never the classic db or qp confusion but un and mw.

Even in the writing of this blog I have developed a headache, so it’s time for a break, some painkillers and a cup of tea before I start reading my university work!

So if you see me in a hat, or question why I have so many headaches and migraines close to deadlines and exams, maybe you will have a better understanding of just how difficult it is with my crazy ‘pixel-vision’. It really isn’t as cool as it sounds!

Posted on March 2, 2014, in Personal Experience and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. “. Even when there is no light at all, I still see colours. In fact, it becomes even worse ” sounds like persistent visual dyslexia a pretty rare problem. Normally visual dyslexics don’t have symptoms in the dark . The only person I ever was in contact with years ago with persistent visual dyslexia had symptoms similar to yours even with his eyes closed. No one seems to know what causes it and it has puzzled me as well.

    My niche is visual dyslexia and I sell See Right Dyslexia Glasses which are universal visual dyslexia filters and have a very high success rate at removing described visual dyslexia symptoms.As the glasses are based on removing wavelengths of light that normally cause visual dyslexia symptoms, they are not going to be effective for symptoms that are present in the dark as you describe.

    I have speculated about the likely mechanism for persistent visual dyslexia ( visual problems that still exist in the dark ) and do have a suggestion if you are so inclined to try something for yourself. If your problem is light induced it might not be in the visible light spectrum at all but in the infrared part of the spectrum ( which would explain why your symptoms are still present in the dark ) .

    Professional photographers ( or a school photography department ) likely have UV and IR cut off filters for their cameras as will camera shops. Any of those sources would probably let you look through one of their filters to see if your vision improves. You may also want to investigate if you vision is temperature sensitive to what you look at. As an example does it matter if you are looking at the white inside of a freezer compared to warmer object such as an outside white wall in the sun.

    As I said I am just speculating.


    • Hi John,

      I didn’t realise it was a rare thing to have my weird vision. I know that different people I’ve spoken to with dyslexia have a variety of different issues they struggle with. My spelling on the whole is as good as the average person, I need to spell check and pull out the dictionary and thesaurus once in a while. No one else I have spoken to seems to have my vision, but I put it down to Irlen Syndrome. I definitely don’t see letters move or swap positions or invert on themselves.

      My school thought about glasses for me (I have normal glasses for short sighted vision), but the colours that I found helpful with overlays change and it only makes it slightly easier to read, I still get the pixel ‘noise’ no matter what colour I’m reading from.

      I assumed something similar, as I can see all colours in the spectrum at all times.

      White background on anything, whether it’s a fridge or a wall hit with sunlight are exactly the same for me. White is the shade I struggle with the most especially with the sun or artificial lights bouncing off it. I do often wear my sunglasses when I have headaches/migraines which helps a little. I will definitely have a look into your camera filter idea though! Thanks for that šŸ™‚ If it helps I shall respond on here and post up the results on the blog (I’ll just need to find the time to do so now haha).

      Thank you for your suggestions šŸ™‚


  2. Get yourself test for irlen syndrome having a of irlen glasses . I would high recommend them anyone that is show symoth of irlen .


    • I have Irlen Syndrome. I never got the glasses because the overlay colour has changed for me several times and it only makes a very small impact on my vision. I still see the moving colours and shadows.


  3. I would find your local irlen Diagnostician and have the second test then The irlen glasses are not the same colour has overlays .


    • When I’ve been through my needs when tested for both Irlen Syndrome and Dyslexia those testing me and those assessing my needs decided that the glasses would not be of benefit for me. They probably work wonders for you, but it doesn’t affect all people in the same way.


  4. I have a talk to a friend of mine who is also a irlen Diagnostician I think you could get test again . What level of irlen have you got .


  5. Were they trained in the irlen methods ?


  6. It still sound wrong to me because when I had my irlen screening it was prused for me to having the second test . but it got two year to get funding for my irlen glasses .


    • 3 experts disagree with you. I’m sure your glasses work great for you, but they wouldn’t be of benefit to me. It’s not a big deal for me, I have other strategies in place that work fine.


  7. It’s mean’s you work lots hard . when the Irlen methods and glasses are make your life easy do you have depth percteption issue ?


    • Thank you Jennifer for your contributions, but I have now told you several times now that I have been told by 3 different experts who have assessed my needs that I DO NOT need special glasses.

      It’s fantastic that they have been beneficial to you and I’m sure they are to other people. We don’t all have the same difficulties whether it’s dyslexia or Irlen Syndrome even if there are a lot of similarities.

      I won’t be investing my money into specific glasses for Irlen Syndrome because I DO NOT NEED THEM! I have coloured overlays and software on my computer that allows me to change the background colour or alternatively it can read out text to me if I need to.

      I would appreciate now if you could move on from this topic as I have told you several times now that they would be of no benefit to me. Thank you.


      • Irlen advocates do not know what they do not know. Irlen is a psychologist not a scientist . Psychologists have a research bias that concludes that what works for some must work for all and has no requirement that the mechanism that causes the result needs to be identified. My problem with the Irlen method is mostly with the business model of “take the money and run”. Overclaiming results and the problems solved to increase your customer base when there is no financial guarantee for the customer who receives no benefit is basically wrong IMO.

        Jennifer’s question about depth perception problems is funny to me. A comment by someone who received no benefit from Irlen testing started my involvement with visual dyslexia by saying ” So that must be what people mean about seeing in 3D .” when he looked through a stack of filters I had for something else. My scientific OCD wouldn’t allow me to leave that alone until I worked out what caused visual dyslexia and how to restore normal vision several years later.

        It was only after I was able to predict who would or would not be helped by the visual dyslexia filters I developed , understood the mechanism of what caused visual dyslexia problems and had a high enough success rate of removing the described visual problems so I could offer a money back guarantee that I considered bringing See Right Dyslexia Glasses to market.

        On the plus side , a fair amount of my business is from people who tried Irlen lenses with no benefit ( I also tend to increase sales when ChromaGen advertises or people try them with no positive results ). Sorry I can’t do anything about your persistent visual dyslexia . I’m pretty sure it involves IR activated autofluoresent proteins in your eye but a real possibility exists that the wavelength giving you problems may be generated at your body temperature inside your eyes where it is impossible to filter out. If other IR wavelengths are involved and external my suggestion of trying IR filters may be helpful.

        Sometimes people need to have the obvious pointed out – so Jennifer. When visual problems exist in the dark where very little visible light exists it makes no sense to try to correct the problem by filtering out visible light ( which is what Irlen lenses do ). If you would like to understand more about visual dyslexia you can visit my site http://dyslexiaglasses.com/visualdyslexiasolution.html .


      • Thank you John. I am still going to look into the filters you mentioned when I have some spare cash/time and get back to you on what happens šŸ™‚


  8. I only think of you . A question do you used pukka pads when you are writing .


  9. I have purple pukka pads they are great .


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