Dyslexia and Me: Specs Appeal
Now that I have finished university and have started looking for work, it’s time for me to look more professional and ditch my cap. This is a lot harder than it seems. It’s not a fashion statement, but it shields my eyes from harsh light both outside and inside. So today I went to an optician who specialises with dyslexia.
Over the years I have used coloured overlays to help with my reading which have changed colours many times in the last 15 years. When thinking about the changes earlier I realised that when I’m reading from paper in a room with artificial lighting I prefer to use warm coloured overlays such as rose or orange, but when I’m using my computer which has a much brighter white that is more artificial I use a light blue or aqua coloured screen using ClaroView. I don’t always use them because they don’t seem to stop the problem with the movement of the ‘pixel’ vision, it just seems to dampen down the effects caused by the warm or cool lighting.
I have always been very skeptical about the Irlen glasses. I have had a number of learning support professionals tell me that they were probably not suitable for me as my overlay colours change so frequently. However, whenever I’ve mentioned my vision problems online, whether it’s on this blog or on forums, I receive a barrage of comments telling me to get coloured Irlen lenses. These are people who have only a small perception of my abilities/discrepancies from what they’ve read online and instantly tell me that the professionals from school, two colleges and university who advised against the glasses were wrong. They don’t know who the professionals are and they don’t seem to want to listen to the reasons why I was advised against them. While a small number of these comments seem to come from genuine people who are offering well intended advice, there are always others who have been far more pushy and it has always sounded like a salesperson trying to make a quick buck out of my disabilities by pretending they know best. It has almost always left me very cold and sometimes (depending on who it is that has contacted me) it has left me very angry.
When I went into the optician, I took all my dyslexia papers from the educational psychologist I saw 5 years ago and all the paperwork from learning support at university from 4 years ago. He had a quick flick through it, but could basically tell me what they would have told me without really reading in-depth. He explained to me a lot of what I’ve discussed on the blog about how dyslexia is different for different people. Actually most of what he said to me was information I had either looked up recently for the blog or things I had experienced myself. He also said to me that there was no miracle cure for dyslexia and that it was my vision he was looking at as an optician rather than the other things that go with my specific difficulties.
We did the usual eyesight tests that I’m used to from before I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I was reading letters from a board through one eye and then the other. Pretty standard stuff. However, this time I was looking at things as I would read them while he put lenses in front of my eyes. I had to look at a letter in the middle of a bunch of letters while he changed these special lenses and then again looking at words on a page. The difference to how clear they looked actually made me go ‘OH OH OH!!!’ and he had to tell me to calm down in the chair. I’ve never seen letters looking so clearly in my life! It was amazing! And what was funny was that although I haven’t had new glasses for 4 years (I know, I should have it done every second year), my prescription has actually improved! My headaches that I had when reading my dissertation were nothing to do with my eyes becoming weaker after all, which I had assumed since my ability to read signs that were far away really hasn’t changed since when I picked up my glasses 4 years ago.
Rather than trying to work out the right colour for my eyes, he was finding the right prescription and prisms to put into the lenses. He said my headaches and problems with reading was due to my eyes working overtime and that the prisms should help to widen my view (which he told me was unusually narrow) to give my brain more time to process the words on the page. For me, this made far more sense. Looking through these lenses made it far easier to make out the words than it had even with the coloured overlays I’ve been using for the last 15 years!
At the end I discussed coloured lenses with him. He said that he used to prescribe them before, but having been to many conferences on the subject, he found that this way of training my eyes would be more effective. He said it’s apparently what they use for people with dyslexia in North America and Australia, but hasn’t really taken off over in the UK for some reason. He also seemed to hint at how I felt about people trying to sell stuff rather than finding what’s right for each person, though he never said who the people trying to sell stuff were.
So I need to go back next week to pay for my new glasses and it’ll take another couple of weeks for them to come through, but I will keep you all updated on how I get on with my new non-Irlen, non-coloured, dyslexia friendly glasses and whether or not they really are as great as they seemed in the opticians!