Managing Visual Stress and Dyslexia: Your Ultimate Guide

Managing Visual Stress and Dyslexia: Your Ultimate Guide

Managing Visual Stress and Dyslexia: Your Ultimate Guide

Visual stress and dyslexia are closely entwined, creating significant issues with how an individual reads and learns. Current estimates suggest that one in five people are affected by some form of visual stress in their daily lives, leading to eyestrain, headaches, and much more.

What exactly is visual stress, though? In this latest article, we thought we would explore the condition further, examine its relationship with dyslexia, and take a closer look at some of the best methods for easing the symptoms.

What is visual stress?

Visual stress, or Meares-Irlen Syndrome as it is professionally referred to, is a very common condition in which certain patterns, such as text, cause severe discomfort and strain on both the eyes and brain. As a perceptual processing issue, it means the information being relayed by the text is not always interpreted by the brain in the way that it does in others.

There is a wide range of symptoms that can occur with visual stress, with some of the most common including:

  • Blurred and distorted vision

One of the most frequent symptoms of visual stress is noticing that written letters appear blurry and can often move or overlap when trying to read them. Individuals may also find that letters are constantly changing in size, which can make it very hard to read and understand the text. 

  • Difficulty with focusing

When the text is challenging to read, it can mean individuals struggle to focus or concentrate on the task at hand, often switching to other activities that do not cause the issue. 

  • Headaches and eye strain

Prolonged exposure to visual strain can lead to severe headaches and migraines, as well as causing general discomfort in your eyes. 

  • Sensitivity to light

Another common symptom of visual stress is finding that you are particularly sensitive to bright or flickering lights, leading to discomfort and pain. 

  • Visual distortions

Individuals may also experience a number of other visual distortions on the page that they are reading, finding that lines start to blur or that colours around the text changing frequently. 

  • Tiredness

Finally, with such challenges posed by trying to read and understand the text, it is common for individuals to feel tired after reading lengthy passages as it requires intense focus and commitment. 

What are the signs a student might have visual stress?

Being able to identify that a student is struggling with visual stress is imperative to ensure that they are able to get the support that they need to overcome the issues and boost their learning. While each child is different, some of the most common signs to look out for are:

  • Constantly moving closer to and away from the page
  • Regular restlessness whenever they try to read
  • Needing to use a finger to read and follow along
  • Accidentally skipping sections
  • Stopping to rub their eyes or excessive blinking
  • Difficulty with looking at computer screens
  • Regularly having headaches after reading sessions. 

Dyslexia and visual stress

Although visual stress and dyslexia are different conditions, and individuals can experience them separately, they often blend together due to their closely related aetiologies. They often have overlapping symptoms, which can compound to make reading even more challenging. For example, individuals with dyslexia will already struggle with decoding text, but the distortion and movements caused by visual stress can make it even harder to understand and decode the text. 

Together, the two conditions can significantly impact a person’s ability to read fluently and comprehend written material. This can lead to increased frustration, slower reading speeds, and a greater likelihood of reading errors, meaning students often struggle to keep up with the learning pace of their peers. 

Due to the overlap between the two conditions, tailored interventions are often needed in to order to address both the visual stress symptoms and the dyslexia symptoms. Before parents and teachers are able to construct a dedicated plan, though, it is important to have the child assessed by a professional to identify the conditions. 

How can you ease the symptoms of visual stress and dyslexia?

Easing the symptoms of visual stress and dyslexia often requires a combination of strategies that have been specifically tailored to meet the individual’s unique needs and requirements. 

For visual stress

When it comes to visual stress, some of the most effective strategies and tools available include:

  • Coloured overlays and tinted lenses

One of the most common methods for easing the symptoms of visual stress is to use tinted overlays and glasses. These can help to reduce the distortion and movement of letters, creating a more comfortable reading environment that will allow children to better understand the content. 

  • Adjusting lighting

Light is often one of the biggest influences on visual stress, so make sure that you are creating an environment that supports the student. If working on a computer or a tablet, then try adjusting the brightness and contrast of the screen to create the optimal setting.
As each student is different, this will often be a process of trial and error until you find the right lighting levels. 

  • Text formatting

Another great tip for helping to ease the symptoms of visual stress is to format the text to aid students. Make sure that the font size and spacing are even, and choose fonts such as Calibri, Comic Sans, and Trebuchet MS

  • Take regular breaks

Finally, make sure that you are taking regular breaks through long reading sessions. This can help to reduce frustration and strain on the eyes. 

For dyslexia

Of course, for students also struggling with the symptoms of dyslexia, just targeting the issues of visual stress will not overcome all of the concerns. That is why you should also explore additional support options, such as:

  • Multisensory learning

Engage in teaching methods that engage multiple senses, including visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic. This will help to improve a student’s overall comprehension of the topic and boost their memory.

  • Assistive technology

Tools such as text-to-speech software and audiobooks can help to make reading more accessible and easier. 

  • Phonemic awareness

Embrace programs that focus on phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and fluency as this can help to improve reading skills and comprehension. 

Additional support strategies

In addition to these condition-specific strategies, there is also a range of other options that you can employ to help students in the classroom and at home. The first is to seek the help of the professionals and having the condition diagnosed. This will allow educational specialists to develop individualised education plans tailored to their needs. 

Parents should also make sure that they are in regular communication with teachers, working together to create a supportive learning environment. This will help empower students and ensure that they feel confident and motivated to learn.

Frequent encouragement and patience are also important factors. Struggling with reading and comprehension can be incredibly frustrating for individuals, so working to create a calm and emotionally supportive space can boost confidence and resilience, allowing students to learn at their own pace. 

Get the help you need with The Dyslexia Shop

Visual stress and dyslexia are often interconnected challenges that can massively impact an individual’s ability to read, comprehend and learn effectively. However, they are also conditions that can independently affect students, so early identification, thorough assessment, and targeted interventions can make a significant difference in how students manage their symptoms. 

Working to create a supportive environment at home and school is often the first step in this setting, but it is also vital that students are able to access the tools they need to succeed. Here at The Dyslexia Shop, our mission is to help parents and teachers through specialist teaching resources that will allow them to create a nurturing and encouraging space wherever they are. 

We pride ourselves on delivering high-quality products that really make a difference in learning and everyday life. We have carefully curated a wide range of products designed to combat the issues of visual stress, including coloured overlays, reading rulers, monitor overlays, testing kits, tinted exercise books, software, and notebooks and refill pads. This extensive range ensures that your children or students will have everything they need to thrive. 

Want to find out more about how we can help you? Get in touch today and our experienced team will be happy to help!


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