What is Visual Stress?
Visual Stress – sometimes called Scotopic Sensitivity or Mears-Irlen Syndrome – is a visual-perceptual disorder that affects 37.5% of children with dyslexia and 25% of non-dyslexic children. It is not an optical problem; it is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. It affects the way people ‘see’ words on a page.
The education sector is increasingly having to deal with students suffering from Visual Stress with it affecting up to 20% of school children in the UK. The implementation of tinted overlays in schools is given that the visual stress syndrome, which is thought to lessen symptoms, is often detected in dyslexic students, and it is in schools that students are commonly diagnosed. Although Visual Stress co-exists with dyslexia and is regularly experienced by people with it – it is a completely separate condition that can sometimes be confused. Some children initially thought to be dyslexic may be suffering from just Visual Stress
What are the Symptoms?
Headaches or sore eyes when reading
Letters appear blurred or words go out of focus
Letters appear to move, shimmer or shake
Words or letters appear to break into two and appear as double
Difficulty in tracking across a page
Oversensitivity to bright lights or glare on the page
How Can You Help Students With Visual Stress & Dyslexia?
The good news is that the correct choice of educational paper can minimise the symptoms of Visual Stress and make a real difference to a child’s reading speed, comprehension and classroom performance. Scientific studies have shown that it is the contrast between black text and white paper that makes letters and words appear jumbled, animated or blurred to persons suffering from Visual Stress. A very white paper is too dazzling.
The solution is to use cream or pastel tinted paper to mitigate Visual Stress. An alternative is to use a transparent tinted overlay or to wear tinted reading glasses. In selecting educational paper for use in school, consideration should be given to specifying a sheet with sufficient opacity to minimise ‘show-through’ with double-sided printed text and a matt surface (rather than glossy) to minimise glare. Springfield Business Papers can supply a wide range of tinted paper or card meeting all these requirements and we strongly recommend the Kaskad range, Paperline Ivory or our Copy Bio A4 sheet. The most popular choice in schools is cream but some children have a preference for pastel blue or green.
Teachers have found that children with Visual Stress find it easier to read large, widely spaced printed text rather than small, over-crowded text. A good sans serif font such as Arial or Comic Sans is often recommended with a minimum font size of 12 pt.