Visual Stress


Could Visual Stress be affecting your child’s ability to learn?

One thing we can all admit is that school  wasn’t exactly the easiest time of our lives (never mind home-school). Not quite on par with the responsibilities of being a “grown up” but not easy. Whilst at school, not only do we have the normal stresses of being a child but this is teamed with trying to do well in class whilst trying to maintain a high level of concentration.

Maintaining concentration was always a sticking point for me! From my experience it turned out that maybe the attention I “couldn’t  maintain” in the classroom was actually not so much due to my behaviour but much more likely due to something else. I just never found it easy to sit and maintain long periods of reading.

I found it even more difficult to switch between the interactive board and the paper in front of me.  The words on the page would often move or appear to have rivers of spaces running through them. This made it so difficult to track that I eventually lost interest.

I persevered with this for years and had a constant battle to keep up with my peers . Even with all the will in the world maybe my reading was never going to be at the pace I wanted it to be?..Wrong !

It turns out these symptoms were very characteristic of what is now termed visual stress. This often presents with a few of the following symptoms:


  1. Difficulty maintaining concentration when reading.
  2. Words moving about on pages of text.
  3. River or patterns from the gaps between the words on pages of text.
  4. Headaches, eye strain or even migraines.
  5. Glare from reading.
  6. Tiredness and eye rubbing.

Visual stress (also known as Meares Irlen Syndrome) and dyslexia are not the same thing. However it is found more often in people who are dyslexic. Dyslexia is a term used to refer to a number of complex specific learning difficulties that often also include problems with reading and spelling. Visual stress must be treated differently and independently.

The main point here is that there was a solution! So next the following 3 things happened:

The process: Seeing a Senior Optometrist with experience in testing for visual stress


  1. Full eye examination to ensure the eyes are healthy and no glasses are required.
  1. Overlay assessment to understand how coloured overlays may assist in reducing visual stress. (Often an overlay alone is enough to help someone with visual stress).
  2. Colorimetry assessment to obtain a specific colour of tinted lenses
    to prescribe in spectacles which will be completely individual and not the same colour as an overlay.

After these 3 things I came out with a very specific set of lenses just for me. These lenses had no prescription in them as that was not my issue. My ability to see was perfect it was the colour of the lenses that was most important to me.  What came next was astounding….

My rate of reading increased dramatically, words no longer moved about on the page and my concentration had never been so good. Reading became much more comfortable and pleasurable. My eyes seemed to relax which reduced the amount of strain and made the whole experience of reading much more pleasurable.  I started to understand the words on the page without having to keep re-reading it……. Result!

This made such an impact on my life that I honestly believe it paid a large part in furthering my progression to university, obtaining my first class honours degree and getting to where I am today.

Eye Examinations & Visual Stress Testing at Oldbury & Cruickshank Opticians

After my own experiences I ensured that Oldbury & Cruickshank now has all the equipment and expertise necessary to accommodate anyone experiencing any levels of visual stress. I  have come to understand that recognising visual stress in some children is  exceptionally difficult. However, I thought I would try to put a guide together of the the key things to look out for:


  • Move their book around their desk?
  • Move closer to or further away from their book?
  • Fidget a lot, or continuously?
  • Use their finger as a marker on the page?
  • Skip words or lines when reading?
  • Frequently re- read the same line?
  • Rub their eyes or blink frequently when reading?
  • Have low self esteem or is frustrated?
  • Have poor comprehension of reading content?

If you see any of these symptoms occur in your students, children or anyone else for that matter please do not hesitate to call us. We can start simply by having a chat to see if there is anything we could do to help.

We look forward to seeing or hearing from you and if you have any concerns for further questions please do not hesitate to ring us we are always happy to help.

Thanks for reading !

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Tel: 01625 615 002 


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