from an article in the Daily Mail Education Notebook, July 5 2005
Now You can Read in Colour
by Susan Elkin
Most of us are comfortable reading black words on a white background, but we find white letters on black, as used in some jazzy internet sites, very difficult.
For some- but not all- dyslexic people, it's different. For optimum reading, such a reader needs a pastel background in blue, yellow, or pink. Different dyslexic people benefit from different colours, but blue is the most common.
Having a problem reading ordinary text is a condition with a confusing number of names, including Meares/Irlen syndrome, visual stress, scotopic sensitivity syndrome and asfedia. But it boils down to being able to read better if you change the background colour of your reading material.
There are three ways of doing this: you can wear spectacles with coloured lenses, lay a piece of coloured perspex over the page, or if you are reading on a computer screen, use a programme which does if for you.
For many children, using special glasses makes their dyslexia very obvious to the rest of the class, who might not be kind about it.
One dyslexic ten-year old pupil at a Hertfordshire Primary School admits: "I'm embarrassed enough about not being able to read properly. It's even worse if someone else is staring at you and thinking you're thick. So I don't put on my special glasses."
A discreet coloured overlay is less obvious. Special Needs teacher, lecturer and teacher trainer Bob Hext and his wife Anne have invented the Eye Level Reading Ruler, which they market through their company, Crossbow Education.
Each reading ruler is a piece of pastel-coloured perspex about the size of a conventional bookmark, so it can be tucked into the book when not in use. Along the centre is an opaque, inch-wide stripe, so that readers who need to can place a solid barrier beneath the line they're reading to highlight it. The reading rulers come in single or multi-coloured packs of five, ten or thirty.
Until recently, Aberdeen-based lay preacher Andy Lovell, 47, had never read a book right through. He struggled at school because of what he now realises is dyslexia.
"I can now read the Bible and other books easily using a green or blue reading ruler", he says. "I am able to read to prisoners at Peterhead, and often take school assemblies".
Jane Gaudie, head of Chiltern Tutorial School at Otterbourne, Hampshire, a private school for dyslexic children aged seven to eleven, says: "All our pupils use Reading Rulers and love them. The children say the colour change 'Stops the words moving', and 'makes the letters look bigger and clearer.'"
Colour has made a real difference to every member of one family. Carol Cole, in her early 40s, lives in Reading, Berks, and is married to a fellow dyslexic. Her sons, now 21 and 18, were diagnosed as dyslexic when they were in Primary School.
"I have always worked in offices and still have trouble with spelling." says Mrs Cole. "We were advised to try colour 7 or 8 years ago by Reading Dyslexia Association. I use full sheet overlays as well as reading rulers in yellow. It really helps, especially with concentrated reading.
From the Daily Mail, Education Notebook, July 5 2005
Author: Susan Elkin