During the early 1980’s, a connection between colored overlays and the science of visual perception was discovered.
A group of scientists discovered why colored overlays and began to understand why students who had difficulty processing written text showed increased cognition after reading through colored overlays which are transparent sheets of plastic of various colors.
Since tested under double blind, placebo-controlled conditions, colored overlays and the science of visual perception are now an accepted means of helping students with certain reading difficulties, such as visual stress improve.
Visual Perception and Colored Overlays
Science, via the reading and optometric journals, has helped us understand that, for many poor readers, there may be a physical component, related to magnocellular function, behind their difficulties with words.
By reading through colored overlays (sometimes known as colored filters or tinted overlays), it’s thought that there may be a change in the distribution of excitation, thus helping the neurons fire more efficiently.
The reading challenges may also involve sensitivity to light, a restricted field of vision, problems with contrast and symptoms of headaches or migraines. In addition, students may skip lines, not see punctuation and have poor comprehension.
For many undiagnosed students, difficulties with learning can bring low self-esteem and frustration until the underlying problems are diagnosed or recognized properly. Oftentimes, children who suffer with these problems are also mistakenly labeled with ADHD.
“Students with reading problems are often mistaken to have ADHD or other learning disabilities, when in fact, the problem is related to something that colored overlays and a proper learning related vision exam can help, “ says Frank Barnhill, M.D., author of Mistaken for ADHD.
Reading through the little colored overlays called ruler overlays are a definite no no says Pat Wyman, best selling author and reading specialist.
“When students read through the ruler size colored overlays and don’t cover the whole page, the print that is already distorted for them gets worse and can cause more visual stress,” said Wyman.