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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder categorized by symptoms such as:

  • inattention (difficulty sustaining attention and mental effort, forgetfulness, and distractibility);

  • hyperactivity (fidgeting, excessive talking and restlessness); and

  • impulsivity (difficulty waiting for one’s turn and frequent interruption of others). [1]

While the cause of ADHD is unknown, it has been suggested that dysfunctional cortical activation and variations in stimulus processing may play an important role in behavioural inhibition, self-regulation and stimulus control. [2]  

Visual Stress is a visual-perceptual disorder that leads to increased cortical activation and difficulty processing visual stimuli such as flicker (from fluorescent lights), glare, contrast and patterns (found in text and lined paper). The resulting symptoms reported include inattention — difficulty concentrating and being easily distracted when reading, writing or when under fluorescent lighting (most classrooms); hypersensitivity to certain visual images, and fidgeting.  

A 2013 study in Australia notes that previous investigations of Visual Stress have identified several clinical features of symptom manifestation which are strikingly similar to those found in ADHD. Their study identified a strong degree of symptom overlap and stated that “it is likely that many individuals with Visual Stress may be misdiagnosed with ADHD.” [3] 


A 2004 study in Germany found that typical features of handwriting improve with coloured writing paper and lead to better overall legibility of the work. [2] 


In August 2023, researchers in Israel released a paper suggesting that spectral filters may be an adjunctive treatment for individuals suffering from perceptually-based attention issues common to ADHD and Visual Stress. [4]


Practical implications of these findings are to provide individuals with ADHD with additional non-intrusive assistive tools to support the regulation of attention. The tools that work to address Visual Stress symptoms include coloured paper, reading overlays, screen tinting software and individually prescribed precision tinted lenses, and should be investigated as a potential solution for individuals presenting ADHD symptoms.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
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