Related condition


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines a specific learning disability as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations.” This disability category includes such conditions as autism, visual impairment, dyslexia, brain injury, and autism. [1] 


Visual stress is characterized by symptoms of visual perceptual distortions, headaches, and eyestrain when viewing repetitive or striped patterns, including lines of text. Visual stress is distinct from, although sometimes co-occurs with, dyslexia and other learning disabilities, contributing to the imperfect ability to read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. Individuals with visual stress who use their prescribed coloured filters have been shown to improve performance in these tasks but are unlikely to influence the psychological, phonological and memory deficits associated with specific learning disabilities. [2] 


Some possible solutions to reduce visual triggers to symptoms are listed below. Note that the colours offered for use should be systematically selected from a wide number of colours that efficiently sample colour space [3] [4] . Opticalm offers over 25 colours of overlays, over 30 colours of paper, ten colours of pens, and the computer screen tinting software and lights have unlimited colour options.   


To help with reading: print text, tests or other work on coloured paper with a low contrast grey or similar colour print.  Use opens sans font to reduce patterns caused by letters and use a larger font to reduce the frequency of the striped image created with text across the page. 


To help with writing and math: use coloured lined paper, either pre-printed notepads or coloured copy paper printed with low contrast lines or graph paper.  Using a similarly coloured pen can also help by decreasing the contrast of pen on paper. Individuals report that this is an effective solution to help with handwriting form and spacing, understanding what was written, and the ability to stay in line when performing math calculations. 


Visual stress occurs more often in populations with learning difficulties. When SpLD's are present, you should carefully consider the use of the many tools available. They offer relief of the symptoms and can improve the perception of learning materials.






[2] A systematic review of controlled trials on visual stress using Intuitive Overlays or the Intuitive Colorimeter. Journal if Optometry v.9(4) 205-218. 


[3] Wilkins A. Overlays for classroom and optometric use. Ophthal Physiol Opt. 1994;14:97–99.  


[4] Wilkins A.J., Nimmo-Smith I., Jansons J.E. Colorimeter for the intuitive manipulation of hue and saturation and its role in the study of perceptual distortion. Ophthal Physiol Opt. 1992;12:381–385.