When the words move by themselves – it could be Visual Stress

I met a lady on Twitter a while back, Michelle Doyle, who was talking about 'Visual Stress'. I wasn't really clear about what this was so Michelle has kindly written about it for Special Needs Jungle about how it affects her son and her fight to get him the support he needs. Here's her story:

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After years with my son struggling with his reading and writing and being given the impression that he was lazy in class, in Nov 2009 at the age of eleven, he was given a coloured overlay by a teacher at his Primary School.

After I questioned him about this, I was shocked and extremely surprised to find out that when he looked at a page of writing it moved around the page. My son has Visual Stress, the movement of letters on a page of writing and there is a fairly long list of symptons that are associated with it.

I spoke to his Optician who confirmed that my son has Visual Stress, Visual Stress – Meares Irlene Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, or Visual Dyslexia the different names I have heard it called. He has to have two pairs of glasses one for everyday use, i.e. going out  and a coloured pair for his educational needs.  He also has severe long-sightedness.

Precision-tinted Lenses are only available by private prescription and the cost can vary from area to area by quite a considerable amount.

I got in touch with the local Primary Care Trust and after about 6 months I finally managed to get a second voucher issued for his distance vision to be put into his tinted lenses. This is also now done for all the children in my area who suffer from Visual Stress.

I have also been in touch with my MP.   She wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and the Chief Executive for NHS in my area.  The replies basically told me what I already knew about the vouchers for children etc. I do not feel that the question of extra funding for the vision of these children was answered at all.   Basically I felt as though i was being swept under the carpet.  [Currently vouchers will not cover the cost of tinted lenses - only the prescription lense]

My MP wrote to the Group Director for Social Care and Learning. His reply gave me the impression that he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I then sent an e-mail direct to the Group Director of Social Care and Learning, begging of him to do his homework and find out more about this condition. I sent him two examples of Visual Stress so he could see for himself the reason’s behind these children struggling so much with reading and writing.   Once again I received a reply stating what I already knew, with no offer of looking into this more.

I also got in touch with the Education Dept. for Disabled Children.  They then referred me to The Visual Impairment Coordinator for my area. She told me herself that what my son had wrong with his eyes is not dyslexia. She described it as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome or Visual Stress. Even she had to research Visual Stress before she got back to me.   She told me not to force my son to read as the stress he feels, makes the stress on his eyes worse and therefore the Visual Stress symptoms get worse.

When my son first started year 7 he had a reading age of 7.2 years even thought he was 11 years of age. Now at 13 years and year 8 he has the reading age of 9.5 years. [this is an amazing achievement!] I was told by my son’s school that the Education Authority in my area would not issue my son with a Statement of Educational Needs.   So I went directly to the Head of SenCo in my area.  I told them that he needed and I wanted him to have a Statement of Educational Needs.  He was assessed and It took approximately three months for him to be issued with a Statement.

The school were very surprised that I had managed to get a Statement for him.

I was told that my son also had dyslexic tendencies I asked the school about getting him assessed; they told me that my Education Authority didn’t recognise Dyslexia as a learning disability. I told them that I wanted him assessed. Strange that if my son goes to College or University all of his sight problems will then be recognised.

In the mean time I have started a group on Facebook called Parents of Kids with Visual Stress.   This is where all our members can discuss the problems that they are having and also get ideas of how to tackle things from other people. We are also there to support each other with our fight.

I also have an e-petition running for the funding of tinted lenses for visual stress.   I need to get 100,000 signatures for it to be discussed in Parliament. The more votes that we can get the quicker the help can be put in place to help our children.

So far it has felt as though I am being pushed around an ever increasing system of managers etc.  Yet not one of these people are able to tell me if my son can get any help towards funding the glasses he so obviously needs. Without these tinted lenses my son will never be able to read and write at the same level as his peers.

Tania Tirraoro
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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two sons with Asperger Syndrome.
Journalist & author of two novels and a guide to SEN statementing. PR & social media expert. Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate.
Tania Tirraoro
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7 Comments

  1. rachel

    Thank you for writing about visual stress. My 14 year old daughter who has high functioning Autisum, went to mainstream school and suffered for years of not struggling with reading, she too when 11 was recognised by the special needs teacher that she squinted whilst trying to read her vision is excellent she recommended layovers which were remarkable, I researched and got her the special tinted glasses which colour was individually matched to her. They cost a staggering £320. Holly said that the words don’t move around any more although she gets terrible headaches if she reads for too long.
    Your story is the first time I’ve ever heard of the condition, thank you it makes more sense to me now and she is in the process of being statmented so this can be added.

  2. rachel

    rachel / July 10, 2012
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Thank you for writing about visual stress. My 14 year old daughter who has high functioning Autisum, went to mainstream school and suffered for years of not struggling with reading, she too when 11 was recognised by the special needs teacher that she squinted whilst trying to read her vision is excellent she recommended layovers which were remarkable, I researched and got her the special tinted glasses which colour was individually matched to her. They cost a staggering £320. Holly said that the words don’t move around any more although she gets terrible headaches if she reads for too long.
    Your story is the first time I’ve ever heard of the condition, thank you it makes more sense to me now and she is in the process of being statmented so this can be added.

    1. Michelle Doyle

      Rachel. My aim to raise awarness of Visual Stress and the problems that the children suffer with. Please feel free to join our group of Facebook. The trouble is that a lot of the children are diagnosed when they are half way through the school system, they should be diagnosed and have help in school at the approx age of 7-8. You might find that you have to really be pushy to get Visual Stress included on her statement, make sure they include it insist on it. They wanted to call my son a slow learner on his until i told them in no uncertain terms i wanted his statement to read Visual Stress (Meares Irlen Syndrome). Don’t let them talk you out of it, they tried every trick in the book to try to change my mind, but i wasn’t having a bar of it.

      Michelle.

  3. Michelle

    Just wanted to let everybody know that Aaron is also Dyslexic. Visual Stress and Dyslexia are two different conditions that can run side by side in the same person. Another condition not recognised by my local education authority. They have been telling me since Aaron was 6 years old that he is not Dyslexic, he is now 13. I had to have his assessment done privatly. By calling a child Dyslexic or saying they have Visual Stress, You are not giving them a label, you are recognising their condition. If you call them stupid or thick you are giving them a label. A lot of local education authorities are not prepared to train teachers to recognise the symptoms of either one of the above. Our children’s Education boils down to money. Money that the Government will get back in taxes if our children can leave school and get a good job that pays well. In the mean time they are left to suffer and struggle through without the help that they need and deserve.

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