Colour lenses help dyslexics to read

A scientific study has confirmed that coloured contact lenses help children and adults with dyslexia to read better, using a pioneering treatment discovered in Britain.

A scientific study has confirmed that coloured contact lenses help children and adults with dyslexia to read better, using a pioneering treatment discovered in Britain.

But British Dyslexics, a charity that works with people who have reading difficulties, said yesterday such lenses might be an expensive solution, and also cause long-term brain changes. They suggested use of cheaper plastic overlays.

Coloured plastic lenses were originally prescribed to deal with poor colour vision. Patients told David Harris, then principal research optician at the Corneal Laser Centre at Clatterbridge Hospital, Cheshire, the lenses also improved their reading.

Mr Harris tested 47 dyslexic children and adults, with two sets of lenses, one with colours to help the patients read, and a set of lightly tinted "placebos". On average, the participants could read six words a minute faster with the placebo lenses than without, but 12 words a minute faster with the fully coloured ones, an improvement of 15 per cent. The work, published in the Journal of the American Optometric Association, is reported in New Scientist magazine today.

Roy Fielding, chairman of British Dyslexics, said coloured contact lenses cost £200, and coloured plastic overlays for items being read, cost 50p each.

"The effect of the overlays seems to get less and less, until children don't need them," said Mr Fielding. "But with lenses you're wearing them all the time. Sometimes the colour isn't subtle, and for an adult it can be like wearing a sign saying, 'I am dyslexic'."

John Stein of Oxford University suggests dyslexia is caused by faults in the nerve cells between the eye's retina and the brain's visual cortex.

These cells respond best to orange-yellow light, so coloured lenses might help to generate more of such colours in the visual field.

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