Colored Overlays and the Science of Visual Perception

by Andy-Summers on October 29, 2013

During the early 1980’s a group of scientists discovered why colored overlays and the science of visual perception began to help understand why students who had difficulty reading.

These students, who had trouble 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.

colored overlays     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.


Purchase colored overlays

By reading through colored filters (different people respond to different colors) 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.

How Colored Overlays or Colored Filters Can Help

The first requirement for any individual suspected of having reading difficulties is a full, learning related eye exam by a qualified expert such as a developmental optometrist. These optometrists can be found at OEPF and COVD. They have many more years of training, are regular optometrists, but look at how vision (not just eyesight) affects learning and even sports.

Children who read in dim lighting, skip words or lines, have trouble tracking or simply avoid reading altogether at are at higher risk of reading failure and must be checked for what is truly causing their reading problems.

What’s heartening, however, is that improvements post-treatment are rapid, although if the child needs vision therapy by a developmental optometrist, using colored overlays can be a band-aid and work while using them, but not a true resolution to the underlying problem.

However, the good news is that using colored overlays can instantly boost a child’s self-esteem and help their reading in the short term.  Dduring the time the person uses the colored overlays or colored filters, the print on the page often clears up immediately and reading improves.

The Reading Journal noted that reading improvement when using colored filter overlays or colored overlays helps students gain a year of reading in just one week. Students with corrected perceptual distortion report improved reading scores, lower visual stress and improved self-esteem.

The Efficacy of Colored Overlays

“It was the most important moment of my life. For the first time in my life I could see text clear as glass. I was astounded…. All I could think to say was ‘How did they do that?'” (Reading Through Colour”, by Professor Arnold Wilkins, Wiley 2003)

According to Professor Wilkins, up to 20% of the student population he analyzed in the UK displayed some symptoms of perceptual distortion. Not to be confused with dyslexia, a neurobiological condition which requires a careful educational approach, colored overlays and colored filters are an immediate solution with far reaching consequences.

Do Not Use The Ruler Size Colored Overlays

Reading specialists do not recommend the ruler size colored overlays because they distort the text surrounding the small size tinted filter.

“Using the ruler sized colored overlays, while it may seem more convenient, can actually do more damage than good for a student who suffers from reading problems. The small ruler size colored overlays leaves all the text, which is already distorted for a student, surrounding the ruler size overlay, looking even worse and can cause more visual stress,” says Pat Wyman, reading specialist, best-selling author and college professor.

You may purchase colored overlays here

Andy Summers writes widely about teaching, as well as via the London based GSL Education group and colored overlays.


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