Why Colored Overlays Work to Raise Reading Scores

by Anna Kaminsky on November 2, 2013

Reading is a fundamental skill that children build and utilize throughout their lives and when they struggle with reading it is important to understand why colored overlays work to raise reading scores.

For children with reading difficulties, there are a variety of strategies that are used to aid in the improvement of this essential skill. Colored overlays, which are pieces of thick colored plastic, or colored filters (transparent or translucent), are a tool that has been applied to assist struggling readers.

Here is why colored overlays work to raise reading scores

Visual perception is vital in a child’s ability to read. With a struggling reader, there are numerous visual distortions that can occur to make reading incredibly difficult for the child. Visual distortions, also related to visual stress, can be blurring, illusory movement of words and/or letters, skipping of lines, glares or other colors on the pages, etc.

Visual stress includes eye soreness or headaches when a child is reading and can be identified if your child rubs their eyes, says they have headaches when reading, excessively blinks and/or shows poor concentration while reading.

When your child exhibits these behaviors, reading specialists want them to take a break and often try colored overlays.

 why colored overlays work to raise reading scores      “There is always an important reason when kids say they don’t like to read, or don’t want to read,” says college professor, author and and literacy expert Pat Wyman. “Often, they don’t have the visual skills in place to see the printed page correctly, but it has not been diagnosed. When it is diagnosed, most often you’ll find that the child does not see the printed page the way they should and that learning related visual skills are missing, such as the ability to track from left to right, and therefore the child skips lines. When this happens, your child will not like reading and comprehension suffers,” continued Wyman.

  “There are two excellent sites, OEPF.org and COVD.org where you can find the kind of optometrist who is specially trained to do regular eye exams and then the type of vision exam that relates to reading and learning,” Wyman advised.

When your child has visual distortions on the page and you continue to force them to read, they will be become discouraged and nto want to read. This is where colored overlays or tinted colored filters come in and again why colored overlays work to raise reading scores.

Colored overlays have been found to reduce these visual distortions, which also minimizes visual stress and it why they work, for some children to raise reading scores.

How Colored Overlays Work to Isolate Text and Make It Clearer

One of the benefits of colored overlays is its ability to isolate text. Children, especially those of who struggle with reading, become overwhelmed with the amount of text that can be found on a page, which may cause visual as well as emotional stress.

When you place colored overlays on the text, a child can focus on the desired reading section without any compromise to the clarity of the text. If you are reading with your child and are using a colored overlays, be certain that there’s no light reflecting off of the surface of the colored overlay, which will create an unnecessary problem for your child when they begin to read.

In addition, make sure that there are no creases in the colored overlays; to prevent this occurrence, place the overlays in an envelope or a durable folder in between uses. Also, use colored overlays which are sturdy, 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches in size to cover the whole page or even cover the computer screen.

Colored overlays are available in a variety of colors. They can be purchased online from such quality sites as HowToLearn.com and others.  Some colored overlays are flimsy and will break easily and get thick and sturdy ones, paying attention to the expense – some sites will charge for lengthy exams, costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars and prescribe treatments that you can do at home by simply asking your child which color feels the best and makes the print the clearest.

Remember, that colored overlays do not work for all children but it is one quick strategy to try, because if it does work, your child’s reading scores immediately improve, along with their self-esteem.

Why Colored Overlays Work to Raise Reading Scores for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Colored overlays were also found very useful for children with Autism spectrum disorders. The results of the study conducted in 2006 and summarized in the paper “The Effect of Coloured Overlays on Reading Ability in Children with Autism”, by Amanda K. Ludlow, Arnold J. Wilkins and Pam Heaton, showed that more children from the autism group increased their reading speed compared to children from the age- and intelligence-matched control group using colored overlays.

While study criteria for improvement was only 5% increase in reading speed, inspection of individual data showed that many of the children with autism increased reading speed at much higher levels. Thus, while 79% of the children with autism read more than 5% faster with overlays, 67% of these children increased reading speed at rates ranging between 11 and 50% with colored overlays. This is yet another reason why colored overlays work to raise reading scores.

There has been other research conducted that also shows why colored overlays work to raise reading scores by increasing reading fluency as well as speed and reducing visual perception distortions. Furthermore, colored overlays have decreased the visual stress experienced by children as they read. As a parent, it’s crucial to find the strategy that is most successful for your child’s reading, academic and personal successes; colored overlays are a great tool to use as well as to keep in your parenting toolbox.

Anna Kaminsky       Anna Kaminsky is a blogger, a mother of two boys, and an aspiring child psychologist. She is doing PhD in Psychology at the University of Toronto and works as an intern at the Richmond Hill Psychology Center, where she maintains “Psychological Resources for Parents” blog and helps with psycho-educational assessments and play therapy. You can follow Anna on Twitter at @AnnaKaminsky1.

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