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No scientific proof that coloured overlays help dyslexic pupils

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Sep 6, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    What do you think about the coloured overlays and are you convinced that they help to reduce the visual disturbances for people with dyslexia? One education lecturer is not convinced about the use of the visual aids:

    ‘These overlays are simple translucent pieces of plastic that add colour to text. But I believe they should not be recommended as a treatment or a form of support for people with dyslexia because there is a lack of convincing scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness.

    What troubles me as a research specialist in dyslexia, as well as being dyslexic myself, is the proliferation and abundance of advertisements and testimonies proclaiming the effectiveness of the treatment online, including websites and magazines that are produced by nationally recognised dyslexia-focused charities.

    In fact, a 2014 survey published in the British Medical Journal found that six out of eight UK dyslexia organisations were promoting such products on their websites uncritically and in an unbalanced way.

    I believe that promoting the use of these coloured filters gives people with dyslexia false hope. Those who work in this field should, instead, be focusing on the delivery and promotion of evidence-based interventions, such as the systematic teaching of letter-to-sound combinations (phonics), or the provision of technology supports such as text-to-speech software.’

    Jeremy Law is lecturer in education at the University of Glasgow. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article

    What are your views? What tools are useful to help children with dyslexia? Is it time that the government invested in more specialised staff to help children with dyslexia?

  2. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    I have seen it work with my own eyes. Red overlay increase a student reading comprehension by 30% at least.
    FormosaRed likes this.
  3. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    I haven't seen it work (or, indeed, tried) myself, but I once saw an OU programme that demonstrated tinted glasses and coloured overlays working with dyslexic children. They said that different colours worked for different students.

    I miss the OU programmes being on the television - I saw a good one about the formation of rainbows, and remind my family of it every time we have sunshine and rain together.
    agathamorse likes this.
  4. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    If you do anything different it can have a significantly beneficial effect. Has anyone done a study to see whether coloured overlays help ALL children, and if so, by how much? Unless they have done we really don't know much at all. Anecdotal evidence is just confirmation bias.
    agathamorse and Catgirl1964 like this.
  5. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    Asking for "views" is one thing: we can all have an opinion and many of us can bring anecdotes forward.

    The question really is, "Is there reliable research into this?" and I expect few of us know the answer to that. I've had a look at the original article but haven't followed the links in it yet....

    I've now looked at one, a review of 50+ studies. The conclusion is "Consistent with previous reviews and advice from several professional bodies, we conclude that the use of coloured lenses or overlays to ameliorate reading difficulties cannot be endorsed and that any benefits reported by individuals in clinical settings are likely to be the result of placebo, practice or Hawthorne effects."
    PeterQuint and bonxie like this.
  6. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    My experience is that coloured paper and overlays don't seem to make much difference. I have had children with the need for them on their ILP telling me not to bother when I've printed stuff on coloured paper.
    On the other hand, if a simple adjustment makes a struggling child (or adult) feel more comfortable, I'll go for it.
    agathamorse and colpee like this.
  7. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    They cost next to nothing.

    Is there any evidence they make things worse?

    If there is some benefit from a placebo effect or simple practice in some cases, then the low cost makes it worth continuing.
  8. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    The colour is irrelevant, but reducing contrast does reduce visual stress
    FormosaRed likes this.
  9. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    well, yes, I have a student who could read and write on white paper last year and now "can't"
    BetterNow likes this.
  10. Grandsire

    Grandsire Star commenter

    There are often times when, with my dodgy eyesight, I get the feeling things I look at are strobing (thin stripes especially). Sometimes it’s hard for me to look at small words on bright screen, so I can accept that there are kids who feel the same. I therefore keep my IWB backgrounds neutral colours rather than bright white, and keep fonts large enough.

    Our SENCo is keen on coloured overlays and often offers children who are struggling a range to choose from. Now, I can appreciate that similar effects could happen to words on paper, so if kids want to use an overlay, that’s fine by me.

    My only issue is that the colour the kids say works ‘best’ for them is almost invariably their favourite colour... so I can end up with a whole range of colours being needed. The recommendation that I also provide every photocopied sheet in the range of colours required would mean I spend my days loading various colours into the printer!

    I’d suggest one alternative colour only - and that clear, large fonts are tried as well.
    agathamorse and Corvuscorax like this.
  11. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    I agree with @Grandsire . Its long been known that the colours are irrelevant. Irlene syndrome isn't a medical condition, it is just the name of an American company that sells expensive screening programmes and siily glasses. Unfortunately there was a brief moment when they were taken seriously, and some parents and teachers still do occasionally come across their totally refuted and disproved research, and use it to beat teachers over the head.

    However, visual stress is real, otherwise no body would wear sunglasses, would they. Toning down the contrast helps everyone to some extent, and some people quite a lot.
  12. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    The 'neuromyths' paper is well worth reading. Just follow the link from the article.
  13. foxtail3

    foxtail3 Star commenter

    If the student feels that it helps, why not? I do think that some text colours and backgrounds do contribute to visual disturbances and hinder the reading process. A white background with yellow text, for example.
  14. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    The lady who plays at our singing prefers music on yellow so she's copied it all like that. The trouble is, when I have to play, I can hardly see the notes! I much prefer a white background. I'm a lot of light sort of person.
  15. ABCCBA123321

    ABCCBA123321 Occasional commenter

    One of my kids uses one. No dyslexia diagnosis - they're actually a very good reader and speller (reluctantly - their tactic of sitting next to the best spellers in the class and asking them has been snookered since that kid left the school) but their text tracking is appalling (there are some visual issues) and a coloured overlay ruler isolating one line of text at a time really just helps that aspect of reading no end (and for the sake of like 20p or something I'm happy to provide a stack of them for school)

    I get the word strobing someone mentioned as well - I tend to run fairly paperless these days so I just change the document background colour on my ipad if it's annoying me (or turn the screen brightness down to save battery as well)
  16. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    Yes that’s quite right. The research says that whilst in some individual cases it does work (likely to be a variety of reasons why for some individuals it does) when researched as a blanket tool for all dyslexia it fails quite significantly.

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