Intended for healthcare professionals


Treating reading difficulties with colour

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 19 August 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5160
  1. Lisa M Henderson, lecturer1,
  2. Robert H Taylor, consultant ophthalmologist2,
  3. Brendan Barrett, professor of visual development3,
  4. Philip G Griffiths, consultant ophthalmologist4
  1. 1Department of Psychology, University of York, York, UK
  2. 2Department of Ophthalmology, York Hospital, York, UK,
  3. 3School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK
  4. 4St Bernard’s Hospital, Harbour Views Road, Gibraltar GX11 1AA
  1. Correspondence to: P G Griffiths philip.griffiths{at}

UK dyslexia charities should present a more balanced view

Around 3-6% of children in the United Kingdom have substantial difficulties learning to read, a condition often referred to as dyslexia. They are at high risk of educational underachievement. In a 1996 editorial in The BMJ, Margaret Snowling argued that dyslexia is a verbal (not a visual) disorder.1 An accumulation of evidence supports this position and shows that reading difficulties are best dealt with by interventions that target underlying weaknesses in phonological language skills and letter knowledge.2 The 2009 Rose report, which provides guidance for professionals in schools on identifying and teaching young people with dyslexia and reading difficulties, stresses the importance of early, phonological interventions.3

Despite this evidence, dyslexia is often associated with subjective experiences of visual distortions that lead to discomfort during reading (sometimes termed visual stress). It has been argued that these symptoms can be alleviated by using coloured overlays and lenses.4 Symptoms of visual stress are not unique to dyslexia, and proponents do not claim that the use of colour directly addresses the underlying cause of the …

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