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Altering our view alters our lives.

During this week's National Eye Week, organised by The Eyecare Trust and supported by Specsavers, opticians across the region are highlighting the importance of eye checks as an essential part of our overall well-being.

Many people don't realise that problems such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, concentration problems, migraine and even autism are linked to our vision.

However, a major breakthrough in understanding why children underachieve has been reported by a research team in Cambridge, which suggests inappropriate visual stimulation in the classroom could be the key.

Ian Jordan, an internationally recognised authority on visual dyslexia, who is originally from Jarrow, said: "The brain maps of those children that experience reading difficulty in a classroom situation can be compared to those of a child with their eyes closed.

"Balance, posture, memory, hearing, concentration, and language problems were also significantly affected and it soon became clear that headaches were often provoked by the unstable vision found.

"It is possibly the main reason why so many children become disaffected with school, they are expected to suffer significant visual stress and it is inevitable that they underachieve.

"It is hardly surprising that many of these children end up as young offenders; 65pc of the prison population is dyslexic."

This new system of vision screening to analyse a person's visual perception has been developed by Ian's team of scientists and engineers at Cambridge-based Orthoscopics.

A prescribing instrument called Read-Eye is used to find the precise colour that gives best performance for each patient. It then determines the colours and densities of the spectacle lenses needed to achieve that exact colour under different lighting.

Additionally, an Optopraxometer tests the patient's visual stability, accommodation and convergence.

Mr Jordan said: "Coloured lenses have been used successfully for many years to help people overcome dyslexia, learning difficulties and migraine.

"But this new system is entirely different - it's a quantum leap forward."

Preliminary clinical trials were conducted in Cambridge during late 2002 and early 2003 with 60 children, of whom 50 had varying dyslexia symptoms and 10 were used as `controls'.

It was found that about two-thirds of frontal headaches could be stopped in less than two minutes without drugs.

Some eye conditions responded dramatically. People with a reduction in their visual fields would find them increased, standards of vision would improve immediately, eye muscle problems would be resolved immediately, balance, posture and gait would change and symptoms of dyslexia and dyspraxia would stop.

Iain Anderson, for the Eyecare Trust, said: "More experience of the Orthoscopics system is needed before we will know just how effective it may be but the first results are most encouraging."

Mr Jordan said: "We have already been able to help many dyslexics with tints that stop common problems such as words appearing to move on a page, or letters apparently being transposed."

Potentially even more exciting is the use of colour correction for people suffering from conditions such as migraines and headaches. Mr Jordan said: "Our experience so far suggests that any child who seems to be under-performing at school should not only have a full eye examination, but should also benefit from perception testing."

For information visit www.orthoscopics.com or www.visualdyslexia.com. Ian Jordan's book The Circle of Underachievement can be ordered from Desktop Publications on (01652) 688-781, price pounds 19.99.

Learning disabilities such as Dyslexia can also be helped by special education resources.

Special Needs IT Equipment offers over 20 years' experience in special needs IT equipment and software.

Those suffering from visual impairments can benefit from large key, high contrast keyboards, screen magnifier and screen reading software and Braille translators.

Tel: (0870)7 423-282 or visit www.special-needs-it.co.uk.

Steven and Wade Optomotrists, which has several branches throughout County Durham and Northumberland has invested a five-figure sum in equipment which helps diagnose Meares-Irlen syndrome - a condition which affects one in five people suffering from learning problems.

The syndrome makes words appear blurred at the edges. Optometrist Alastair Wade says parents should watch out for children rubbing their eyes, excessive blinking, poor concentration and difficulty keeping pace when reading.

ChromaGen coloured filters can be fitted to prescription spectacles to help. Call (0191) 384-9771.

For information on general eye health visit www.eye-care.org.uk or www.specsavers.com.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 26, 2003
Words:709
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