Live it, Learn it!

(Guest Blog by Beccie Hawes, of Rushall’s Inclusion Advisory Service)Ice world 3

Whenever I made one of those mistakes you make when you are growing up (the usual stuff: silly  coloured hair, ill-chosen boyfriends, falling off ridiculously high heels whilst drunk….) my amazing Nanny  Rene would often sigh as she wisely said ‘Well, you live and you learn!’

In thinking about how children learn best I think my Nanny Rene had a point. Many of the children that I  have the pleasure and privilege to work with often don’t have access to the life experiences that make  education accessible. The majority of the children that I meet are loved enormously but for a number of  social and economic reasons are unable to do ‘life stuff’ like visit the seaside or go on holiday to  faraway places. An example of this is when we tackle reading comprehension tasks. Often the children  can’t engage with the text to make meaning as – although they can read the words – they don’t have the life experience to back up their reading to make it personally significant. The impact is also evident in writing as many children don’t have a bank of experiences to build imaginatively upon.  Coming back to the ever astute Nanny Rene – if you haven’t lived it, it’ll be much harder to learn and use it.

Ice world 2 I often use Nanny Rene’s mantra to explain why we do what we do at Rushall. Our current theme is Ice Worlds. We are using this theme as the vehicle to teach  a creative curriculum. At the start of every term, before the children come back to school, we decorate the school to become the theme. As the children arrive  at school their faces are amazing as they discover and explore the new world in which they will live and learn for the term. We also add in as many relevant,  challenging and new experiences as possible. For Ice Worlds this has included a visit from Husky dogs and a pop up ice rink. I believe that this makes learning  truly multi-sensory as they can write from real experiences and with authority about how the fur of a husky dog feels and how their breathing after pulling a  sledge sounds. They can share facts that they have learned first-hand about hIce world 1ow ice is formed and melts. Language skills develop in a meaningful way as the  children have the experiences to ‘pin’ semantic links too. This beats any text book, DVD, teacher talk or demonstration as it is memorable and exciting. As  living it to learn it forms part of a rich tapestry of real world encounters.

Many schools worry that their budget won’t allow for a brand new learning environment every term with a menu of experiences and encounters to make the unlived burst into life ready to be learnt. I would ask you if you can’t afford not to. We owe our children the chance to sample everything and, by living it have the opportunity to learn it in the most realistic and memorable way

The DIRM Factor

ProtractorgateBy Beccie Hawes,

(Head of Service, Rushall’s Inclusion Advisory Team)

DIRM stands for ‘does it really matter?’ and it is fast becoming my mantra of choice for many of the issues that I am encountering in our schools! I have the pleasure and privilege of getting to know the many children and young people referred to our service. Often, the conversation starts something like this: “I have this child who no one knows what to do about.” This then leads to: “We’ve exhausted everything we’ve got to offer and were hoping you and your magic wand could come and have a look.” At this point I always agree to go in because I love a challenge and am yet to find the unteachable child. This is because I believe that children and young people who are experiencing learning difficulties actually have teaching difficulties. The difficulty belongs to us – the teachers – it is our responsibility to adapt our teaching until the child learns.

My latest DIRM outing for a supposed unteachable child led me to work with an amazing thirteen year old male. Upon arrival to his maths lesson for an observation Jay (name has been changed) was sat in the back corner of the classroom wearing his baseball cap and hoodie (hood up) whilst complaining loudly about a protractor and another detention. It turned out that he had received yet another consequence for not having a protractor in his pencil case. The teaching assistant in a hushed, red-faced tone told me that a protractor wasn’t needed – it was a multiplication lesson but rules were rules and the rule clearly states what equipment should be present for every lesson. This had led to the cap on, hood up complaining situation which was apparently the tip of a humungous iceberg. According to the teaching assistant Jay forgets everything and is always angry because he has a terminal case of detention attendance.

At this point there was only one course of action for me. So, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that irritants cause pearls and asked the sixty-four thousand dollar question: “Does it really matter?” Once I had made it clear to all parties that I do value and see the importance of whole school polices, rules and routines, we agreed that sometimes you have to let things go so that you can concentrate on the important and bigger issues.

I strongly suspect that the young man at the centre of the ‘protractorgate’ situation is dyslexic. We will work this out as I get to know him. Often, as a result of being dyslexic, organisation and memory difficulties are experienced. By getting caught up in the here and now of consequences the basic need had been overlooked because we’d forgotten to ask: ‘Does it really matter?’ I wonder if his possible dyslexia has always been missed because it has been masked by a whole host of small things that became the wrong focus.

So, next time we are faced with a situation we should all ask ourselves if what we are dealing with is the thing that really matters or is masking what we should be focusing on.

Crossbow are working with Beccie and her team to bring an “inclusion zone” of teaching tips to the crossbow website: keep an eye on for the new Inclusion Zone pages. To visit Rushall’s inclusion service website, go to

Beccie Hawes is presenting a workshop at SpLD Central on 20th June.

Have you Been Phoniced? (Guest Blog from Beccie Hawes)

We are delighted to be developing a partnership with one of our local Inclusion Advisory teams, based at Rushall Primary School, near Walsall. In this article, head of service Beccie Hawes asks the question…Beccie Hawes

Have you been phoniced? (Pronounced: “phonicked”)

I think I may have invented a new verb! In terms of tenses and in conversation it goes something like this:

“Today I have been phonicing some children in Year One” meaning that today I have taught synthetic phonics to some five and six year olds.

“Yesterday I phoniced some children in Year Two” meaning that yesterday I taught synthetic phonics to some six and seven year olds.

My problem lies in that sometimes we ‘phonic’ children and it doesn’t work and quite often these children have been phoniced for two or three years before someone scratches their head and says “I thinks we need to do something different!” It is at this point that my phone rings and I am asked the million dollar question “What do we do about our phoniced failures?” I have a simple answer…..send them to phonic rehab! What follows is not necessarily what all children will need but part of what should form a rich buffet of approaches for all learners to taste!

So what happens in phonic rehab? Firstly, we recognise that not all children learn following a synthetic approach. Some children have limited working memory capacity which means that they can’t ‘hold’ all of the sounds that they need to synthesise. Others may struggle to sequence all of the sounds, fail to isolate individual phonemes or get locked into sounding out everything that they try to read. The next step is to explore a range of methods to find the way in which the child learns best such as looking at whole words, using analogy (if you can spell bat you could get to hat, mat, sat….), exploring onset and rime, mnemonics, word shapes, simultaneous oral spelling and anything else in your teaching armoury. All phonic rehab approaches much be multi-sensory so that children can truly experience the teaching focus in all modalities. It’s time to get back out the sandpaper letters, wikki sticks, magnetic letters, sand trays, slime and anything else that you can think of. This needs to be done whilst looking, saying, smelling and – where you can – tasting. Phonic rehab must also offer opportunities to over learn everything and chances to use what we have learnt in a real world scenario are essential! Opportunities to be in control of the learning such as selecting the words to learn foster engagement. The most crucial element is that phonic rehab starts early and acts like a dripping tap: little and often – a constant drip. We must stop phonicing our children and change direction as soon as we suspect it isn’t working and do something else.

Phonic rehab is a bit scary for some teachers because we remove the structured scheme of work that we believe we must religiously follow and bin the tick list of sounds that must be reader to prove that a child can read. I believe that instead of finding it scary we should embrace the opportunity to respond to what the child needs from where the child shows us their starting point is rather than a neat intervention group.

I regularly work with an amazing lady who has a brilliant saying: “Don’t tickle a pig!” Apparently, pigs are not ticklish so you can tickle them as much as you like but no one will get anything from it. I question if it is time to recognise that for some children synthetic phonics is a pig that is immune to laughter!

(Beccie Hawes is one of the workshop presenters at our conference SpLD Central, coming up on June 20th.)

Overcoming Dyslexia (Guest Blog)

Dyslexia Fence

Dyslexia Fence (Photo credit: The Nikon Guru)

Overcoming dyslexia- Florence Beastall

I am only four years older than my brother, so when it was first recognised that he was dyslexic I was still quite young myself. From my childish point of view, I just thought that he was a bit slower at writing than I had been. I knew that he was actually a very clever boy, and if you had a conversation with him, he was very engaging and knowledgeable, but if you’d have asked him to write anything down you’d have found it strange that it was entirely beyond him to transfer his thoughts to paper. There was one day after school that it hit home to me how serious and important recognising dyslexia is for a child. My Mum and brother in were in the living room, and aged 14 or so, he was crying because he found school too hard. It broke my heart. I had never had a problem with any of the work at school, being reasonably bright; the only thing I had needed to worry about was your usual teenage girl things like spots and not letting anyone know you fancied someone a bit weird. Going to school, having to deal with your usual teenage boy things AND not be able to do the work you’re asked to must have been horrendous. I can’t imagine it.

He got through it though. He had a scribe with him for his GCSE’s and did well. At college he had a scribe with him and got better A Level results than I did. And I couldn’t have been prouder of him. He’s now at university, studying Politics, planning to go and study in Norway for a couple of months at the end of the year, I believe the universities are in negotiation about what extra support he will be needing while he’s out there, which is fabulous. Entirely different from the struggle it was for him to get support when he was in primary school. I know my Mum worked very hard to get it recognised that he was dyslexic, and not just a lazy little boy. He got a statement in Year 4, and from then I think things were a little better for him. My advice would be that if you think your child is dyslexic and needs extra support, fight for it, because it can make a lot of difference.

Now he’s at university, I know that the support hasn’t stopped there. He has a special program on his laptop called “Dragon naturally speaking”, which types whatever it is that he says into the microphone, meaning he is able to dictate his essays to his laptop and it does the spelling and writing for him; therefore taking the problematic “getting the ideas to paper” bit of essay writing. It does mean that he gets some wild mistakes in his writing, when he mumbles something and you get a random, nonsensical word in among the argument, but that’s what sending your work to your sister to proof read is all about. For the planning of his essays he uses “inspiration” software, which helps him make mind-maps and set out his thoughts clearly so that he can get straight into writing the essay without having to physically write a plan himself.

Having dyslexia doesn’t mean that you’re not intelligent, and that you can’t get a degree in something as rooted in reading and writing as politics. I have a politics degree myself and I know that there is so much reading to do, and essays are very complicated to plan, but if my brother can do it, there is no reason that someone else as determined couldn’t too. It’s all about having the right support.

I think it is so important to get the right provision as early as you can. My brother is an example of how something as simple as having a scribe with you for your exams can make the difference between getting A Level results that will see you safely into university, and not.

A Student Teacher’s Perspective (Guest Blog)

Dyslexia Awareness Hotline

Dyslexia Awareness Hotline (Photo credit: Scott M)

From a student teacher’s point of view.- Florence Beastall

As a PGCE student, I have had a university lecture on special education needs. One two hour lecture. And now I am expected to have a reasonable grasp and understanding of the infinite number of different needs that the children I am going to teach in the future might have.

Dyslexia is something I have a bit more knowledge of, and it is something which I am determined to assist my students with in whatever ways I can.

In my last teaching practice, there was a girl in my maths class who was dyslexic, but found it easier to read information from pink paper rather than white. I was aware that the colour of the paper can make a difference to how easy it is to read, at home we have reams of a pale yellow paper for my brother to print all his stuff out on as he finds it useful. I wasn’t aware, until I met this student, that pink is another colour that can make reading easier, and that the colour of paper is a very personal choice, varying in usefulness from person to person. Having found this out, I printed everything I could on pink paper for her, until the school ran out of pink paper and I moved onto card, I wasn’t having her struggle in my lessons for the sake of a bit of card!

I also have found that a coloured plastic wallet can be a cheap and easy way of making a book easier to read. The problem with a book is that you can’t change the colour of the paper, they’re all printed onto a dull white page, but if you found a pink, or light yellow coloured thick plastic folder, chop it up to a 20cm x 10cm rectangle, children can use them when reading a book to make the page their preferred colour. It can also help you to follow what line it is you’re reading, which is handy too. What’s more is that the children can use it as their bookmark and it doesn’t necessarily draw attention to the fact that they have something addition to help them with their reading, which may become important as children get older and more self-conscious about themselves and their special educational needs.

Whilst I was trawling the internet looking at other things I might be able to do to help my students, and perhaps mention to my brother, I came across a font which claims to make reading easier as it is “weighted” at the bottom, supposedly meaning that the letters cannot spin around as much as they might as you know that the “fat” bit of the letter should be at the bottom. I haven’t had the chance to test this out yet, but it is interesting and something that I am going to try. It’s called “open dyslexic” and is easy to download from their website, and it’s free, which is great.

From what I have experienced of dyslexia, there are many small adjustments that a teacher can make to aid a student with reading and writing. It is just a case of knowing about some of the easy things that you can do, which might make the world of difference to a child- which is where blogs like these come into their own.

Editor’s Comment from Bob Hext at Crossbow:

As well as being dyslexic, this child obviously suffered from Visual Stress , as about 30%-35% of dyslexics do (see the top article link below). As well as yellow and pink, blues and greens are common colour choices. The five most popular colours of our overlays and reading rulers are sky blue, aqua, grass green, yellow and pink.

PS our reading rulers do exactly what the little coloured plastic squares do, and come in ten colours. They cost £8.99 + VAT for a pack of ten , or $16.99 if you’re  in the USA.

Visual Stress and Visual Processing Difficulties

Visual Stress and Visual Processing Difficulties

This is a slide presentation by Matt Grant, a UK Special Needs Co-ordinator and Irlen trainer. Apart from the fact that it is very detailed and informative, it is beautifully put together, and worth looking at just for some of the graphics alone. His blog site is called “Humans not Robots“. If you don’t know much about Visual Stress, this is a good place to start. I’ve only got it as a pdf file, so you’ll have to click on the title link (below the picture) to enjoy it. The image is from one of the slides.

The eye is the window of the soul...

The eye is the window of the soul…


Guest Blog: Diane Allen Homeschool

This week we’ve going to be looking at a guest blog from Diane Allen’s homeschooling. Diane was given a pack of Crossbow’s Eye Level Reading Rulers and asked her honest opinion about her thoughts on the products and their usefulness.

As you’ll soon see, we were pleased with the response!


Everyone who’s taught a child to read knows that using a straight-lined reading guide, or a convenient finger tracing along under the words, helps keep young eyes focused on the words and tracking left to right.

The truth is, students who continue to struggle with reading often can benefit from continued use of some type of reading aide.  Crossbow Education has produced a set of colored, transparent, Reading Rulers to help these students.

As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a full set of these overlays from Crossbow.

The benefit of using colored overlays is well documented by education specialists.  The HSLDA’s special needs section includes the following quote:

At times, a child will experience a mild scotopic sensitivity syndrome, which means that the reflection of the white background of the paper makes it more difficult for the child to see the black letters that compose the text.

This syndrome is also known as Irlen Syndrome.  A quick Google search leads to a wealth of information on this problem.
Using colored overlays to reduce glare and sharpen contrast reduces eye strain.  Different readers will benefit from different colors.  A simple way to determine which color works is to purchase the  variety pack of 10 rulers in the 5 most popular colors.  Crossbow provides a helpful brochure of instructions that guide parents through a process of elimination with their student.

My daughter is old enough to figure things out for herself, so I basically just handed her the set and then asked for her opinion.  I was actually surprised that she took such an interest in the process, but in a few minutes she had settled on blue and purple of a particular shade.   Ginger said she could tell a difference in letter contrast and that her eyes felt more relaxed when reading.

Well….. just when you think something as simple as color transparency can’t possibly be helpful…….

While we chatted about how this product was working for her, Ginger reminded me that she hated the early readers I had her use when she was 7 because they came on brightly colored, glossy pages.  She said the blue books were OK, but that the red one and yellow one hurt her eyes.  When I questioned her about why she didn’t tell me that rather then crying and complaining she reminded me, “I was 7!  Would you have believed me?”.

Lesson learned mom.  If your young child is avoiding reading, complaining about reading or seems to fatigue easily while reading, they could be struggling with glare and print contrast which causes eye strain and fatigue.    Colorful overlays could be just the solution you are looking for.  I know that Ginger repeatedly asked for “her overlay things” and finally ended up using her favorite strip as a bookmark in her literature book.

While some reading overlays cover the whole page of a book. Crossbow Reading Rulers incorporate the transparency with a transparent reading ruler that also helps with eye tracking.   The old conventional wisdom advised parents and teachers to force children NOT to track with their finger in the mistaken belief that this would slow down their eye movement.  The reverse is actually true, especially if they struggle with tracking to begin with.

Who would use this product?   Parents of children who

  • complain about reading and avoid it when possible
  • grow tired easily while reading
  • covers one eye while reading or lay their head on the table
  • have a slow, halting reading speed
  • have trouble focusing on a printed page

Even if your child doesn’t verbally complain or show dramatic symptoms, you may find they “enjoy” reading more with transparencies.  It could be they are just unable to articulate their struggle to you.

Older students, like my daughter, who struggled with reading in the beginning often continue to have trouble when the print size decreases in advanced texts.  While my daughter doesn’t dramatically struggle with reading, most of the time, we have both noticed that she struggles with books that have lots of small print on a page.  That is why she has willingly and spontaneously used the reading rulers in two of her high school literature texts – the kind of books with pages of text in one column, and no pictures..

As an adult I might also use this for keeping my place on a field of many problems or lines of text.

The great thing about these reading ruler overlays is that they are small and inconspicuous.  They can be used as a bookmark, where they are conveniently at hand.

Guest Blog Post: Fresh Start Academy

We recently read another product review of our Eye Level Reading Rulers from Schoolhouse Review this week. This one, from Fresh Start Academy is a fantastic example of how useful the rulers can be, not only for children, but older readers too.

‘Being part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew has been a blessing on my family for all of our homeschool needs not just curriculum. Sometimes homeschoolers and families may need added help from products to help make learning easier. Eye Level Reading Rulers from Crossbow Education is a product that fits in the helper category. We were fortunate to have been sent a variety pack of 10 different colors, which sells for $16.95 and is the best value for your money.


Eye Level Reading Rulers are designed for children and adults alike that may have visual or Dyslexia. This put my family smack dab in the center of their target market. While my children do not have any diagnosed visual problems other than standard near sighted vision, they do have trouble focusing on what they are reading due to their Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes their attention span short and their eyes wander while reading. My husband on the other hand has a whole host of visual issues, he has no peripheral vision, has macular degeneration due to a old retinal tear and repair, and as a result is pretty much blind in one eye with only the ability to see finger outlines and very limited sight in the other. He has pretty much given up reading because the white paper background of a book or newspaper puts too much strain on his eyes. So needless to say I was pretty darn excited to be chosen for this review and ecstatic when they showed up in our mailbox.

Even our mail lady, with whom we have had for many years was curious, as she knew it was not a book, she is almost always just excited to see what pops up in our mailbox as we are. Usually we have to stand and open them while she waits so she can see too, and this was no exception. She was intrigued when I explained what they were and I told her we would let her know our thoughts after we used them for a bit.

Everyone is different when it comes to visual issues, and what makes Eye Level Reading Rulers unique is that they offer many different color choices so that you can see which color works best for your eyes. My kids were eager to give them a try, but my husband was hesitant since nothing has really helped so far for him personally. There were 10 different colors to choose from, and I let the boys and my hubby try them all out to see which worked best for them personally.

Alyx ended up picking the grass green one, Taylor the Aqua and my hubby the purple. They are made up of a combination of opaque and transparent plastic, there is also 2 sides to each one, a narrow edge for one line reading and a wide edge for multi line focusing. The opaque portion helps to underline and guide you as you read along and keep you from getting distracted by your eyes jumping ahead of where you are trying to focus. Keeping the ruler in your book helps to not only keep your place but you will always know where your reading ruler is. This is a huge help with my youngest as he is a very disorganized individual and loses everything. This way the frustration level is kept to a minimum with him by not having to look for his reading ruler every time he goes to read quietlyPhotobucket
Reading has become more enjoyable for my husband as he does not seem to be struggling as much, now I am not trying to say these improved his vision. I wish that could happen so easily but it cannot. What they did  do was help relieve some of the stress on his eyes by changing the visual field color and making it so it is not as harsh as a white piece of paper. I have noticed him picking up his Bible again which he has not wanted to do in quite some time as it was just too taxing on his eyes. This is HUGE for my husband and family.

I have also noticed Taylor and Alyx wanting to read more and I believe they are getting more out of what they are reading because they can focus more on the content and not spend all their energy keeping their eyes on the right line of text. This has cut down on the amount of frustration and whining I receive from each one of them about reading time. I am an avid reader, I always have been and it has pained me to not see my children have the love for reading that I posses. I am hoping with time and with the help of Eye Level Reading Rulers we can change their opinion of reading and let them see the joy of exploring a good book and that it does not have to be “work”.

There are several options for purchasing Eye Level Reading Rulers, you can buy them in packs of 5 or 10. Prices start at $9.45 for the pack of 5 and increase, with the 10 pack being best value for your money at $16.95. Crossbow Education also makes single color plain window reading rulers available in packs of 5,10, or 30.  You can purchase whichever combination is right for you by visiting their website, and there is also the opportunity to try out the color choices on your screen so that you can get a feel for how dark the colors are and maybe see which one might be the one for you before you even order and also be sure to check out all of their valuable resources they have to offer.  There is also a wonderful opportunity to try out their Virtual Color overlay great for computer reading for a 30 day trial.

Guest Blog Post- Reading Rulers with Tolivers to Texas

We recently read a fantastic blog on the use of our Reading Rulers on, see how they found them:

blog 1

Nearly three years ago, I had a wiggly 6yo girl who was not catching on to reading like I thought she should.

Her three older siblings had just needed a little guidance and then reading clicked and they were highly proficient readers by age 6 or 7. But my silly 6yo would squirm around on the couch beside me and occasionally complain that the words kept wiggling off the page.

Well, of course, that was a ridiculous excuse. I’D never seen words wiggle off the page and the problem was that my 6yo just kept wiggling off the couch!

During that time we went to a homeschool co-op where the older kids played in a chess club and as I waited for my kids one day, I started talking with a lady who did some tutoring for kids with learning difficulties.

Thank goodness MY kids didn’t have any difficulties like that! And when the tutor asked me in passing if my kids struggled with reading, I just lightly said, “No, they’re fine!”

“Well, that’s wonderful,” she said. “Because when I was younger I had a hard time reading since the words always seemed to wiggle right off the page.”

At that point, she nearly had to scrape me off the floor. Thank the Lord for putting me in touch with the right person at the right time who had the exact same issue as my squirmy 6yo.

That tutor did a long, detailed analysis of my daughter – it lasted an entire morning – and the end result was that my daughter ended up using these strange little colored screens.

blog 2

Amazingly, the words didn’t wiggle off the page anymore. There was an immediate change in her reading ability. It’s still not as easy for her as some of the others, but it’s made a drastic difference for her.

Does this sound familiar? I hope so. Because I know of other parents who’ve heard my daughter’s story and have realized their child had similar issues.

Enter Crossbow Education. The product I used three years ago was similar, but Crossbow has made vast improvements to it. They have taken the concept of those strange little colored screens and made them into an amazing, highly practical product that can completely revolutionize your child’s learning disabilities. Even better, it’s now something that you as the parent can figure out at home with your child, rather than taking them to someone else for testing.

blog 4

For our daughter, I learned that the stark contrast between the white page and the black words caused a visual perception problem that made the words truly wiggle off the page. The colored screens – different people have different colors that work best – change how your child sees the written page.

My daughter no longer fussed around and guessed at the words – reading became an infinitely simpler process for her. The past year or so she had stopped using them, but when I received this fun 10-color pack of colored reading rulers for review, I went through them with her.

Now she’s 9 years old, and apparently she has not outgrown the need for them.

We went through the rulers one at a time. For each one, she basically said, “No. No. No.” Until we came to yellow. “That one works good!” she said.

So yellow was most effective for her. You can use one side that shows one line of type at a time – the line helps them focus on the correct place. Or flip it over and the child can see several lines at once.

blog 3

I also tried it with her 7yo sister who has never found reading as easy as my oldest three kids did.

I don’t know if she has the exact same issue as her sister, but the reading ruler – pink worked for her – has made a difference in her reading.

“The page is wrinkled when you look at it with white,
but when you look at it with pink, it’s soft.”
That’s a direct quote from my 7yo who found that it truly helped her read better.

The lighting does make a difference, and when she’s outside, the orange overlay seems to work better. But that’s one of the advantages of having a 10-pack!

Maybe you struggle with reading issues yourself. Adults can have these exact same issues. So for this price, it’s well worth trying. And you can try out all ten colors on your own without having to have a tutor or specialist. You also can trim them down for use in smaller books or just cut them in half so you can store them in separate books.

Reading difficulties CAN have a simple solution. And as I found out – sometimes it’s just a matter of hearing about the right solution and realizing it will work for your child!

You can find more blogs like this at

Please take a look at our fantastic Reading Rulers described in this blog.

Rose-tinted World Visual Stress Guest blog

There are many products and adaptations that can help ease the symptoms of Irlen syndrome. When my daughter was diagnosed aged six I was certain that everything would get better once she had glasses with filtered lenses. What the last eighteen months has taught me is that the most useful adaptations not only depend upon the situation and the person but will also vary with time. This can make finding useful products complicated. However, the right product and adaptation really does make all the difference in the world.

Irlen syndrome goes by many names: Irlen syndrome, Meares-Irlen syndrome, visual stress and scotopic sensitivity. It can exist as a condition by itself or alongside dyslexia.

Common difficulties include problems with reading and writing, over-sensitivity to light, problems differentiating between background and foreground in the environment and a range of different physical effects caused by dealing with this (e.g. headaches, nausea, exhaustion).

My two children and myself all have Irlen symptoms. These affect us to different extents and in different ways.  In my experience the things that help most depends upon whichever of the Irlen symptoms are strongest. A system of trial and error with different products has led each of us to our own ways to manage the symptoms we have.

My seven year old daughter finds the contrast between text and page the most difficult to manage with her Irlen symptoms. As a consequence she finds her overlay and reading ruler the most beneficial. My daughter went up three reading levels at school within the term following the prescription of her overlay. She became much more competent in her school reading. We were recommended reading rulers six months later and this revolutionised her reading entirely. She voluntarily picked up a book to read for the first time. This turned her from a very reluctant reader to an independent reader.

Situation makes an enormous difference too. I have terrible handwriting. Very few people know about this. All of my work and social networking communication is done via electronic documents and formats. Nobody knows that my maths works looks chaotic with digits in indistinct columns and rows. All my colleagues see is completed Excel documents, pdfs, blog posts, tweets and e-mails.

However, my children are judged and marked on their handwriting. This makes it a matter of great importance: Much of their day is spent writing on paper with pens and pencils; it is very important that they feel comfortable while doing this. They have a range of different things that enable this to happen. My daughter has coloured workbooks that she uses for her schoolwork. The school provide these. She also has a coloured mini-‘whiteboard’. This is a purple version of the wipe-clean tablet that all the children use in school on a daily basis. We have bought this ourselves but it has been a great investment. My daughter found class work much easier once she had it and became much more willing to practice her handwriting in class time.

My five-year-old son is still very young. He  benefits from the fact that most of his school storybooks have coloured pages already. The font is still quite big and there are generally only two or three lines of text per page. We have noticed that he cannot read simple words if they are on white paper and are in a small font. He likes to use an overlay for this and becomes much more fluid in his reading. He finds a reading ruler too much of a complication as he doesn’t like lining up the ruler.

The children respond differently to environmental conditions as well. My son says he has no problems with the class smartboard (large interactive ‘board’ projected onto the wall of the classroom). However, he howls with pain if the general lighting conditions are too bright. This can include natural daylight and well and over-bright artificial lighting. He likes to wear sunglasses to counteract this. We have agreed to this as he has been inconsistent in his Irlen assessments that make accurate prescription of tints difficult.

My daughter doesn’t seem to be too bothered by light. She needs the background of the smartboard changed away from white. This is easily done and most of the children prefer the jollier colour.

I experience environmental symptoms greatest (light sensitivity and movement in my vision between the foreground and background). This can make my office-based work problematic, particularly when I have to use the computer a lot. This means that for me my Irlen glasses provide the best relief. However, my lenses are a dark turquoise colour and I don’t like to use them too much in the office as my colleagues cannot see my eyes. Therefore, on most occasions I actually use a green computer filter over my screen. This reduces headaches and makes it much easier for me to concentrate.

Some of these adaptations are actually free or already available:

  • Changing the background      colour of the interactive white board in the classroom
  • Using computer software and      social media platforms to communicate (e.g. spreadsheets, e-mail, twitter      etc).

Some adaptations may even save money:

  • My children’s school using      the minimum amount of artificial light in the classroom.

Other adaptations are definitely worth trying. All of the resources I have mentioned are available on line. My preferred site is Crossbow Education as they let you buy in small volume (essential for trying things out before investing a lot of money) and they have a good range of products available at However, other educational resource companies can supply many similar products.

The resources my family have found most useful are:

  • Coloured/tinted exercise      books.
  • Overlays (including an      excellent trial pack with 10 different colours)
  • Reading rulers (available      in the tinted colours)
  • Tinted wipe-clean boards      (coloured ‘mini-whiteboard’)

Information on tinted lenses and diagnosis can be found on the Irlen Institute website ( You can also ask your family doctor for a referral to a learning difficulties unit if you have one local to you.

About Rose-tinted World:- This group was set up by the parent of a family affected by Irlen syndrome. It is for people affected by Irlen syndrome to share comments and information.

Rose-tinted World looks forward to a future when children with Irlen syndrome excel in every area of their education and their lives.

Desgined as a space for people affected by Irlen syndrome (sometimes called scotopic sensitivity syndrome) to share information, comments and weblinks.

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