Read­ing prob­lems?

The Oban Times - - LEISURE - with John Wal­lace

Last month I dis­cussed some of the lat­est re­search about 'rewiring' the hu­man brain – ie, neuro-plas­tic­ity. These tech­niques can also be ap­plied to pa­tients who have prob­lems read­ing.

Much has been made of the dra­matic in­crease in chil­dren di­ag­nosed with dys­lexia. Ap­prox­i­mately one in five chil­dren suf­fers from some form of read­ing prob­lem. Dys­lexia is ac­tu­ally fairly rare and is a more ex­treme form of read­ing dis­or­der. It is not pos­si­ble to cure dys­lexia but it is pos­si­ble to dra­mat­i­cally im­prove the read­ing abil­ity of suf­fer­ers. Much has been made of help­ing chil­dren and teenagers but what about adults with read­ing prob­lems? The pro­por­tion of adults with read­ing prob­lems is also one in five yet most sim­ply ac­cept what they have been told since child­hood … there is no ef­fec­tive treat­ment and they should sim­ply try to man­age to the best of their abil­i­ties. In re­al­ity, it is pos­si­ble to pro­vide ef­fec­tive treat­ment for adults with read­ing dis­or­ders. The process sim­ply takes a bit longer than with chil­dren. Re­search into neuro-plas­tic­ity tells us pa­tients in their six­ties, seven­ties and older can be helped ef­fec­tively.

Treat­ments take a va­ri­ety of forms and all start with a com­pre­hen­sive eye ex­am­i­na­tion. A typ­i­cal NHS eye ex­am­i­na­tion looks at max­imis­ing the clar­ity of what you can see. There is much more to vi­sion than sim­ply see­ing clearly. The mus­cles sur­round­ing your eyes must work in har­mony with each other. You need to be able to fo­cus ac­cu­rately and sus­tain that fo­cus for pro­longed pe­ri­ods when read­ing. You need to be able to read with­out los­ing your place and you need to read­ily com­pre­hend what you are read­ing. Ask your op­tometrist it they can help or ask them to re­fer to a col­league who can. The NHS does not fund this type of treat­ment.

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