There are several types of professional that are involved in the process of being screened for visual stress and being assessed for coloured lens glasses. Below is an explanation of what each type of professional does and information about how they may be involved in the process.
An optometrist (previously called ophthalmic opticians) carries out examinations of the eye to check for any problems with visual function and to check ocular (eye) health. This will include looking at the back of the eye and checking the pressure within the eye. The optometrist can then make recommendations about what type of lenses may be helpful to correct any errors that were found during the examination.
Some optometrists have a special interest in reading difficulties and it might be helpful to see if there is an optometrist who does in your area. It is important to have an eye examination to check for any problems in the eye that might be causing difficulties with reading or any of the symptoms that may be experienced. These symptoms may or may not be related to visual stress.
Therefore, the examination should take place before you have any assessments for coloured lens glasses. You can book an appointment yourself with an optometrist.
Optometrists are one of the professionals able to carry out the assessment for coloured lens glasses if they have received the training or have a protocol to follow. The Optometrist should inform you if they are able to do so or you could enquire when booking your appointment. Their professional body provides them with guidance but this is only available to its members. They have to log into this site to access this document:
Behavioural optometrists can also be known as optometric vision therapists. The aim of these professionals is to work with individualised treatment programmes in order to improve visual function and performance in activities. The goal is to develop and practice visual skills until they become automatic and the improvements in visual function can be maintained over time. This may include being taught new strategies or using optical devices, treatment lens glasses, prisms or even specially adapted computers.
A behavioural optometrist is able to conduct eye examination just like traditional optometrists. However, their assessment will also include an assessment of things like visual perception, hearing and other senses, tracking of the eyes and left-right awareness. They work with individuals who experience symptoms such as headaches, double vision, tiredness, sore eyes and who find reading more difficult than others which may or may not be signs on visual stress. Therefore, a child may be referred to a behavioural optometrist for their difficulties and for an assessment.
Behavioural optometrists would be able to carry out the screening tool for visual stress in addition to their usual assessment. Part of their treatment can involve the use of treatment lenses and therefore they may be able to look at the provision of coloured lenses or offer guidance for the process of being assessed for them.
Furthermore, if it is found that a child is not experiencing visual stress or that coloured lenses are not beneficial to them then behavioural optometrists are able to offer additional strategies and treatments to support a child with reading difficulties such as eye exercises.
An orthoptist is a professional who also specialises in eye care and would work closely with optometrists. Orthoptists largely work within eye departments in hospitals. The orthoptist investigates and treats eye difficulties including things like squinting, binocular vision (how well the eyes work together) and abnormal eye movements.
Usually, to make an appointment with an orthoptist you should speak to your GP. It is important to have any eye examination to check for any problems in the eye that might be causing difficulties with reading or any of the symptoms that may be being experienced, that may not be related to visual stress. Therefore, the eye examination should take place before you have any assessments for coloured lens glasses.
Teachers and SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators)
Teachers may be able to provide important information about a child if they notice that the child is experiencing some difficulties with reading during class. They may notice things that may not be so easy to spot at home when a child is reading and help to identify what problems the child is experiencing. Teachers are able to carry out for the screening for visual stress found on this website, and do not need specific qualifications to do this.
If the teacher notices reading difficulties they will then discuss a referral with parents for the SENCO service (special educational needs co-coordinator) within the school (every school has a SENCO). The SENCO will take the lead from then on and help in advising the teacher and the parents how to support the child. The SENCO will have experience in a wide range of educational needs and difficulties that children may encounter. They may already be aware of the protocol for screening for visual stress and assessment of coloured lens glasses. SENCOs will be able to use the screening tool and resources on this website to support an individual though this process.
The SENCOs are able to carry out the screening for visual stress available on this website and will meet with the child to understand more about their difficulties. They may also be able to give parents some extra information that will be helpful to tell the optometrist when the child has their eye examination.
Educational Psychologists are Psychologists who specifically work with young people who are in education. They may work privately or within schools and colleges. Generally, Educational Psychologists will carry out assessments, make recommendations, plan learning programmes and provide strategies to help your child. They will work closely alongside teachers and also parents.
Some Educational Psychologists are still skeptical about the use of coloured lens glasses for visual stress and await further scientific proof to be published.
Occupational therapists specialise in promoting health, function and quality of life through maximising the capacity of individuals to engage in everyday tasks. They work with clients of all ages including with children in paediatric services and schools.
They have knowledge about a range of health conditions, disabilities and areas of function, including visual perception difficulties and therefore will have the skills and awareness to observe that an individual is having difficulty with reading. They often work in schools and therefore may be helpful in noticing if a child is struggling with reading and in assessing different aspects of their difficulty.
Occupational therapists work in the domain of functional visual behaviour but can also advise on assistive equipment (such as coloured lens glasses), environmental adaptations and coping strategies that will help an individual to engage in important activities such as reading.
Evans BJW. Dyslexia and Vision. Chichester: Wiley; 2001.
Gentile M. (2005) Functional Visual Behavior in Adults: an Occupational Therapy guide to Evaluation and Treatment Options. Bethesada,MD: American Occupational Therapy Association.
Gentile M. (2005)Functional Visual Behavior in Children: an Occupational Therapy guide to Evaluation and Treatment Options. Bethesada,MD: American Occupational Therapy Association.
Wilkins, A. (2003). Reading Through Colour: How coloured filters can reduce reading difficulty, eye strain, and headaches. John Wiley & Sons: Chichester.
http://www.babo.co.uk/ (British Association of Behavioural Optometrists)