What is Visual Stress? – Sue Kerrigan

People with Visual Stress do not see a page of text the way it is written – with text all lined up neatly in rows.  For them, the text may be swirling in circles or running down the page like a waterfall with whole words or individual letters moving.  Along with these illusions they may also suffer from headaches, feeling sick or sore eyes when they read.  Visual Stress can also be the problem for people who frequently yawn whilst reading or use a finger to keep their place, rub their eyes or read slowly with poor comprehension.

Visual Stress, is very common among people diagnosed with dyslexia – around 35-40% of those with dyslexia also have visual stress.  In the general population the prevalence is thought to be around 5-20%. It also has many different names: Visual Dyslexia, Scoptic Sensitivity, Meares-Irlen or Irlen Syndrome and Binocular Amblyopia.

I suffer from Visual Stress and as a child I experienced sickness and a stuffy head whilst reading.  I experience letters swapping places and I also see halos around words.  I find it hard to read black text on a very white background and even harder to look at white text on a black background because I see the line spaces above and below the white text as shining halo lines.  Using my finger to read helps.  The spaces between the text stand out more than the words I am reading, I have learnt to not be distracted by these space patterns but as a child instead of reading I would play games chasing the patterns down the page.

You can go on the web and see some videos illustrating Visual Stress here: http://blog.letmelearn.co.uk/what-is-visual-stress/

If you think you, your child or a child in your class has visual stress there is a screening test available:   http://colouredlensesandvisualstress.com/screening-test/     If the test indicates visual stress then it is well worth discovering if the use of colour decreases the symptoms as this is often the case. There is a very inexpensive way of finding out if using a tint over the text will make a difference.  Try a pack of coloured reading rulers (overlays).  If they help then other products are also available e.g. coloured lined paper. See: http://www.letmelearn.co.uk/product-category/visual-stress/


If coloured overlays are helpful then you will further benefit by going to a specialist optician (optometrist) who is able to test for Visual Stress along with the standard sight test. In Hampshire, Leighton’s, Owen Leigh and Wingate’s Opticians are able to provide this service and you can find other opticians: http://colouredlensesandvisualstress.com/providers-of-coloured-lens/                 Specialist opticians will be able to provide you with coloured glasses to wear that reduce the symptoms of visual stress. You may find that there is a difference between the overlay tint you find most helpful and the glasses tint you find most helpful.

This is Michelle Doyle’s story about her son and her on going fight to get NHS funding.   “After years with my son Aaron struggling with his reading and writing and being given the impression that he was lazy in class, in Nov 2009 at the age of eleven, my son was given a coloured overlay by a teacher at his primary school.

After I questioned him about this I was shocked and extremely surprised to find out that when he looked at a page of writing it moved around the page. I spoke to his optician and was informed my son has Visual Stress.  He needed two pairs of glasses: one for severe long sightedness and a coloured pair for his Visual Stress. The NHS would not contribute to the cost of the coloured glasses.
I got in touch with the local Primary Care Trust and after about 6 months I finally managed to get his distance vision prescription put into his coloured lenses.

I contacted my MP who wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and the Chief Executive for NHS in my area.  The replies basically told me what I already knew: that vouchers will not cover the cost of tinted lenses – only the prescription lens. I do not feel that the question of funding for children with visual stress was answered at all.

My MP wrote to the Group Director for Social Care and Learning. His reply gave me the impression that he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I also got in touch with the Education Dept. for Disabled Children.  They then referred me to The Visual Impairment Coordinator for my area. Even she had to research Visual Stress before she got back to me!

To raise awareness of Visual Stress and the need for funding from the NHS I have started a group on Facebook called ‘Parents of Kids with Visual Stress’.   Our members can discuss the problems that they are having and also get ideas of how to tackle things from other people. We are there to support each other with our fight.

I also have an e-petition running for the funding of tinted lenses for Visual Stress: http://www.causes.com/actions/1677167 I need to get 100,000 signatures for it to be discussed in Parliament. The more votes that we can get the quicker the help can be put in place to help our children.

Testimonials Courtesy of Wingate’s Optician’s in Portsmouth: “As the test and lenses for glasses was very expensive we felt that my son should try the overlay for a while before we could make the decision to get a pair of glasses. After some time the difference was very noticeable, my son’s confidence had grown and we felt that we should make the investment in the glasses to help him further. I must say they have been fantastic, my son uses them in all his school work including reading the board, working on computers, reading books, all writing and maths.”

“Since she has started wearing these glasses her reading age has shot up to nearly where it should be and her confidence and self esteem has improved.”

“The glasses I have been given have given me confidence and passion in reading, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for me to achieve reading a whole book cover to cover is the biggest achievement for me.”

Testimonial from a Parent:                                                                                              “I think the confidence that the coloured overlay has given my daughter is amazing. She is now focused, motivated and her new love of reading is amazing. If only she had received a diagnosis earlier, that’s why this fight is so important not only for our children, but for those out there that may now be diagnosed earlier.”  Mrs L Guinane.

For further information see: http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/about-dyslexia/further-information/eyes-and-dyslexia.html                                                                                                                           http://www.dyslexic.com/vision                                                                                                    Sue Kerrigan.

Dyslexia Friendly Fonts.

This article appeared in our Summer Newsletter and each of the fonts was used to show it’s ‘look’ and ‘character’.  Sadly this is not reproduced here, but I felt it would be useful to  see the results of the survey to inform those producing script for dyslexics to read.

Many dyslexic and non-dyslexic people find that the readability of a piece of text varies depending upon the font (type face or type style) used.

Sans-serif fonts are generally preferred by dyslexic people because Serif fonts, with their ‘ticks’ and ‘tails’ at the end of most strokes tend to obscure the shapes of letters e.g. Times New Roman.

The BDA technology website says that designers of fonts found that Dyslexic readers favoured these features in a font:

  • Obvious ascenders and descenders (the ‘stems’ on letters like p and b).  If ascenders and descenders are too short the shape of the word is more difficult to identify and can make reading slower and less accurate.
  • b and d; p and q distinguished, not mirror images.
  • Rounded ‘g’ as in handwriting. Most like rounded ‘a’ too.
  • Letter-spacing, e.g. r, n together rn should not look like m.

Our particular interest in fonts started when we found out about a font called Gill Dyslexia. It can be found at: http://www.pixelscript.net/gilldyslexic.  It is £12.70 for the single users licence (although the price is first shown in dollars it gives the sum in pounds if you proceed to pay.) Sue contacted Pixelscript and was given the files for Gill dyslexia font so that it could be compared to other fonts.

We decided to run a survey on the HDA website to gain the opinions of dyslexic and non dyslexic readers on 5 different fonts. We chose:

A. Arial. This was chosen because it is the font that has been used for the newsletter in the past. It has a rounded g. The ascenders and descenders are reasonable. R and n can be seen but not as clearly as for Gill font or Comic Sans. (rm)

B. Century Gothic.  This was chosen because the ‘a’ is rounded as well as the ‘g’. The letters are spaced wider than Arial although descenders are less obvious. R and n are not clear. (rn)

C. Verdana. This is a font that is used extensively for web sites. It has a rounded ‘g’. The ascenders and descenders are reasonable. R and n look like m.(rn)

D. Gill dyslexic. This font is designed to help dyslexics by reducing the symmetry in the letters and by adding weight to the base line. It was the only font tested where the b/d p/q are not mirror images. It does not have a rounded a or g. The tall letters are accentuated. The letters r and n together do not look like m. (rn)

E. Comic Sans. Modelled on fonts in children’s comics. It has a rounded a and g and the best definition of descenders for the fonts tested. Also r and n together do not look like m. (rn)

People completing the survey were asked to judge the fonts on appearance and ease and speed of reading then to indicate their order of preference for all five fonts. The black fonts were displayed on a white background which we knew would be a bad combination for those with visual stress / Irlen Syndrome. This was deliberate as we wanted to know the effect of the various fonts.

The results.  (Sample size 100 people).

  1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Skipped







Century Gothic












Gill Dyslexic






Comic Sans







Arial was the most popular font overall, and Verdana was also highly judged. It was the most highly rated for making the eyes ‘more relaxed’.

44% of respondents found Arial or Verdana fastest to read while 26% said that the font made no difference to speed.


Comic Sans and Century Gothic tended to be favoured by those under 19. Two people said that they like Sassoon (a commercial font that looks like primary school writing). Three people mentioned their preference for Calibri.


Gill dyslexic was the least favourite font overall. However we were interested in the 10 people who made it their first choice. 4 of them were dyslexic and /or had visual stress. I know 2 of these voters and they were extremely enthusiastic about it.


31% of the respondents were dyslexic and 19% experienced visual stress. The majority of these people favoured Arial or Verdana. Comments included: ‘The best fonts are neat and tidy. If the writing is wavy then white overlaps the parts that stick out and the words begin to sizzle.’ ‘I find that fancy writing such as D moves’

Other comments emphasise the usefulness of aspects other than font: ‘The use of double line spacing and coloured backgrounds help more than the typeface used’.

It is beneficial to know your own, and other individual’s, particular preferences when it comes to font selection. It is worth exploring the various options. There are 4 further dyslexia fonts on the BDA technology website: Lexia Readable and Open-Dyslexic which are free and Dyslexie and Sylexiad which are commercial.

We acknowledge that 100 people responding is not a huge sample. In retrospect it may also have been fairer if we had randomised the order in which the fonts were presented. However we feel that the results of the survey are fairly conclusive in terms of the fonts we should choose for the newsletter. We will continue to use Arial or Verdana with line spacing and a coloured background.



Jacky Gurney and Sue Kerrigan.






Access to Work and Hampshire Dyslexia Association: A partnership.

This article traces the progress of a helpline caller from a poor performance in the workplace, low self-esteem and a business in trouble to a full order book and a brighter more positive future.

“Access To Work (AtW) is a government scheme run by Jobcentre Plus that covers the financial cost of providing disability solutions that would otherwise not be considered a ‘reasonable adjustment’. ATW offers financial support by the provision of a grant towards the additional employment costs incurred by disabled people in or entering paid employment to help overcome work related obstacles resulting from their disability. It is available to unemployed, employed and self-employed people and can apply to any job, full-time, part-time, permanent or temporary.” This quote is taken from Microlink‘s website FAQ on AtW . The British Dyslexia Association is an accredited contractor, supplier and trainer supporting this AtW scheme and the Hampshire Dyslexia Association holds a list of accredited workplace assessors and support workers.

In January 2011 the HDA helpline received a call on the helpline from Peter.  This gentleman is a self-employed specialist installing equipment into vehicles for phones and satellite navigation.  His business had suffered due to changes in his personal circumstances which resulted in his business administration falling away.  Peter told the helpline that at school he had been told he had dyslexia.  Now his business was suffering because of literacy difficulties, organisational problems and poor time management all of which were leading to stress. He really wanted some help to get his business back on track and knew that dyslexia was holding him back in doing this. Peter, in his mid-forties, came to The Orchard for a meeting with me. After discussions and a brief screening assessment (parts of DAST and Quickscan)  I suggested he contacted AtW and make a request for help in the workplace.  At that meeting Peter was negative about the future, frustrated about his business and finding it difficult to face up to having dyslexia and to ask for help.

Peter says that the application for help in the workplace was not a difficult process, that the people he spoke to or visited him were very supportive and showed understanding of what he needed. The process was quick and the ICT was soon in place, allowing him to begin to make progress in building his business again. I worked with Peter for 7 hours, over several weeks, in 1 to 1 sessions looking at issues relating to the workplace.  I visited his place of work, his home, and was very pleased to see an organised desk, filing system and IT use beginning to develop.

Following the initial set of support Peter decided to, as he says, ‘face up to his dyslexia’.  The Association provided a list of assessors and Peter had a Full Specialist Teacher Assessment in August 2011.  The assessment and report identified dyslexia of a moderate to severe nature and noted that he was a very able individual with a very specific learning difficulty.  Following this assessment Peter contacted his AtW adviser and requested 10 more hours of 1 to 1 support, which was agreed to.  We used these further 10 hours to address literacy and memory issues identified in his assessment.  Peter really enjoyed the sessions on memory and in fact he is now very skilled at all kinds of brain and memory activities.

I want to conclude with two points. Firstly, from a professional perspective as a 1 to 1 tutor and secondly, on how AtW really did provide Access to Work.

A tutor delivering support work with adults in the workplace requires a variety of skills. There is no formal curriculum or lesson plan, no previous pattern to be followed as each individual has a different requirement.   So, not much difference from each student we work with but in my experience an adult being supported in the workplace requires a more than usual sensitive approach.  It is extremely interesting, rewarding and worthwhile work.

The AtW grant (100% as Peter is self-employed) provided funding for the Workplace Assessment, software, software training and support worker sessions. This has given Peter the opportunity to maintain his business which was failing because of his dyslexic difficulties.  His business is now thriving, has a full order book and he is much more positive and outgoing.

In conclusion I would say that the partnership of Access to Work and local dyslexia associations should be encouraged and tutors already working either in HE or with adults should consider this opportunity to work with adults in the workplace.

There is an excellent DVD produced by Microlink which provides more details and shows real case histories about how the AtW system provides support. I would encourage you to view that and contact Microlink for a copy if you wish.

Finally, Peter says: “Once I had made the difficult decision to ask the help, the support and understanding that I received from both the Hampshire Dyslexia Association and the Access to work team have not only refocused my business, but given me a specific diagnosis of my dyslexia.

This has highlighted to me my specific areas of weakness so I can utilise my new training to maximise my time and efficiency. Overall, this has led to me being able to minimise stress and apply myself to work in a more positive manner.

With this knowledge in mind it gave me the stepping stones to get to where I needed to be. I now not only have the tools to communicate and perform well in a business environment but I’m finding the confidence needed to succeed in my personal life.

I hope that my story will highlight to others that there is help out there no matter what your circumstances are and that all you need to do is ask!”


References: Employment and Dyslexia Handbook 2010. 2011 and 2012. British Dyslexia Association. £10.00 including P & P. Available from BDA Office 0845 251 9003 or email admin@bdadyslexia.org.uk

British Dyslexia Association Code of Practice Employers. Good Practice guidelines for supporting employees with dyslexia in the workplace. 2nd Edition. Available from BDA Office 0845 251 9003 or email admin@bdadyslexia.org.uk


The Adult Dyslexic. Interventions and Outcomes (Chapter 9 Dyslexia at work) David McLoughlin, Carol Leather and Patricia Stringer. WHURR ISBN 1-86156-045-1


The Dyslexic Adult in a Non-Dyslexic World. Ellen Morgan and Cynthia Klein. WHURR ISBN 1-86156-207-1


Dyslexia and Employment: A Practical Guide for Assessors, Trainers and Managers. Edited by Sylvia Moody. Wiley-Blackwell 2009


AtW: Three regional centres:London,Cardiff orGlasgow.

Local number :London ,SE England  and East of England

Tel 020 8426 3110

or Email: atw-london-region@jobcenbtreplus.gsi.gov.uk

Full information at :



Microlink PC: Case histories and FAQ on Access to Work plus order your own DVD. http://microlinkpc.com/access-work

Training: BDA website and scroll to Training and events, and then Workplace Assessors Programme.  Contact lizh@bdadyslexia.org.uk


Sue McKenna, Hampshire Dyslexia Association

Workplace Assessor.    Email: hantsda@live.com

Bulldog Letter Reversals game goes global!

Bulldog b/d Reversals KS1 DOWNLOADSue Kerrigan ( yes, our very own entrepreneur committee member!) has had her Bulldog game accepted for marketing by Crossbow Education. You can find it at http://www.crossboweducation.com/b%20d%20confusion.htm#Bulldog_Letter_Reversal. Alternatively, you can go to Sue’s own site – and see what else she has to offer at http://www.letmelearn.co.uk/bulldog-reversals-ks1-download-p-729.html?zenid=b8ifp8u2qh8gt62mb68dg9t5

Bulldog Letter Reversals is the games, worksheets and kinaesthetic activities pack for children aged 5-12 years. Bulldog, the adorable dog that features throughout this multi-sensory learning pack, helps children to learn and remember the difference between ‘b’ and ‘d’. Introducing your child to Bulldog, will give him / her a strategy to remember the difference between ‘b’ and ‘d’ and in most cases it will resolve the problem entirely and you will have a happy smiling child again. The Bulldog theme keeps children engaged and motivated helping them have lots of fun whilst they learn.

Bulldog Letter Reversal has been designed by a dyslexic teacher and tutor for all teachers, teaching assistants, home educators and parents. 10 years of teaching experience and a lifetime of first hand personal experience has gone into making this resource along with 1 year of testing and refining the activities for maximum motivation, fun and engagement for children.

Why does Bulldog work?

The unique Bulldog theme is linked throughout the entire pack which builds essential memory hooks every single time any resource is used.  This is combined with proven multi-sensory activities to create an engaging, fun and motivating learning environment.”


If you buy from Crossbow Education the ‘ready to go’ kit will cost you £23.99 + VAT.

Sue provides a do-it-yourself downloadable version for £7.35 (KS1 only) or £9.55 for KS1 and 2.

‘Moving Numeracy’ by Sue Peace

“Movement is the Door to Learning” Dennison creator of Brain Gym®

Moving Numeracy (MN) addresses the physical movements that are the
foundations for all learning skills including maths: visual, auditory, tactile and
proprioceptive. The aim of Moving Numeracy (MN) is to co-ordinate the body to
be able to concentrate and develop new and effective maths learning. Moving
Numeracy is aiming at “making a match” between the maths concepts necessary
to learn and the movements which can support this learning.

As an example have you ever taught a pupil who cannot tell the time?

Time and Movement

This is one of the least understood areas of learning in relation to poor binocular
vision. With poor binocular vision any learning involving vision will be more
difficult. Stein ¹ explains how the behaviour of the eyes skews the numbers on
the clock to one side of the clock, along with the reversals of numbers.

The clock face is distorted for these individuals and to tell the time will probably
be impossible. Hence eye behavioural correction exercises are top of the
priorities in MN for these types of students. Developing tracking skills for reading
from left to right along with eye hand co-ordination for recording are fundamental
principles of MN.

Often the confusion with direction such as left/right and b/d can extend to
confusion with concepts such as clockwise. MN encourages the pupil to
physically move up and down, left and right, clockwise and anticlockwise and in
other ways to address the development of the directional senses. How can you
tell the time from a traditional clock face if you cannot tell which direction is

Number and Movement

In discussion related to dyscalculia, Professor Brian Butterworth, a leading expert
on numeracy, reminds us of how children spend hours
playing and counting with their fingers. Muscle movement
is an aspect of this task. Historically “how long” could
have been described as a measure of a foot, or 3 foot or
7 feet etc. In times gone by a yard was the measure of
the king’s arm length. Hence, historically, arithmetic and
moving part of the body has been an accepted aspect of numeracy.

The Moving Numeracy program begins with the concept of the quantity of “five”
and uses visual, tactile, auditory and proprioceptive stimulation. Pupils are
touching, seeing, talking about and moving shapes based on the “X” movement.

 “Thinking of an X” is one of the basic 26 Brain Gym® movements” (Dennison).

Looking at the X includes 5 points on the X and involves crossing the visual
midline essential for visual co-ordination.
This technique is extended to cover the concept of other quantities hence
enabling the dyscalculic pupil to grasp the meaning of number, size and the
concept of counting. This “X” pattern is a foundational aspect of the Moving
Numeracy program.

Memory and Movement

“Memories that are movement and sensory based (tied to specific senses as
vision, hearing and touch) are more likely to be retained and retrieved”

For practise, revision and memory support these quantity and number patterns
which are continually revisited, stimulating both short and long term memory. The
same pattern structures are used to teach concepts of length, weight, currency,
area and volume.

Physicist and mathematician Katy Bowman explains that correct alignment or
posture leads to more oxygen flow, more support for the body’s organs, and
motor skills which are vital for cognitive function.
“A typical classroom experience lacks the quantity of movement required for healthy physiological development” (Bowman)².
With this in mind it makes movement a sensible part of a numeracy teaching

Sue Peace: BSc; BEd, MEd, AMBDA, SpLDPAC, KFRP, Brain Gym® Instructor

Email: info@numeracyskills.co.uk Tel: 07786068097

² Dennison, P and G, Brain Gym® Teacher’s Edition, 2010, California, Hearts at Play, Edu-Kinesthetics.
Pages 3, 7, 50

¹ Fawcett, A., and Nicholson, 1994, Dyslexia in Children, Essex, Pearson Educational Limited. Page 152,

Butterworth, B., 1999. The Mathematical Brain. London, Papermac-MacMillan

Multisensory resources for Maths by Jacky Gurney

At the HDA AGM, Gilliam Cawse spoke on the subject of ‘Dyscalculia –
what to do when the numbers don’t add up’. She made some
recommendations for equipment to help children with dyscalculia which
included these resources.
Numicon. http://www.numicon.com/Index.aspx

Illustrated is ‘1st Steps with Numicon at Home’.
£30.89 + VAT. There are further resources for
different year groups.

The Numicon shapes make numbers real for
children because they can see them and touch
them. The shapes make odd and even numbers
very apparent and they help children to
understand addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. There are kits available for groups of children and ‘One to One’ kits that are
ideal for tutors and parents. Included in the kits are guide books with structured teaching ideas.

Cuisenaire Rods. www.cuisenaire.co.uk
Introductory Set illustrated. £8.99 from Play.com

The Rods come in 10 different colours and lengths representing
different numbers. Young children soon get used to the colour
system and older students find Cuisenaire Rods acceptable to
work with too. They can be used to demonstrate things like
number bonds, area, perimeter, factors, multiples, double
numbers, near doubles, fractions, ratios.

Cuisenaire rods can be used in conjunction with the number tracks from Numicon.

Glass nuggets are very tactile, so good for any counting
750g Adorn Glass Nuggets: blue, green, or clear available online. £2 + p&p.
Plastic Peg Board & Peg Set.

£6.50 from www.montessori-activities.com
Peg Boards with 100 holes are good for demonstrating percentages
and fractions.

Base Ten or Dienes Blocks. Illustrated is learning resources Interlocking Base
Ten (Starter Set) £22.95 from Amazon.
The blocks are good for illustrating the number system
and place value. They can be used for adding and
subtracting numbers and concepts such as ‘carrying’
and ‘borrowing’. See a demonstration on:

Stile System

This is a self checking system. The tiles are placed in a
special tray, and if all the answers are right, a given pattern,
that matches with the exercise from the book, will be
revealed when the tray is turned over. There are three
packs; ‘Numbers and the Number System’ (which is
especially helpful for children with dyscalculia), ‘Calculations’
and ‘Shape and Measure’. Suitable for children in Key Stage
2 and older children who need reinforcement at this level.
The packs offer a systematic approach. Available from:
http://www.ldalearning.com/maths/stile-maths/ Tray is £6.75 and books 19.99 a set.

Numbershark. http://www.wordshark.co.uk/ Single CD is £59.00.
Numbershark is a motivating computer programme that uses 45 games
to teach and reinforce numeracy and improve understanding and the
use of numbers. The wide variety of carefully designed games provides
many ways in which to practise at a chosen level and then to build
skills in very gradual steps. The games focus on: the number system
and sequencing (very useful for dyscalculics); addition, subtraction,

multiplication, division, fractions, decimals and percentages.

Jacky Gurney.

Prices and suppliers based on a web search in Aug 2011. Except for Numbershark,
other suppliers are available.

Introducing ClaroRead for Mac V5 and news for Assessors!

ClaroRead for Mac V5 is the latest version of the  reading and writing
support tool for Mac. ClaroRead for Mac is designed to support individuals
who struggle with reading and writing. Users of any age and level of
ability will have a world of information unlocked through ClaroRead.

New In ClaroRead For Mac

Nuance Vocalizer Voices
ClaroRead for Mac now includes 8 high quality Nuance Vocalizer Voices. To
hear examples of the voices go to

“The rise and fall of the voices, as well as the tone, is better and
sounds even more natural.” Alasdair King MD Claro Software LTD

Support for Apple Pages ’09
ClaroRead for Mac now supports Apple’s Pages word processor just like
Microsoft Word. Key features supported include Homophone support, visual
highlighting tools and font features.

Check Anywhere Feature
The Check Anywhere feature allows users to spell check any text in any
application, whether it is a web page, document or PDF.

Improved In ClaroRead For Mac

Check Window Feature
The Check Window feature now includes extras such as a dictionary
definition of the chosen word and context box. The Check Window also
displays the meaning and synonyms of a chosen word.

The Dock Icon Feature
Control the functions of ClaroRead including Play, Stop and Save to Audio
through the dock icon. Access the main features of ClaroRead even when the
application is minimised.

Prediction Feature
The Prediction feature has been enhanced and can now be used when typing in
any application, such as Safari, Pages or TextEdit.

To find out more about ClaroRead for Mac V5 go to

If you are an assessor and would like a free evaluation copy of ClaroRead
for Mac V5 please contact  sales@clarosoftware.com

Claro Training Zone
The Claro Training Zone is a free online training resource to assist
assessors. Each course has been broken down into easy to follow sections,
so that users can quickly find the information that they are looking for.

Currently available on the site are the ClaroRead for PC and Mac courses.
Each course includes a thorough user guide covering each feature in detail,
help videos and interactive tutorials.

Once the course has been complete users can take part in a ClaroRead quiz.
Completing the quiz successfully will reward users with the Claro Training
Zone Certificate.

If you are an assessor and would like to register for a free Claro Training
Zone account go to http://clarosoftware.concept-live.co.uk/

Claro Links:

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/clarosoftware
Twitter – http://www.clarosoftware.com/twitter
YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/clarosoftware
RSS Feed – http://www.clarosoftware.com/blog/?feed=rss2

Getting around my dyslexia:A personal evaluation of coping strategies By Neil Cottrell BDA Young Achiever of the Year 2010

Neil is the founder of LexAble Ltd. This article was first published in the PATOSS Bulletin, Volume 23 No. 2 (Winter 2010).Please email neil.cottrell@LexAble.com for an electronic copy.

I met Neil yesterday at the BDA Conference on Dyslexia and Technology in Education. His story should be an inspiration to all dyslexics. This is what he has to say:

“I am severely dyslexic. I was identified at the age of 10 and had a statement of special education need by age 12. At 15 my reading speed was 7 years 3 months and my spelling age was 8.5-9 years. I had brilliant support from my parents and teachers, without which I am certain I would have failed many of my GCSE’s and left school at 16. I relied completely on a laptop with assistive software throughout secondary school, and was always devising and adapting coping strategies to put me on a level playing-field with my peers.

In 2009 I graduated top of my class, with a first class degree in psychology from Cardiff University. Now I am the director of a successful business that develops assistive software for people with dyslexia. And in June of this year, at the age of 22, I was named the British Dyslexia Association’s Young Achiever of the Year, for my contribution to the dyslexic community.

In this article, I will take a personal perspective, reflecting on and briefly evaluating some of the coping strategies that have helped me in education and beyond. Please feel free to skip through the headings and focus on any bits that interest you. I hope you will find some useful ideas to adapt and pass on to your students.

Why I needed coping strategies.

It is a sad cliché that people with dyslexia think we are stupid. Though obviously wrong, it is a logical conclusion for us to come to. We do not just struggle with the skills directly affected by dyslexia, but everything that relies on those skills. We cannot critically analyse a poem if all of our brainpower is spent on decoding the phonetics. We cannot be the best at sport if we always forget to bring our P.E. Kit. And we cannot express our thoughts coherently while we are trying to work out how to spell each word.

I worked so hard on my difficulties, with help from great teachers. But although my skills improved significantly they could never keep up with the level my mind was thinking on. I knew I had the ability to understand concepts and articulate them verbally, and I did not want my dyslexia holding me back. I used a whole range of coping strategies – some that I was taught and some that I devised or adapted myself. These strategies reduced my stress levels and helped me to focus on higher level tasks, so that I could achieve my full potential.

Being open and honest.

Being open and honest was my over arching coping strategy, and it was the most important one I learned. There were two main reasons for this:

1. Specific coping strategies helped me to get around specific difficulties, but sometimes I just needed someone to help. When there was a notice that needed reading, I quickly needed to know how to spell a word, or for some reason I could not use one of my regular coping strategies, I learned to just ask.

2. Many strategies required me to do something that would seem odd to someone who did not know me. Using a laptop in lessons, for example, is prime bullying fodder.I dealt with this by pre-empting it. If anyone ever asked me why I was using a laptop, I would tell them in a matter of fact and open manner, as though it was usual. Sometimes I felt extremely embarrassed, but I never let this show. I also made sure people did not feel they were asking stupid questions. Thisallowed them to ask more questions,eliminating any element of the unknown.

Organisation and memory.

My problems:

  • I forgot what I was thinking very quickly.
  • I could not remember where I was supposed to be or when I should be there.
  • Irrelevant (but often important) things would pop in to my head all the time. If I tried to remember them, it took all of my mental energy and I just could not function.

What I needed:

  • A system to quickly store my irrelevant thoughts so I could carry on with what I was doing.
  • A system to tell me exactly where to be and when.
  • To train myself to automatically input everything into this system immediately, before I forgot it.
  • A small notebook. For the first half of secondary school, I carried a small notebook and pen everywhere I went.I always had it easily accessible and trained myself to write down everything that came into my head. I also had a colour-coded school timetable stuck inside the front page.It provided a quick reference and had everything I needed to know: lessons and locations, lunchtime activities and what to bring to school each day (homework, PE kit,etc.). I felt so much less overloaded, and I could periodically check my notebook at appropriate times to sort through my thoughts.
  • A Dictaphone. I tried using a dictaphone to record my thoughts, but I personally found it too conspicuous, and I usually did not want everyone around me to know what I was thinking about. Also, it was much less simple to organise my thoughts, compared to a notebook where I could cross off or highlight certain items. But, of course, as with all of these strategies, it is whatever suits the individual that works.
  • A mobile phone. Later on in school I started using my smartphone for everything, in much the same way as I had been using my notebook. I would use the calendar to tell me where to be and when. I used the to-do notes to remember anything, and ordered them by urgency/importance so that the things I needed to do soonest were always at the top. Anything I thought of that I did not do instantly went in here, even down to “text Helen back”and “fill water bottle”.

I also used a different notes feature to make longer notes if, for example, I suddenly thought of a solution to a problem. This was a better system for me than a paper notebook because the alarms could remind me to do things, and I never forgot to take it anywhere with me.

A few things to note:•

  • Some teachers did not like it because it looked like I was writing a text message, so I still kept my notebook with me.
  • I synchronised my phone with my laptop, so that I could have a large visual overview of the day or week.
  • Automatic backups are vital.
  • I preferred phones with a QWERTY keyboard because, unlike traditional predictive text, I could enter text very quickly without having to spell it correctly. Predictive text only works if you can spell!
  • Lists. If I had enough time, I could think things through very thoroughly, but in a rush I would always forget something. So I made lists of everything: “Take to school”, “Take to band practice”, “Take to athletics”, “Take on holiday”. This way I did not always need to ask my parents to run through things with me – I was more independent.


My problems:

  • My reading speed was prohibitively slow.
  • I would be concentrating so hard on the decoding process that I had no idea what I had read.
  • The majority of school work relied on reading, so I could achieve very little without help.

What I needed:

  • To access all information in written form immediately and easily, so that I could focus on the more important higher level tasks.
  • Independence wherever possible –being able to access the information on my own.
  • To improve my reading skills for those times when alternatives were not available.
  • My “Reading pack” The first line of defence was to improve my reading. Although not technically a coping strategy, my “reading pack” helped me significantly. This pack of cards had letter combinations on the front (e.g. “ea”) and ē ĕ examples on the back (e.g. “eat – ; bread – ;ā break – ”). I would run through the reading pack every day, reciting the words and sounds on the back of each card. It really helped me to decode written words much faster. And although I have not looked at it for years, I can still remember some of them (those examples above are from memory!).
  • People reading to me. My parents, teachers and school-friends would read to me with no objection. In part,this was because I had learned to be open and honest as I described earlier. I still ask people to read things to me today, such as subtitles in a film, but it really is not viable as a primary strategy. I was dependent on everyone around me and I felt self-conscious.And one pet hate of mine was paraphrasing.When someone read to me I would get extremely frustrated if they paraphrased, as though I was not capable of understanding the written text. When I did struggle with a long sentence, I would ask the person to read it again or occasionally to summarise that one sentence. If you read aloud to someone please do not paraphrase without their permission!
  • Text to speech software. Using text to speech software has been the single most important coping strategy throughout my life. I still rely on it heavily today for reading emails, articles, websites,my own writing – everything. I initially used ReadPlease Plus (around £30) which read aloud everything I copied to the clipboard, essentially converting Ctrl-C to a hotkey toread the selected text. This was great for a basic reader, but I progressed on to Texthelp’s Read and Write software (£320) for its more advanced features. The majority of the information I required for my degree was either in PDF journal articles or in textbooks that I scanned to PDF. The combination of click-to-speak and synchronised highlighting made reading PDFs extremely easy and almost instantaneous. In fact, over the years I got so used to the synthesised voice that I could have it (her) reading out loud faster than others could read to themselves! As an aside,I now use a very simple program that I developed for myself, which reads text from any application by pressing F3. It is much more primitive than most of the screen readers out there, but it is slightly faster to initiate reading and I like it because it is mine.
  • Scanners. Over time, more material became available in electronic form, but for the information that was still locked into the printed word, I needed to use a scanner. Most scanners were incapable of scanning into the spine of a textbook without distorting the image. The words were not recognised, and I got an annoying jumble of letters at the start or end of each line. Text-to-speech could not cope with it and I would have to set it to read slowly,while I concentrated on decoding its jumbled output. I was given the OpticBook scanner(£150 – £180) at university and it solved the problem perfectly. It had a deep edge which fitted into the spine of the book, and scanned right up to that edge, so the text remained completely undistorted. It was a lot more bulky than other scanners, but that was definitely a worthwhile sacrifice, as it saved me a lot of frustration!


My problems:

  • While I was writing, I would always be distracted by spelling.
  • I would often stop mid-sentence to correct my spelling, and lose the flow of my ideas.
  • I felt overwhelmed because I had so many words to learn.

What I needed:

  • To take spelling out of the equation while I was trying to get my thoughts down.
  • To focus on the flow of my ideas while Iwas writing, without worrying about spelling.
  • To identify and focus my learning on the spelling mistakes I made most often.
  • To try to ignore spelling as I wrote. I am a perfectionist, and I would keep stopping to correct my spelling as I wrote. This was absolutely the worst strategy I could use, as the flow of my ideas was constantly disrupted. I tried turning off the red underline inMicrosoft Word, to stop me thinking about spelling. The trouble was that I still knew that what I was writing was wrong, and I would still have nagging doubts about spelling while I was typing. And of course, I would have the long and disheartening process of spell checking my numerous mistakes at the end. My spelling did not improve either, because with so many mistakes, I did not know which ones to focus on.
  • AutoCorrect. I tried using the AutoCorrect feature in my word processor, which partially solved the problem. It meant that fewer words would flash up as I was writing, and I could start to focus on my ideas. This really helped me to compose more coherent essays, but there were a few issues. When I wanted to type an email, fill in a web form or produce a mind map, I was back to square one. My ideas could not flow because I was distracted byspelling. Also, my spelling was still not improving as well as it could, because I did not know what mistakes I was making.
  • Global AutoCorrect. At age 15 I was confused and frustrated because it was so difficult for me to write and my spelling was just not improving. By this time I had significant experience of both using assistive software and developing my own coping strategies. So I created a software tool for myself, to automatically correct my spelling as I typed in different programs. Itwas very crude at first, but it really did enable me to focus on my ideas, because I was not worrying about spelling.

Over many years, and with a lot of hard work, Global AutoCorrect was born, and became fully fledged assistive software. The software automatically corrects the user’s spelling as they type in any program, enabling them to focus on the flow of their ideas. The user can also print a list of their most frequent mistakes, focussing their learning on the spellings that are most important to them. And because there is a constantly expanding list of thousands of spelling mistakes(collected anonymously from users who agree), people using Global AutoCorrect do not have to spend much time adding new corrections.

Global AutoCorrect (£49) was released ascommercial software in November 2009, and is now regularly purchased through the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) and Access to Work. It is also used in schools around the UK and internationally, as well as in HE and FE institutions. And as I mentioned earlier, I was named the British DyslexiaAssociation’s Young Achiever of the Year last June, for my contribution to the dyslexic community. All this from what started as myown individual coping strategy.


Many of you reading this article will be directly involved in devising and teaching coping strategies to dyslexic individuals. I hope this article has helped to reinforce how much of a long term difference those coping strategies can make –

  • increasing motivation,
  • reducing stress levels and
  • enabling the dyslexic person to achieve their full potential.

But just as importantly, I hope I have given you some ideas to try. I would be really keen to hear any thoughts you have on any of the strategies discussed here, or any that you use yourself!

Neil Cottrell


Useful links:

www.LexAble.com – Global AutoCorrect freetrial.

www.Lexdis.org.uk – Collection of tips andcoping strategies submitted by students withdisabilities.

The Inclusion Development Programme (IDP).

The National Strategies are professional development programmes for early

years, primary and secondary school teachers, practitioners and managers.
They are one of the Government’s principal vehicles for improving the quality
of learning and teaching in schools and early years settings and for raising
standards of attainment.

The National Strategies are responsible for taking forward the commitment
made in Removing Barriers to Achievement (2004), the government’s vision for
the education of children with special education needs and disabilities. The
National Strategies are designed to increase the confidence and expertise of
mainstream practitioners when meeting pupils with SEN in mainstream schools.
One such strategy is the Inclusion Development Programme (IDP). The aim of
the IDP is to support schools and Early Years settings through web-based
materials, which include:
teaching and learning resources
training materials
guidance on effective classroom strategies
models of good practice for multidisciplinary teams
information about sources of more specialist advice.
In 2008, the Inclusion Development Programme focused on dyslexia and
speech, language and communication needs (SLCN). In 2009, the focus has
been on supporting pupils on the autism spectrum, with MLD and BESD
(behaviour, social and emotional difficulties) planned as future foci.

 Dyslexia was selected as the first of the programmes to be launched because
of the high numbers of dyslexic pupils in our schools. A DVD containing
materials on both dyslexia and SLCN (speech, language and communication
needs) was sent to all schools in 2008. This was met with great enthusiasm –
closely followed by anxiety when using it, as teachers discovered both the
vast amount of material available to them within the DVD, alongside the
difficulty in navigating the materials. Many a person, including myself, has
found a really useful section, only to be faced with the frustration of not being able to find it
again! The materials are also available online
and modifications have been made to this to
make navigation a little easier. You can find the
dyslexia materials by going to
nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/116691 and then clicking on
‘dyslexia…’ in the third paragraph.

It should be emphasised that the materials are produced primarily for
classroom and subject teachers, not for a specialist audience. As such they
focus on developing recognition of the range of difficulties a dyslexic pupil
might experience at school, on understanding the problems these difficulties
may cause a pupil at school and then on raising awareness of ways to help
remove barriers to learning through use of the most effective teaching
strategies within a classroom (i.e. Wave 1 intervention, or Quality First
Teaching). They are not intended primarily to support teachers working with
individual or small groups in order to improve their literacy skills (i.e. Wave 2
or 3 intervention) although there are some useful and interesting snippets
even for those already very conversant with the area.

All schools in Hampshire are being very strongly encouraged to use the
materials within their schools. There have been a number of conferences with
head teachers where they have been encouraged to plan how the materials
should be introduced within their own schools and many clusters of schools
have worked together to trial the materials and then to produce guidelines on
how best to use them.

So why not find a slot in your busy lives and begin to explore the wealth of
information pages, video clips, background resources, self-evaluation
materials … you may be gone some time………..!!

Pauline Bentote SEN Consultant.

Gaining a Statement of Special Educational Needs

In April 2009 our son was awarded a Statement of Special Educational Needs. Will is dyslexic and has no other special educational needs. We made a request for Statutory Assessment in July 2008 and what follows is a parent’s view of that process. We hope that reading this account will give you the strength and conviction to initiate and go through this exhausting and at times lonely process. Remember, professionals told us we would not be successful.

At the start of year 4 the gap between Will and his peers was becoming significant. To survive at senior school he was going to need guaranteed support and a place in a school with a resource based unit for dyslexia. We now felt Will’s needs went beyond what was available through school action plus.

Prior to submitting the request for Statutory Assessment you need the following facts:

• Neale reading age

• Vernon spelling age

• National curriculum levels in literacy

• Previous year’s levels, so you can demonstrate lack of progress

Your school should be able to provide all the above information. Hampshire County Council uses the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability for measuring reading age, so it’s important that you use the same measurement. The Local Authority (LA) has specific criteria for awarding a Statement but an indication is that by age 9 they are 3 chronological years behind.

So in July 2008 we submitted a request for Statutory Assessment using a template document available from the IPSEA or ACE websites that states that you are making the request under Section 323 of
the Education Act 1996.

The LA then has 6 weeks to respond, with a decision to assess or not to assess. Luckily for us they decided to assess. If the authority decides not to assess, you can appeal against the decision within certain time limits to the First Tier Tribunal for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).

The LA then starts a 10-week process of Statutory Assessment. During this time you have an opportunity to provide further parental evidence of your child’s needs. In addition, we decided to support our application with a private educational psychologist’s assessment. This is an expensive option, but the report clearly stated that Will needed a Statement. The LA also collects reports from school, an educational
psychologist, a doctor and if appropriate social services.

After this 10-week process the LA then makes its decision.

• To make a Statement

• Not to make a
Statement, in which case they may offer you a Note in Lieu.

We received a Note in Lieu. A Note in Lieu documents all your child’s needs and offers schools guidance on the support they require. As far as we could tell after five months we had achieved very little that would make any difference to our child. This was probably the hardest phase of the process and we certainly felt like we’d lost.

Fortunately again you have the right to appeal to SEND, which is what we did. Once we had filled in the appeal forms we also notified the LA that we were taking their decision to tribunal but were happy to meet to review and discuss their decision. The LA then contacted us asking to reassess our child; you had to wonder what they had been doing for the last 10 weeks! We asked them to put this request in writing, specifically requesting them to state exactly why they were reassessing. They responded that
they were assessing to see if he met criteria for a school with resourced provision for dyslexia. We responded again that if he met criteria for such a school, he would also meet criteria for a Statement.

The new assessment clearly stated that Will met criteria for a school with resourced provision for dyslexia. We responded that therefore he also met criteria for a Statement. Finally it was agreed
that a Statement would be issued. (even though this was not a pre-requisite of
a place in resourced provision).

At this point you feel quite rightly that there is cause for celebration. You have come so far but now you need to negotiate exactly what support and provision your child’s needs require. In addition you can name the school you think best suits your child’s needs, with the reassurance that if the LA does not agree with this decision, you could once again take an appeal to SEND.

Was it worth all the effort? Yes, Will is now settled into a senior school with a resourced provision for dyslexia and is making catch up progress. Would I do it again? Yes. Have the strength of
your convictions and be your child’s advocate.

Sally Holland

Additional information can be gained from:
• Ace – Advisory centre for education

• IPSEA – Independent Panel for Special Educational Advice

• Hampshire County Council resources: Criteria for statutory assessment of children with specific learning
difficulties (dyslexia) September 2010 and Secondary resourced provision for pupils with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia) Admissions criteria and procedures September 2010.

• Hampshire Dyslexia Association (who have copies of the criteria above). More information about
Resourced provision is on their website www.hantsda.org.uk