Study in small Devon school is a world's first !

A primary school in Devon has completed the first long term study anywhere in the world of dyslexia in the young and its treatment using lenses resulting in a measurable improvement in reading ability.

Hemyock Primary School in the small village of Hemyock, near Cullompton in Devon, has just concluded a study into the relationship between vision and a predisposition to dyslexia in a number of its pupils. The study, funded by a grant from the Leicester charity The Stoneygate Trust, was carried out over an eighteen month period by SchoolVision: an independent organisation which provides diploma based training for experienced optometrists to detect and treat the symptoms of dyslexia through the use of corrective spectacles.

The study involved 69 pupils drawn from Years 2 to 6 (as of March 2015) and looked closely at the way in which the childrens' reading abilities were linked with how their eyes worked together and the improvements that could be achieved through the use of specially prescribed spectacles. The report of the study is due to be published towards the end of this year but early results show some real success with a 26% improvement in reading speeds.

Geraint Griffiths and Freda Storey holding Eye Bright Test lorgnettes.

Schoolvision's Managing Director Geraint Griffiths led the study and is quite clear that many dyslexic tendencies can be treated with spectacles. He said: "Concentration on reading and writing is a modern phenomenon and our eyes haven't yet evolved to deal with so much close work. Because of this they sometimes need help: especially in the young.

"When we read, just one dominant eye should take over the job of aiming at the words. But if both eyes try to do the same job, the words and letters appear to shift out of order sending confused messages to the brain which can cause difficulties in reading and spelling.

If this takes place while a child is learning to read the effect on their confidence, enjoyment of reading and, often, behaviour can be profound. This study has shown without doubt that we can help through the use of prescriptive spectacles."

Acting Head of Hemyock Primary School, Hannah Smith has been amazed at the results. She said: "None of our pupils were actually confirmed as dyslexic. However, not only have we seen improved reading abilities in some of our children but also in one or two cases improved learning behaviour therefore making them intrinsically motivated and increasing their confidence. This is obvious if you think about it as a child who is struggling to do what those around him or her are doing without any problems will get frustrated as well as falling behind."

Mr Griffiths added: "There is nothing new in the science connected with this study. Over the years some areas of training in ophthalmic optics, known today as optometry, have fallen out of usage through an increasing concentration on medical aspects combined with the intricacies of funding via the NHS. That is why I have developed the Diploma in Schoolvision Practice to reintroduce optometrists to this way of thinking."

"Unfortunately the giant high street chains of optometrists are unable to devote the time that is required and are not geared up to carrying out the tests and detecting the symptoms which are having such an impact on many thousands of young children and their education. Therefore the Diploma lends itself very much towards the smaller, independent practices which can provide much more of a personal service."