New glasses offer hope to some with reading disorders

Dyslexia glasses

Credit: WFAA

Twelve-year-old Sullivan Sheahan says he's able to read better using special glasses with ChromaGen lenses.

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on June 27, 2011 at 9:58 PM

PLANO — More than one in 10 students are dyslexic, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Many endure hours of expensive tutoring or special education to manage the learning difficulty.

A dyslexic may see words in a very confusing way: Letters might appear to be backwards, upside-down, jumbled up, or jump off the page.

"It just gave me headaches," said 12-year old Sullivan Sheahan. "I would zone out and then I would try to focus too hard and then I would start seeing double and the words would get blurry."

That was before Sullivan slipped on a pair of special shades.

ChromaGen lenses are colored filters that change the wavelength of light going into the eyes. In dyslexics, some experts believe both eyes don't process information at the same speed.

"The lenses work by synchronizing the information between the left and the right eyes, so that it arrives at the brain in a synchronized fashion," explained inventor David Harris. "In that way, it makes reading easier for many people who have difficulty reading."

Harris originally invented the lenses for people with color-blindness. Then, eye doctors in England saw success in certain people with reading disorders.

On this side of the pond in Plano, Dr. Charles Shidlofsky decided to give ChromaGen lenses a try for some of his young patients.

"We have heard from kids who say, 'I see words in rivers,'" Dr. Shidlofsky said. "What happens is, you put on the glasses and the 'rivers' stop and they finally see the words standing still, so they are better able to view the words and read the words more efficiently."

The glasses are not a cure; some critics question if they help at all.

A pair of ChromaGen lenses will cost more than $700, and they are not covered by insurance. Many people spend thousands of dollars on various dyslexia treatments and tutoring.

The lenses made a big difference to Sullivan Sheahan.

"When I got them, the first six weeks I made straight A's," he said.

Sullivan plans to take his glasses all the way to the honor roll next year, in 7th grade.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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