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What Is the Connection between Color and Dyslexia?

By Marlene de Wilde
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Studies have shown that there is a connection between color and dyslexia in that using a pastel background instead of a white one can help the dyslexic define the words better. Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes reading, writing and spelling difficult. Different colors are preferred by different people so the background and text colors should be user defined. The reason why the connection between color and dyslexia exists and how the change in color helps is not known.

The issue of color affects a lot of people who have difficulty reading, not just dyslexics. In a recent study which involved children between the ages of 7-11, half of the children reported perceiving a text better when colored overlays, or sheets of transparent vinyl, were used. The difficulty some people have, including dyslexics, with the glare from a page is known as the "Meares/Irlen Syndrome" or Visual Stress. When colored filters are placed over the white page, glare is reduced and people report being able to read faster and longer than they did before. Furthermore, they feel less tired and can understand more understand more of what they have read.

The use of color for dyslexics is not a cure but rather a treatment and it does not help all dyslexics. It is thought that 60% of dyslexics suffer from visual stress. There is a test called Lucid ViSS which identifies visual stress that makes reading difficult. This is useful not just for those who have dyslexia but also for the 15 - 20% of the population who are sensitive to the glare coming off a white page, board or computer screen. The use of colored pages, colored glasses or using a colored filter are ways of treating dyslexia with color. People suffering from visual stress who need to have glasses or a filter need to have exactly the right color otherwise there is no beneficial effect.

Determining the exact color is determined by the use of a colorimeter, which illuminates text with color of a specific hue, saturation and brightness. The patient looks into the colorimeter and experiments with the colors until one is found that makes the script easier to read. This color is then used in spectacle lenses. As a result, dyslexics who have visual stress are able to read faster and more accurately.

Being sensitive to glare is only one of the visual disturbances experienced by dyslexics. Other signs of dyslexia include seeing blurred letters, moving letters or ones that appear to be back to front. Frequent headaches, especially after or during reading, is a symptom of dyslexia. After using an appropriate color, these symptoms were non-existent or drastically reduced. The connection between color and dyslexia may be the key to solving many people's reading difficulties.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Jun 15, 2014

The visual stress idea is an intriguing one. As I've gotten older and the good old presbyopia has set in, I find that without my glasses, I have a much easier time reading print in the Yellow Pages than I do in the white pages. Same size print, and it's in black, but it seems that yellow background makes the print much more visible.

Maybe it works the same way with dyslexia. Maybe a pastel background helps make the letters stand out more or something.

The whole colored background hypothesis is fascinating. I’d like to see more studies on it to see if any concrete conclusions have been reached.

By Grivusangel — On Jun 14, 2014

I'd say color helps alert our minds that we are reading something worth remembering, but that's just my opinion.

I will say I greatly prefer to read words that are on a very lightly gray tinted background. It's easier on my eyes, so I think I must suffer from some form of visual stress.

My color scheme for our front-end program at work is always the light grayish-violet. That's easier on my eyes, too. I find it much less distracting than having items highlighted in a bright color. If I have to work at another machine where the color scheme is very bright, I always get a headache.

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