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Screening for Dyslexia and Early Learning Problems

This brief report has been written following an interview with Kate McMahon inventor of “Go with the Gobbies”. She is an Optometrist who has developed a holistic approach to training and helping those with prior learning problems, dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia and visual stress, none of which are a factor of intelligence, race, social development or age.

We asked Kate how she considered this added value service would fit into normal community practice


Teachers often have too little time to give individual attention and of course for parents the emotional aspect comes in so the optom is ideally placed to go on and offer the screening. As this is not available on the NHS a charge is made for the appointment but often this turns out to be quite welcome as it is very much less than some of the big institutions are charging. 3 monthly check ups are advisable initially to monitor progress and allow for any changes.There is of course a tremendous 'buzz' when progress is often made in leaps and bounds.Success with the children means winning over mum and this means that the practice has 'captured' (in the nicest possible way!) the family. 


How carefully as a professional do you have to tread when dealing with a suspected sufferer?


These days acceptance is getting better but still some feel a stigma and are reluctant to admit a problem exists. I mean both children and parents here. Careful questioning about schoolwork and any extra help is beneficial. Also, there isn't the stigma about being unable to read music and lines of music can exert the same influence as lines of print. A page of music is included in the middle of my manual for this purpose. Often these kids have come to the Optician with their parents hoping there is a simple answer in the form of optical correction and to be sent away empty handed with no further advice must be very upsetting.  The success that can be achieved with these children will create a talking point and high referral rate for the practice for many years to come. 


I think many of us reading this Kate will be finding the actual assessment and screening of these kids very daunting, as there is no educational training to help us Optoms even start.


Let me provide a few simple detection guidelines for your readers to get started.  Both the detection and training can soon be understood by professionals and parents alike so its not rocket science.

Firstly the detection by screening

Symptoms of Vision Problems.

1. Blurring of words
2. Movement of print - Words vibrate, shift about and become muddled
3. Letters changing size
4. Doubling of letters - Extra words may appear
5. Fading of print - May become darker too
6. Patterns appear
May be described as ‘worms’, ‘running water’
7. Illusions of colour - Distracting blobs on page
8. Tiredness - Often exhausted at end of school day
9. Nausea
10. Dizziness
12. Headaches & discomfort

And now the signs to look for:

1. Move close to work - Working distance may vary but usually short when
reading & writing; poor posture
2. Looks away a lot - Loss of concentration, poor concentration span, may move head
3. Skip words, lines                                      
4. Loose place or line - May use finger as a guide to help keep place
5. Rubs eyes 6. Blinks a lot
7. Reluctant to read or write
8. Difficulties copying from the board or a book
9. Poor or variable hand writing
10. Poor co-ordination - History of co-ordination problems (dyspraxia)
11. Reading accuracy and speed below chronological age
12. Misses numbers in maths
13. Reverses letters and numbers
14. Mirror writing
15. Difficulties with comprehension exercises
16. Confuses right and left passed age 7 - May also confuse up and down
17. Makes phonetic spelling errors
18. Can learn spelling for tests but cannot remember in
creative writing i. e. poor at creative writing
19. Homework takes longer than it should
20. Does not understand what has been read - Verbal element helps (please see The Gobbies story books)                                                                           
21. Poor  visual memory                                       
22. Poor at ball skills and team games -  (please see Sports Vision Clinic co-ordination
exercises ) 


So having detected a possible sufferer what can the optom do to provide help.


The mere fact that someone is showing an interest will often be a great start to get the family on side.  All of the training information and products that will assist are enclosed in our handbook. But briefly:

The holistic approach covers both the visual and co-ordination aspects i.e. assessing the problem and systematically analysing the  coloured filter with a lasered line (Trackograph) that helps under the ambient lighting conditions available. Allowance is made to change the filter due to physiological changes with time and under differing lighting conditions.

An illustrated, simplified story book encourages the reader by having only limited print and asking a question to try and arouse curiosity to go on and read further.

There is also the co-ordination aspect and here some simple, fun (& inexpensive!) sports vision exercises have been adapted for use in practice/ at home. The Gobbies toy also involves co-ordination and ties in with the stories, a sort of learning through play approach.

For optoms, the eye examination is an excellent starting point to question for problems even when little or no refractive error exists. It is worth bearing in mind the major improvement + 0.50DS can make to some of those experiencing difficulties and like wise +2.00reading addition in Varifocal form for those with convergence /accommodation problems.


I can tell from the work you have put in to develop the unique “Go with the Gobbies” system that you have derived a great deal of satisfaction from this work.


Everyone involved in this specialist treatment of learning difficulties from professional to parent to child gains a great deal of satisfaction, and as a professional service run correctly the practice gains additional sources of income and it in itself is a truly great practice builder.  Both the need and the opportunity exists for practices to become involved, and there is very little downtime in getting involved.


Thanks Kate, some of the stories you have told me have stimulated me to get involved further so I hope our readers will do the same and review the information provided under our suppliers guide and indeed layout a small amount of money for your innovative product.

Further information:

Go With The Gobbies

Dyslexia / Specific Learning Difficulties Report

Discuss Dyslexia


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