Why do dyslexic adults get so easily distracted especially when reading? Are they ADD or ADHD?
Three years ago I posted on the blog about the issue of ADD/AHDD
I have reposted it because, it is still very relevant and I believe should be read by more people. Since then there has been a huge increase in the number of you reading the blog. You will have can see many graphs showing the binocular eye movements during reading in my other posts.
I hope this makes sense.
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The other day, I met a little boy, 5 years old. He has been placed on medication after his school wanted to expel him. He has been diagnosed as ADD or ADHD.
Not sure which but one or the other. Taking the medication is the condition of his continuing in school.
He gave me a picture he had drawn; now framed and on my wall.
Ok. The medication leaves him calmer. But is that the only way? Why is he so easily distracted?
One of the characteristics of so many people when they are reading, is that one eye turns away from the page and ‘often gazes out of the window’ or goes ‘on patrol’ searching the environment for something that might need to be looked at…studied….checked out.
My Binocular Eyetracker shows me this eye turn happening with many dyslexic students, many of whom find concentrating when they are reading, extremely difficult. The dyslexic person does not 'feel the eye turn' although many do get eye aches associated with it after a few minutes of reading. This build up appears to be associated with reading stamina problems.
These students do not realise why, but if anything around them moves they stop seeing the words and instead, find themselves looking at whatever is moving! Or they turn their heads towards a new noise.
It was not until I was in Posnan, Poland, with the professor who was the developer of the Binocular Eyetracker that this all seemed to make sense.
He had a very simple way of demonstrating what was going on.
He used a ‘binocular viewer’, the old plastic ones where you looked at two very similar photographs, through two lenses, one for each eye. The two slightly different photos looked at like this gave you a 3-D image. Great fun in the 1950’s!
Professor Ober used an adjusted pair of photographs. One was a picture of an elaborate throne room in a castle. The other was a blank cyan (bluish) square.
When you looked through the viewer you only ‘saw’ the elaborate throne room, all reds and gold. Your brain completely ignores the cyan image. It suppresses it.
But he had adjusted the viewer in another way. In front of the cyan side was a tiny piece of wire. Which he could move as you viewed. When he did this your brain immediately switches attention to the blue side. You stop seeing the throne! After several seconds your brain ‘decides that the cyan is not interesting. ‘That eye is sort of switched off’ and your brain gives attention again to the throne!
Using the Eyetracker, you can see that the eye looking around the throne and the eye looking at the cyan were not looking at the same part of the two pictures. The eye looking at the cyan, has turned sideways slightly.
But as soon as the wire is moved, BOTH eyes move (called a saccade) move to the part of the picture where the wire has moved. It brings it to ‘centre stage’ focussed on your fovea or yellow spot. (The part of your retina which has the most ‘megapixels’ per square millimetre.)
Now if an eye us turned away from the target words, this is a reflex beyond your control. It is what we have evolved to do. It protects us from ‘dangerous things around us while we are concentrating. BUT when you are reading or concentrating for a long time it can cause great problems and in schools is seen as a fault. It is disruptive to others.
So let's return to the little boy. He has severe focussing problems; one eye is different to the other. He is very long sighted. He loves his glasses now he has them. They allow him to concentrate.
Many of the dyslexic adults I have seen have an eye which has been suppressed, often the eye needed but was not corrected by lenses when they were at school, in addition they were often very light sensitive and going with it ..Very easily distracted… With the reflex action described above, that is not really surprising!