Adam Fernyhough has to wear special yellow lenses to stop the words jumping about the page. Catherine Scott reports.
Adam Fernyhough always struggled with reading at school.
He found it difficult to concentrate and trying to get him to read at home became so traumatic that his parents could no longer put him through it. He was also very clumsy and always bumping into things.
His mum and dad, Helen and Phil, thought he may be dyslexic but Adam’s school said they didn’t think so.
Eventually, Helen, who has a background in nursery education, was so concerned about her son that she sort the advice of a friend who was training to be teacher.
“She told me to ask Adam next time he was reading where he saw the words on the page,” explains Helen from Harrogate.
When she did ask Adam, now ten, she couldn’t believe what happened.
“He pointed to 2cms above where the words were. I just couldn’t believe it. The first thing I asked was why hadn’t he told us. But the problem was he didn’t know any different, he thought everyone saw things the way he did.”
Suddenly all the bits of the jigsaw fell into place.
“Everything he saw was jumping all over the place, no wonder he was bumping into things. He had taught himself certain ways of dealing with it at school, but when he came home it came out in his behaviour.”
After visiting his optician Adam was advised to use coloured overlays for six weeks.
“The overlays did help for reading, but he still couldn’t see the board.”
Adam was given glasses with yellow lenses.
“We were told he was just supposed to wear them for close work but when he put them on he could suddenly see shop signs and chalk boards and could read them.
“It was heartbreaking, This was a boy who grew up with books, but showed no interest in reading.”
The problem with the yellow lens glasses was that all of Adam’s world became yellow. Also small print still jumped around.
The Fernyhoughs decided to take Adam to a specialist centre in Jersey where he underwent intensive tests, which confirmed he was suffering from Irlen Syndrome.
Irlen Syndrome is a specific type of perceptual problem that affects the way the brain processes visual information.
The tests meant that Adam could be fitted with special lenses which, although still yellow, do not distort the other colours in the world around him.
It would have taken months for the Fernyhoughs to save up enough money to pay for the tests and lenses, but a personal grant from Engage Mutual was provided to Adam’s mum, Helen, who is a customer.
It has meant that Adam now has his new glasses.
“For many years Adam was completely misunderstood because his teachers were unable to recognise what he was experiencing. This personal grant from Engage will make a life-changing difference to him, it truly is a financial lifeline for our family and we’re over the moon that we’ve been given it.
“We’ve been searching for answers for Adam for such a long time, and his diagnosis last year is only the beginning for our little boy.
“It has been a steep learning curve, but things are definitely moving forward. It’s heartbreaking to think what he has gone through.”
Now Adam and his mum are helping to raise awareness of the condition.
“There must be so many other children out there were are going undiagnosed and really struggling and possibly suffering from behavioural problems who could be helped by simple screening,” says Helen.
“Screening really should be made available on the NHS.” Adam gave a Powerpoint presentation about his life at an Engage Mutual conference last week and this week, during Irlen Syndrome Awareness Week, he gave a presentation at his school in Starbeck.
“He loved Powerpoints because he can choose the colour of the background which makes it easier for him to read,” explains Helen.
“It is still early days and Adam is undergoing other assessments, but he is doing really well.
“His smile really gets him through.
“I just hope that by raising awareness of Irlen we may be able to help other children out there.”