Colored Overlays May Improve Visual Perception

Colored overlays may improve visual perception, making their use an important reading intervention strategy for treating perceptual problems.

In my work as a reading specialist, I learned that certain children have a hard time seeing the words on the page. For some of them the problem goes beyond that of basic visual acuity – the ability to see clearly. To these children, the words look like they are moving or floating off the page.

Children who are color blind are most apt to have this particular kind of visual perception issue. Print appears to be in 3-D with some of the letters/words floating up off the page.

So at their initial screening, in addition to doing a dominance profile and checking their sight vocabulary and coordination skills, I began to check referrals for color blindness. I found that some were unable to distinguish between the colors red/orange and blue/ purple.

"I Can't Believe the Words Are Staying Still!"

Rather than go through some sort of extensive “training” for using colored overlays, I decided it made more sense to just ask children what they saw when they looked at print on a page. So when I listened to them read, I started asking them if the words ever moved.

What I found was that they were amazingly truthful when responding and that when asked to describe what they saw, they were able to do so in detail. Some said the words moved, and others told me that some of the lines were closer together.

And then there were those who told me that the words did not stay down on the page.

I explained that sometimes colors help but that different films help different people. Placing one over a page of text, I asked if it helped the words "stay still" or “stay down” on the page. We tried several colors, and there was no doubt when the right one came along. The kids reacted in amazement. They could not believe that the words were staying still!

They always left my Title I room with two in the color they chose – one to use in the classroom and one to use at home.

One second grade girl was so overjoyed that for weeks whenever she saw me in the hall she would exclaim with delight, “I can’t believe the words are staying still!.”

Go to Reading Fluency Activities from Colored Overlays

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Where to Get Overlays

My children took very seriously the task of choosing the color of overlay which did the best job of keeping the letters and words "down on the paper." They really took their time in determining which one helped them see the best.

It never ceased to amaze me that dark purple was perfect for one child yet gray blue served the needs of another. The colors had to be changed every five to six weeks as they will lose their effectiveness, and children will need to choose again.

For these reasons it is very helpful to have an array of colors on hand, both light and dark, from which they can choose.

I gave each child two in his/her chosen color, one for use in the classroom and one to take home. I also gave second grade teachers a complete set to keep in case one was misplaced.

Clicking on the picture below will take you to Amazon where the overlays like the ones I used may be purchased. They are worth the investment!

Overlays can help children see the words more clearly.