Finding the words: Specially tinted glasses help dyslexia patients read

As millions of American children return to the classroom, only time will tell who will make the grade this school year. However, the reality is one in five students may be struggling with a language-based learning disability like dyslexia, which may only become evident with failing grades and missed homework assignments.

Adam Banks, 38, suffered from dyslexia for as long as he can remember.

“The letters would sort of dance, and I would sort of see the patterns of the space between the letters and the paragraphs,” said Banks.

As a social worker in New York City, Banks said the disorder was affecting his ability to do his job.

“It makes writing up reports or evaluations slow,” said Banks. “It's always taken me about, say, one-and-a-half to twice as long … to do something, to write something as somebody else.”

Of the 20 percent of the population living with language-based learning disorders, dyslexia is the most common, affecting about 70 to 80 percent. But it often goes undiagnosed, because the most common symptom is simply trouble reading.

“The speed of transmission of the image between the two eyes is slightly different,” said Dr. Morris Shamah, an ophthalmologist at Eye Care & Surgery Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. “They're seeing letters dancing, coming off the page, moving around, coming together, stretching out -- basically irregularities in their reading.”

When Banks shared his life-long dyslexia struggle with Shamah at a routine eye checkup, Shamah thought he might be a good candidate for specially tinted lenses called ChromaGen lenses.

ChromaGen lenses help dyslexic patients see words and texts more clearly and read faster. Originally developed to treat color blindness, ChromaGen lenses reduce the visual distortions seen by dyslexic patients by altering the wavelength of light that reaches their eyes.

“For the first time, I'm actually able to read something and focus on the letters and the words and not the space in between,” said Banks.

ChromaGen lenses are available as prescription eyeglasses or contacts, and have been cleared by the FDA in the United States. They are not covered by insurance, costing between $700 and $1,000.

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