Reading technology to help 'the lost generation'

An optical company has offered to use its state of the art technology to help Kent combat truancy and reading problems among primary school children.

The offer, from Tenterden-based Cerium Visual Technologies, follows an appeal by Schools Secretary Ed Balls for pilot schemes to help teachers identify pupils with dyslexia.

The £5million a year company has just clocked up its 100,000th export of precision tinted lenses to combat sight problems like migraine and dyslexia. Now it has offered Kent County Council to pilot test 50 local youngsters with reading problems to support the Government’s scheme.

Cerium managing director Clive Sangster said: "Most children who have reading problems suffer from visual stress. About five per cent of the population are badly affected , another 20 per cent suffer the same condition in milder form. That is a quarter of the population – but it is not normally spotted by the usual eye tests."

The special tests are conducted with an instrument called the Intuitive Colorimeter, manufactured by Cerium under licence from the Medical Research Council.

Clive Sangster says: "Our Colorimeters are now used internationally to help select lenses to combat visual stress and for patients who have suffered head injury, or strokes, heart attacks and accidents who develop photosensitive problems finding difficulty coping with brightly-lit environments.

"Everyone’s needs differ and we have over 10,000 combinations of coloured lenses available to get the most precise colour or combination of colours to alleviate the problem."

Cerium began in 1971 in a one room office with a single filing cabinet in Cranbrook. It now employs 45 people on a half acre site in Tenterden,. It won a Queens Award for Exports in 1986 and has branches in Singapore, Holland , Texas and Adelaide, Australia where the 100,000th lens was sold.

Mr. Sangster has offered the technology to Kent because he claims there is a lost generation of children who have dropped out of school due to defective vision

"Many children begin to read fluently, but rapidly deteriorate both in reading rate and accuracy often ending with their nose to the page, pointing with their finger and hesitating at length on a word they would have recognised a few minutes earlier.

"It is happening to thousands of children in classrooms all over the country everyday of the week. Yet only a small percentage will receive the help they deserve."

Some 400 high street opticians in the UK can offer colorimetry tests, but the cost is approximately £50 a time, too expensive for many parents to afford. In most of Scotland the NHS pay, but not in England where it is the family‘s responsibility.

Says Mr Sangster: "The issues of vision and reading in children are not going to disappear. I hope the Departments of Health and Education are now going to accept financial responsibility."

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