Learning difficulties and dyslexia

Close-up of a child - the right side of the face is visible

Our research into learning difficulties and dyslexia is a collaboration between ARU's Visual Function and Physiology Research Group and the Department of Vision and Hearing Sciences

Current activity

Our aim is to:

  • carry out research into factors that influence visual stress in both typically developing children and those with developmental disorders
  • assess visual function in children with autism spectrum disorders and deafness
  • investigate the usage of colour as a therapeutic intervention in children with specific learning difficulties
  • investigate the ERG and VEP of people who experience difficulty reading.


Our research is the first to show objective correlates of Pattern-Related Visual Stress (PRVS). It is extremely exciting as currently this subject area is controversial, mainly based on the highly subjective nature of both the presentation and screening for the condition. Our work has demonstrated potential methods to screen, test and monitor PRVS.

This work is multidisciplinary in nature (alongside psychology). It is at a very exciting stage with a number of collaborations occurring.

Alongside colleagues from Essex University and the University of Bradford, we are further investigating the condition using adaptive optics imaging and electro-diagnostic techniques.

Meanwhile, with the Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors (Dortmund), we're investigating binocularity while reading.

Richard Hollingsworth (under the supervision of Professor Peter Allen) is investigating visual function in the deaf as part of his PhD studies. This has received a lot of interest due, in part due to the data being collected at the Royal School for the Deaf but also as it is the first work to fully investigate near visual function in the deaf. Early findings are suggestive of a magnocellular deficit in the deaf and work is on-going to further investigate this potentially extremely important finding.

Dr Keziah Latham is investigating differences in visual function in people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). We have clarified that visual acuity, limited at a retinal level, is no different in those with and without ASD. We are now investigating differences in spatial localisation, a task limited at the cortical level. This is an exciting avenue of research which has already demonstrated some differences in early cortical visual processing between those with and without ASD. The research team also includes Professor Baron-Cohen (Cambridge University), Professor Chung (University of California, Berkeley) and Professor Peter Allen (Anglia Ruskin University).

In 2012 the visual acuity standards for driving in the UK changed so that, in addition to being able to read a number plate at 20 metres, drivers must also have a visual acuity of at least 6/12. MPhil student Maria Katsou, supervised by Dr Latham, is investigating the relationship between these two visual standards so that optometrists can give appropriate advice to patients on their visual fitness to drive.


Professor Peter Allen
Dr Keziah Lathan
Rupal Lovell Patel
Laura Monger
Richard Hollingsworth
Maria Foteini Katsou


2011: Objective correlates of Visual Stress and the development of an evidence-based protocol. P.M. Allen. College of Optometrists: £55,000.


Hollingsworth, R., Ludlow, A., Wilkins, A.J., Calver, R.I. and Allen, P.M., 2013. Visual performance in deaf children: A literature review. Acta Ophthalmologica (in press).

Haigh, S.M., Jaschinski, J., Allen, P.M. and Wilkins, A.J., 2013. Accommodation to uncomfortable patterns. Perception, 42, pp208-22.

Latham, L., Chung, S.T.L., Allen, P.M., Tavasolli, T. and Baron-Cohen, S., 2013. Spatial localisation in autism: evidence for differences in early cortical visual processing. Molecular Autism, 4, p4.