Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Review: Irlen Syndrome

or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, by Gloria Goldsmith, AVKO Foundation

The AVKO Foundation recognizes there is no one thing that will fix everyone’s problems. But we know our spelling program is a giant help for those with spelling difficulties, just like the Irlen Institute is a giant help for those with light sensitivities.

I was speaking to a Mom just yesterday who had a son with severe headaches, problems with concentration, visual tracking problems and I forgot to mention the Irlen Syndrome, a light sensitivity problem. I hope she finds this blog.

Irlen Syndrome is not an optical problem; it is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. Often it runs in families and there is no standardized educational or medical test which can identify this syndrome.

It can affect both academic and work performance, behavior, attention, the ability to sit still and concentration. This syndrome is often mistaken for ADHD. Often the problem is white paper and dark ink – high contrast printing. Ordinarily, parents and teachers would think that high contrast is excellent, just the thing to make sure the printed words show up nicely on the page. But for most sufferers of the Irlen Syndrome it is the exact WRONG thing for their perception.

How is it evident in individuals? Each individual with Irlen Syndrome exhibits the problem differently. It is believed that forty-six percent (46%) of slow readers could be helped by the colored filters prescribed by the Irlen Institute. You or your child may experience some or many of these sensitivities: print looks different (blurred, spinning, dancing, rivers, etc),environment looks different, slow or inefficient reading, poor comprehension, eye strain, fatigue, headaches, difficulty with math computation, difficulty copying, difficulty reading music, poor sport performance, poor depth perception, low motivation, or low self-esteem. Glare, florescent lights, bright lights, sunlight and sometimes lights at night can bother those with light sensitivity.

The problem is not able to be corrected with remediation. But there is a solution, and that is colored filters. The filters can be bought in page sized overlays and for even better solutions, color filtering lenses for glasses. The remarkable changes that take place for those who have moderate to severe cases of this syndrome are documented in video clips on the Irlen Institute website. There is also a book available called “Reading by the Colors” by Helen Irlen, her first book describing the syndrome in detail and several other helpful books are offered on the web site for children and parents.

I recommend checking the Irlen Institute website for more information about the syndrome, a self-test, samples of the distortions reported, research, testimonials, and to find an Irlen Testing Center. You can even change the color of the webpage to see how it affects your reading perception. (For my eyes ease, I prefer the light blue.)

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