Do you have Irlen Syndrome?

Over 20 years ago, Helen Irlen, an American psychologist, began to study children and adults with learning disabilities and discovered a significant improvement in their reading ability when the page was covered with coloured acetate sheets. This lead to the discovery of a disorder involving the brain’s inability to process visual information - what is now known as Irlen Syndrome. 

Today, Irlen syndrome diagnoses are common in children and adults with autistic spectrum disorders, largely because of the sensory processing issues that these individuals have; sensitivity to bright light, depth perception issues, visual disturbances. 

We’ve also seen Irlen diagnoses in office workers and people who use computers and tablets regularly for work or school; a mild case of Irlen may go unnoticed in everyday life until suddenly they find themselves struggling to focus on the screen in front of them. 

Often, the visual disturbances are put down to needing prescription glasses or simple eye strain which doesn’t remedy the issue. Such individuals find themselves suffering from constant headaches and nausea, words on a screen will swim about or blur and concentration for any length of time becomes almost impossible. And, all of this is made worse by the bright, fluorescent lighting flooding every corner of the office or classroom. 

Even a short break or a breath of fresh air provides no respite; even if a person manages to venture away from the epicentre of sensory overload, the sunshine can be just as overwhelming, street lights can be dazzling, car headlights are disorientating. Naturally, anyone who also happens to have other vision issues as well such as astigmatism, glaucoma and partial sightedness will most likely find these symptoms exacerbated. Even if an individual isn’t someone who uses computers, a television screen or the pages of a book can have the same affect. 

So how do you know if you are suffering from Irlen syndrome? The first step is to contact a local screener and arrange an appointment. This ‘screening’ will identify if a person is truly affected by the disorder and to what extent. Here, the screener will provide coloured overlays to assist with reading if required as well as information on how to manage the condition. 

The next step is to visit an Irlen diagnostician who will perform further detailed tests in order to provide coloured filters for spectacles- a specialist will tint lenses with an individual’s colour prescription (this is often 3 or 4 layers of specific colour or shades). The spectacles can then be worn all the time to alleviate the symptoms of Irlen syndrome. 

Information on Irlen syndrome can be found here. This article was provided by Kate Nicholas on behalf of Juanetta Edwards, a Kent based Irlen screener and Juanetta's details can be found on her webpage here and you can contact via email;

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