Irlen Syndrome and the Solutions
Q: How does Irlen Syndrome affect reading?
A: The Irlen Method corrects reading problems that are a result of a processing problem called Irlen Syndrome, and not a vision problem. This type of reading problem is result of the brain’s inability to accurately understand and process visual information.
Reading difficulties related to Irlen Syndrome cannot be explained by phonetic deficits or by a weak sight vocabulary. Problems most often occur under conditions of bright lighting, fluorescent lighting, black/white contrast, and continued performance. For individuals with Irlen Syndrome print may not be clear, stable or comfortable. As a result, reading can be slow and inefficient leading to skipping of words or lines, rereading, or poor comprehension.
Q: Are all reading problems caused by Irlen Syndrome?
A: No. Research has shown that about 46% of individuals with reading problems, dyslexia, or learning disabilities have this type of perceptual processing problem. Irlen Syndrome can be the only reason for reading difficulties or a piece of the puzzle existing in combination with other reasons for reading difficulties.
Q: Can you correct reading problem caused by Irlen Syndrome?
A: Yes. Correction of this problem is with the use of Irlen colored overlays and lenses. Use of the Irlen filters does not negate the importance of teaching reading skills and the need for practice. However, print clarity, stability and reading comfort provided by Irlen Spectral Filters are building blocks for learning and success.
Q: What are the types of reading problems that someone with Irlen Syndrome might experience?
A: A variety of problems can result from seeing a distorted page of words, or perceiving your environment in a distorted fashion. Poor perception can affect reading, writing, spelling, math, copying, reading music, working on a computer, night driving, driving, sports performance, comfort under fluorescent lights, and many other areas of a person’s life. Reading rate, comfort, flow, fluency, tracking, comprehension, attention and concentration are all areas where people with Irlen Syndrome experience problem.
Individuals who have any of the following types of problems can be helped by the Irlen Method:
PROBLEMS READING ON WHITE PAPER. Individuals who can be helped with the Irlen Method cannot read for long periods and take breaks or prefer to read newspapers and magazines. Reading on white paper is uncomfortable and often requires rereading for comprehension. The white page may be glary or compete with the black print, making the letters less readable. The same problems can occur with numbers and musical notes.
INEFFICIENT READING. Individuals with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty reading print, numbers or musical notes because the print is not clear or stable. Problems may include print that shifts, shakes, blurs, moves, runs together, disappears or becomes difficult to perceive. Many individuals have never seen print correctly and are not aware that the way they see the printed page is not clear or stable. They think everyone sees the page the way that they do.
SLOW READING RATE. Individuals who can be helped may have problems tracking, a slow reading rate, word-by-word reading, or have an inability to speed-read. Individuals often use their finger or a marker when reading.
PROBLEMS WITH ATTENTION & CONCENTRATION. Problems in concentration when reading, writing, or working on the computer may be due to Irlen Syndrome. The individual may have difficulty staying on task, take frequent breaks, and become restless, fidgety or tired when doing reading, studying, or doing other visual tasks.
STRAIN OR FATIGUE. Individuals who are helped with Irlen Spectral Filters often experience discomfort. Individuals may become tired; others experience headaches, dizzy, sleepy, anxious, irritable, and fidgety or have an inability to stay focused. Discomfort can interfere with the length of time and ease of reading, studying, or doing homework making breaks necessary.
LIGHT SENSITIVITY. Individuals who can be helped by the Irlen Method do not like florescent lighting and prefer dim lighting. Staying focused with listening or reading under florescent lights is more difficult and can even cause strain and discomfort. Most individuals with Irlen Syndrome prefer to read in dim lighting; although some need bright lights to read.
What to Look For
- Misreads words
- Reads in dim light
- Skips words or lines
- Reads slowly or hesitantly
- Takes breaks
- Loses place
- Avoids reading
Complaints While Reading
- Tired or sleepy
- Eyes hurt, ache, or feel itchy
- Headaches or nausea
- Fidgety or restless
- Rubs eyes
- Opens eyes wide
- Reads close to the page
- Moves closer or further from the page
As many as half of the children and adults with perceptual processing problems are misdiagnosed with dyslexia. These individuals can be helped by the Irlen Method.
There are as many reasons for dyslexia and inability to read as there are different types of headaches. Often, a diagnosis of dyslexia assumes that children have difficulty with phonics. But when words jiggle, move, or disappear or when letters look like ants moving across the page, reading is so difficult that these children are labeled “dyslexic.” For these children and adults, the Irlen Method can help.
Myths and Facts
Myth: If you read to your child when they are younger, they should not have reading problems.
Fact: Reading problems are usually hereditary. They run in families and are not the result of modeling. Parents who read to their children still can have children with reading problems.
Myth: Practice will lead to better reading.
Fact: When a child has Irlen Syndrome, they do not make progress with tutoring and remediation. Problems continue until perception can be made clear and stable with Irlen Spectral Filters. Then, and only then, can the child make progress with practice and remediation.
Myth: Teaching your child phonics will cure reading problems.
Fact: Teaching phonics as a basic skill is important, but a child needs to move beyond phonics to reading with flow, fluency, and comprehension. Language problems are just one aspect of reading, and perceptual processing problems like Irlen Syndrome are also important to treat.
Myth: When an individual has dyslexia, they will always have a reading problem.
Fact: If your child has visual dyslexia, the Irlen Method can make a difference. However, a child can have both visual and language-based dyslexia. In this case, the Irlen Method allows the child to focus longer and with greater comfort. Reading problems will continue, though, and your child will need special accommodations by the school system to address the language-based dyslexia.