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Irlen Syndrome- (What it is, Symptoms and Treatment)

What is Irlen Syndrome, (also referred to as scotopic sensitivity syndrome)? Below you will learn all about it! Also, learn what to do for it if you are concerned this syndrome is effecting your child or a loved one.

Irlen Syndrome

There are many things interfering with our children’s learning. The steps we take to help them greatly impact not only their learning but their self-esteem and chances of success. We will dive into this syndrome, also know as scotopic sensitivity syndrome and Meares-Irlen Syndrome, and see if it is a problem for someone you know.

It is hard when a child is struggling to read, do math, sustain attention or has trouble overall with learning.  It cannot only be scary for a parent but also frustrating not knowing how to help.  I understand this being a teacher and a parent of struggling readers.

There are many things that need to be considered when children have learning difficulties. Personally, I have taken every avenue I can think of after careful research to help my children. Irlen syndrome has been another one of those ways.

This Post is all about Irlen Syndrome, also know as ,Scoptic Sensitivity Syndrome, Meares-Irlen Syndrome and referred to as SSS.

What is Scoptic Sensitivity Syndrome?

SSS is a syndrome where a child perceives information on a page in a way that interferes with their reading and learning.  A normal vision test will not show up with this problem.

A person may have a normal vision range, but they may still have difficulties reading. This is because words and lines on a page appear distorted. This is due to the way the person’s brain perceives the images on the page. The reading of the material is not as easy for the person. Therefore, learning or comprehending the material is challenging.

Irlen Syndrome can show up alongside those with our without a learning disability, according to the founder of the SSS, Helen Irlen. However, often times there is another challenge other than just SSS.

How is this Different Than Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is difficult to define. Different articles, books and studies don’t seem to have an exact definition for dyslexia. This is something I have come across during my entire time teaching. Dyslexia can be described as difficulties in decoding words and problems with reading fluency.

Since this post is not mainly about dyslexia, I am going to simplify things. I will add a few notes to the simplified definition.

Decoding of words are problematic due to a range of symptoms. These can be perceiving lines and letters to move on the page, line distortion, double letters or numbers or blurred print and more. Therefore, fluency is hindered. This in turn effects comprehension and reading sustainability.

Irlen Syndrome may sound similar to dyslexic issues. Dyslexia is helped when Scoptic Sensitivity Syndrome is addressed. This is because Irlen syndrome corrects the visual processing problem. Dyslexia is not cured, but reading can be done with less effort.

Colored Overlays

Appropriate colored lenses or colored overlays are used to treat Scoptic Sensitivity Syndrome. A reader may be able to read for a longer period of time will less frustration, more focus, and better comprehension according to studies.

Assessing Irlen Syndrome

A diagnostic type exam is first given. This measures the discomfort and visual perceptual difficulties that take place while the person decodes black words on a white background. Colored overlays are then introduced.

Colored filters are placed over the same pages that the person was reading before. Changes are then noted in reading ease, reading longevity, comprehension, decoding processes and comfort level.

The examiner uses different colored overlays to see which color is most helpful. This indicates which color best helps the person in the reading process.

Overlays can be altered to be a specific color or shade. This is done according to the needs of an individual. An intensive diagnostic test needs to be done to determine the exact color that will be most effective.

The colored filters are able to be made into colored lenses for wearing. This means a person is able to wear the lenses without worrying about putting a layover over each page individually. I know from personal experience that glasses would be a lot more convenient.

The link below allows a person to test out the different colored overlays on the computer.  Irlen Syndrome Self-Test

Get the colored filters here for your own use. (I have included a picture below of these filters. They are the ones that we have used.)

Symptoms to Watch For

Below are the symptoms that occur when people have Irlen Syndrome. The symptoms can mimic other learning challenges, but it is a guide to know if a child or person is a candidate for colored lenses.

  • Problems reading black letters on white background
  • Letters that move, jiggle or appear then disappear
  • Difficulty distinguish dots on i, commas, periods
  • Letter confusion- ex.) b,d/ m,n/ u,n/ a,e,o,u/ h,n/ b,d,p/ m,w/ i,j. etc.
  • Restricted peripheral span
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Eye strain
  • See distorted letters and numbers- doubled, slanted, blurred
  • Letters are not linear, randomly scattered on the page or zigged pattern
  • Skipping lines while reading or skipping mid-sentence
  • Problems with copywork
  • Difficulty skimming
  • Difficulty proofreading
  • Becomes fatigued while reading
  • Fluency is effected after a couple minutes of reading
  • Unable to concentrate and focus
  • Needs to pause frequently
  • Eyes quickly become tired
  • Eyes begin blurring after sustained reading

Irlen Syndrome and Learning Disabilities

Irlen Syndrome occurs in conjunction with other learning disabilities. Getting help for a child who has Irlen Syndrome will lessen the child’s load.

Different techniques are use to help according to the specific type of disability. Alleviating some problems makes a big deal to a struggling learner. I know this due to my kids having reading and learning challenges.

I have used colored overlays with my own kids. My girls were able to read with more ease. They also did not have the eye strain. They said they could “see the letters better”. The Irlen colored overlays that worked best for them differed from each other. I am planning on testing further.

Irlen Sydrome and other underlying issues may interfere with learning difficulties. For instance, dyslexia can be mimicked by other root causes. Meaning, after addressing root causes, the dyslexic symptoms lessen or disappear. The studies below exhibit some of these factors.

It is often times quite the process trying to get the appropriate help. Working on all aspects of a child’s life provides a better opportunity for success. Appropriate Nutrition for underlying conditions ensures a healthier brain. There is much overlap in research that you can look up addressing root cause with brain function.

Irlen Syndrome and Studies

Remember, the colored lenses may lessen the stress of reading, but it shows up in conjunction with other disabilities. Getting help for Irlen syndrome is start. However, there is a chance that other problems will need to be worked on as well.

There are studies showing the effectiveness of correction filters. There are other studies on the other hand indicating further research needs to be done.

This is a link to access further studies that support Sensitivity Scoptic Syndrome.

Helen Irlen wrote the book titled Reading by the Colors, Overcoming Dyslexia and Other Reading disabilities Through the Irlen Method.  The book notes overcoming dyslexia in the title, but keep in mind that it is not a treatment for dyslexia. 

Addressing SSS allows the individual to read with less difficulties due to visual perception correction.  It may be part of overcoming dyslexia or other disabilities, but not the entire solution.

This post is about Irlen Syndrome and if it is a condition effecting you or a family member.

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