What is Irlen Syndrome?
Irlen Syndrome is a problem with the way the brain processes light - a visual processing issue. People with Irlen Syndrome perceive the world around them in a distorted way. Their eyes 'see' things well, but they have difficulty processing what they see.
Originally called 'scotopic sensitivity' (ie sensitivity to light), I like to think of it as being similar to other sensitivities some people experience, like having sensitive skin or sensitive hearing, except it is the brain's sensitivity to light and the efficient processing of light that is experienced.
A person with Irlen Syndrome may see print in a distorted way. These distortions range from mild to severe. They can interfere with the ability to learn to read, reading fluency and the length of time someone is able to read.
Does Irlen Syndrome have anything to do with dyslexia? Yes AND no ….
Dyslexia is a completely separate issue to Irlen Syndrome. Just like having sensitive skin or sensitive hearing, anyone can be light sensitive. Around 12% of the population have Irlen Syndrome.
Treatment for Irlen Syndrome will not FIX dyslexia. They are separate issues. However, Irlen treatment can certainly help a child to concentrate, read and learn - all factors which contribute to better learning outcomes for the dyslexic child.
Treatment for Irlen Syndrome
Irlen Syndrome is treated with coloured overlays or Irlen tinted lenses that are used to improve the brain's ability to process visual information. The environment can also contribute to the difficulty those with Irlen can have when reading. The level and type of light can make symptoms worse (fluorescent light in schools is the worst). Although they can read in this environment, it takes a lot of energy which leaves less energy for comprehension.
General Symptoms of Irlen Syndrome
- Light sensitivity
- Print distortions
- Limited span of recognition (only able to see 1-2 words or 1-2 letters at a time when reading)
- Discomfort when reading
Irlen symptoms make reading less enjoyable. Any child who does not read for pleasure, has slow reading rate or poor comprehension, difficulty concentrating, would benefit from being tested for Irlen Syndrome.
Irlen Syndrome Can Affect Areas Including:
- Academic and work performance
- Ability to sit still