Irlen Syndrome (Meares-Irlen Syndrome/ Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome/ Visual Stress)
According to the Irlen Institute it is a perceptual processing disorder and not an optical problem. It is a difficulty with the brain’s ability to process visual information. The Irlen Method is scientifically proven to correct Scotopic Sensitivity and is supported by studies undertaken by experts in the fields of education, psychology, medicine, ophthalmology and neuroscience from around the world over the last 30 years. Irlen affects 15% of the general population, an estimated 50% of individuals with reading and learning difficulties and 30% of individuals with ADHD and autism experience symptoms of Irlen Syndrome. Irlen Syndrome has also progressively been connected to individuals with chronic headaches and migraines.
Some warning signs to that could indicate a difficulty with Irlen Syndrome
- Poor comprehension
- Misreads words
- Problems tracking from line to line
- Reads in dim light
- Skips words or lines
- Reads slowly or hesitantly
- Takes breaks
- Loses place
- Avoids reading
- Strain and fatigue
- Tired or sleepy
- Headaches or nausea
- Fidgety or restless
- Eyes that hurt or become watery
Attention and Concentration Problems:
- Problems with concentration when reading and doing academic tasks
- Often people can appear to have other conditions, such as attention deficit disorder, and are given medication unnecessarily.
- Trouble copying
- Unequal spacing
- Unequal letter size
- Writing up or downhill
- Inconsistent spelling
- Strain or fatigue from computer use
- Difficulty reading music
- Sloppy, careless math errors
- Misaligned numbers in columns
- Ineffective use of study time
- Lack of motivation
- Grades do not reflect the amount of effort
- Difficulty catching balls
- Difficulty judging distances
- Words on the page lack clarity or stability; i.e., may appear to be blurry, moving, or disappear
Testimonial of a learner diagnosed by Dr. Kruger with Irlen Syndrome
An African learner in grade 9 had the following to say about Irlen syndrome.
“I used to see patterns on the page when I read; reread sentences a lot, fall asleep while I was studying and lights always seemed so bright. It was all normal to me—I mean how could you read and not notice those lines on the page? My eyes were always sore and I used to get headaches. This happened all the time when I read and I could not focus in class, my Afrikaans teacher noticed this and I told her about my light sensitivity and I was sent to the Sanatorium for this. We found out that my usual spectacles were okay and then I was sent to Dr Kruger, who then tested and diagnosed me with Irlen syndrome.
I went to another psychologist, Dr Venter, for a more complex Irlen syndrome test, where we found out that my prescription lenses actually wasn’t correct— most Optometrists do not know about Irlen— I had to get prescription lenses and my Irlen lenses. In the end my spectacles consisted of six different colours but made a dark green.
Right before I got my spectacles I was on the verge of breaking, I’d have headaches for a whole week but when got my spectacles I felt so relieved. Even on the first day the headaches had already stopped and painful eyes were a thing of the past. My clarinet teacher said I’d played my best that day. The spectacles calmed me down; I do my work with ease and no longer with strain. I’ve always enjoyed reading but now it is even better without the excessive mental power it used to take. They help me pay attention in class and focus more and I no longer have to behave like a vampire; always hiding from the light. I am grateful for my spectacles.”