Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Irlen Syndrome

After mentioning Irlen Syndrome in my blog post yesterday, I thought....mmmmm....maybe I should let you know what I was talking about.

Irlen Syndrome, or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, was first identified by Educational Psychologist Helen Irlen while she was working with adult learners in the early 1980's. Until described in her book, Reading by the Colors, there was no explanation or treatment for this perceptual disorder. Many people with this disorder were misdiagnosed as dyslexic or slow learners. In 1991, Dr. Margaret S. Livingstone of Harvard Medical School published research which offered a medical explanation for this disorder.

Individuals with Irlen Syndrome perceive the printed page and/or their environment differently. If they are severely affected, they must constantly make adaptations or compensate. Individuals are often unaware of the extra energy and effort they are putting into reading and perception.

Reading may be slow and inefficient, or there may be poor comprehension, strain, or fatigue. Irlen Syndrome can also affect attention span, listening, energy level, motivation, work production, and mental health.

People with Irlen Syndrome are often seen as underachievers or as having behavioral, attitudinal, or motivational problems. Irlen Syndrome can also coexist with other learning problems, such as attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, or autism. Treatment for Irlen Syndrome may lessen many of the symptoms of these disorders.

What are the signs of Irlen Syndrome?

If an individual answers yes to 3 or more of the following questions, there is a good chance that they are affected by Irlen Syndrome, and they should be tested by a qualified Irlen Screener. In the screening, he/she will find out for certain if they are affected, determine their level of severity, and learn about what they will need for treatment. Each individual is different and the treatment will be designed for that individual.

•Do you skip words or lines while reading?

•Do you lose your place or reread lines?

•Does reading make you tired

•Do you need to take frequent breaks while reading

•Do you find yourself blinking or squinting when you read?

•Do your eyes hurt, or get watery or dry when reading?

•Do you prefer to read in dim light?

•Do you find you head moves closer to the page as you read?

•Do you use your finger or a marker to help you read?

•Does reading get harder the longer you do it?

•Do you get restless or fidgety when reading?

•Are you easily distracted when you read?

•Do you find it hard to remember what you have just read?

•Do you try to avoid reading?

Other signs of Irlen Syndrome include:

•Words appear blurry, or appear to shift on the page

•You are bothered by bright, glossy paper when reading

•You develop a headache or nausea during or after reading

•You have trouble copying from the board or produce unequal spacing when writing

•Have problems with depth perception, e.g. catching balls, determining distances when driving

•You have difficulty with headlights and streetlights at night

This is one example of how someone with Irlen Syndrome sees a written page:
There are other ways that a page will look to different people, therefore they struggle to learn to read. The problem is.....this is the only way they have ever seen the page, and DO NOT know that the page looks different to them than it does to other people!

In my daughter's case she was seeing a page that looked like someone took a half dozen white out brushes and ran them down the page like little rivers. She was not seeing entire words, so learning to read was a totally awful experience! On the other hand if she ever heard something it was locked in her memory. Her teachers thought she was just not putting forth the effort, when in fact she was doing twice as much to learn as those around her.

If you know anyone who you think might have any of these problems, I recommend you find a Irlen screener near you and have them checked. It was a life saver for us.

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