Irlen Syndrome screening and testing are provided for people who have difficulty with reading, learning difficulties, low motivation, ADD, headaches, autism, or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Irlen Syndrome is a visual processing problem, where certain colors of the light spectrum tend to irritate the brain. It is not a problem with the eyes. It is a problem with the way the brain processes visual information.
For most people, reading black characters on a white background isn’t a problem. But for people with Irlen syndrome or scotopic sensitivity, reading can be disorienting or even painful. In severe cases, words can transform into a confusing, disorganized sea of letters. Others see objects as closer or farther away than they are, or in different locations entirely.
Irlen Syndrome is caused by varying factors, including genetics, head injuries, and inflammatory processes such as Lyme disease. When you have Irlen Syndrome you may experience anxiety, difficulty with focus, or migraines as your brain attempts to properly process visual information. People with Irlen Syndrome also commonly experience light sensitivity.
WHO SHOULD BE SCREENED FOR IRLEN SYNDROME?
Irlen Syndrome affects 12-14% of the general population. It also afflicts 33% of people with ADHD or autism, nearly 50% of individuals with reading or learning challenges and 55% with head injury, concussion or whiplash. Irlen Syndrome also tends to run in families and is seen in inflammatory conditions like Lyme disease.
Because Irlen Syndrome is seen in so many other conditions, anyone who is experiencing symptoms of anxiety, irritability, depression, decreased concentration, low motivation, learning difficulties, or migraines should be screened for Irlen syndrome. Students who take a long time to complete homework, do poorly on exams, or avoid reading assignments should also be screened.
IRLEN SYNDROME SYMPTOMS
People experience a wide variety of symptoms from Irlen Syndrome. Some common symptoms include:
• light sensitivity; being bothered by glare, sunlight, headlights or streetlights
• strain or fatigue with computer use
• fatigue, headaches, mood changes, restlessness, or an inability to stay focused with bright or fluorescent lights
• trouble reading words that are on white, glossy paper
• words or letters shifting, shaking, blurring, moving, running together, disappearing, or becoming difficult to perceive while reading
• difficulty reading music
• feeling tense, tired, sleepy, or even getting headaches with reading
• problems judging distance and difficulty with such things as escalators, stairs, ball sports, driving, or coordination
• migraine headaches
CONSEQUENCES OF UNDIAGNOSED, UNTREATED IRLEN SYNDROME
When undiagnosed or left untreated, Irlen Syndrome can impact many different areas of your life, including:
• Academic performance
• Work productivity
• Ability to sit still
DIAGNOSING AND TREATING IRLEN SYNDROME
Irlen Syndrome is treated through a fascinating application of the science of color. In the early 1980s, while working with college-educated adults who struggled with learning and reading difficulties, Dr. Helen Irlen developed what is now known as the Irlen Method. Dr. Irlen discovered that colored, tinted lenses could be used to filter out the wavelengths of light that are bothersome. Using these overlays while reading can eliminate brightness and distortion issues, reduce stress on the brain and allow it to function better.
To be screened for this condition, it is important to visit a certified Irlen Screener to determine the right treatment for you. Screening involves a 2-step process:
• Step 1: In the first session, a screener will determine the severity of your condition and will identify which color of the overlay will provide the most benefit for you. Generally, you will receive a color overlay—basically, a plastic sheet that you can place over a page with writing on it—so you can gauge the level of improvement. Only those with moderate to severe Irlen Syndrome need to proceed to step 2.
• Step 2: In the second part of the screening, you will try various tints of that color to determine which wavelengths of light your brain has trouble processing. Through this process, a unique tint that is personalized to your needs will be created. Your personalized color will be worn as glasses or contact lenses.
It’s important to understand that wearing colored glasses that are the wrong color could make your symptoms worse. This is why it is critical to see a certified Irlen Screener.
HOW TREATMENT FOR IRLEN SYNDROME HELPED HEATHER
Correcting Irlen Syndrome with this non-invasive treatment can lead to improved comprehension, motivation, self-esteem, and academic/work performance. And the results are often immediate and dramatic. Just look at how it worked for Heather. At age 42, Heather had been in 10 car accidents when she sought help for symptoms of ADD/ADHD, anxiety, and depression. During her evaluation, she told the physician that she had trouble reading and fluorescent lights gave her headaches. Her physician suspected Irlen Syndrome and sent Heather for screening.
Two weeks later, Heather was beaming. With the Irlen lenses, her focus was better, her anxiety was reduced, and her mood had improved.
As part of her evaluation, Heather had undergone a brain scan using brain SPECT imaging. SPECT measures blood flow and activity in the brain and shows areas with healthy activity, too much activity, and too little activity. Heather’s brain scan prior to getting her Irlen lenses was remarkably overactive, which is consistent with some types of anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD. In her second brain scan, taken while she was wearing her Irlen lenses, her brain looked significantly calmer.
In brain imaging studies performed by Amen Clinics, we have seen that people with Irlen Syndrome tend to have increased activity in the brain’s emotional and visual processing centers as well as decreased activity in the cerebellum, an area that helps to integrate coordination and new information. Before-and-after scans, like Heather’s, show that when people with Irlen Syndrome are properly treated, it helps to balance overall brain function. This is so important because the brain is involved in everything you do—how you think, how you feel, how you act, and how you interact with others. When your brain is more balanced, it helps you perform better in all areas of your life.
Miranda Makary, B.S., R.N. from Amen Clinics Washington D.C. describes what Irlen Syndrome is, how it can affect one’s life, as well as treatment options: