Irlen Syndrome

By Morgan Kimball 

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability (reading, writing, pronouncing words, etc.). Irlen syndrome is not language-based. Irlen is a light sensitivity, where individuals are sensitive to a specific light wavelength, which can cause physical and visual symptoms. Individuals with Irlen have difficulty reading because they see distortions on the printed page or because the white background or glare hurts their eyes. It’s difficult to process all visual information, not the words on a page.

What are the signs of an individual who has Irlen? 

  • Poor Comprehension
    • Misread words
    • Skips words or lines 
    • Takes breaks 
    • Avoids reading 
    • Reads in dim lighting 
    • Reads slowly or Hesitantly 
    • Loses their place well reading 
  • Complaints about Reading: 
    • Tired or sleepy
    • Headaches or nausea
    • Eyes hurt, ache, or feel itchy 
    • Fidgety or restless 
  • Other Signs: 
    • Rubs eyes 
    • Blinks a lot when reading 
    • Reads close to the page 
    • Squints
    • Opens eyes wide 
    • Moves closer or further

Individuals with Irlen can still read, but it’s hard to read on white paper. Helen Irlen is an internationally recognized educator, researcher, therapist, scholar, and expert in visual-perceptual problems. She discovered Irlen Syndrome/Scotopic Sensitivity. Helen did years of research on individuals who have learning and reading struggles. One study showed that individuals improved their reading when a colored acetate sheet covered the reading material. Helen discovered the use of color as a treatment to eliminate perceptual distortions. 

In an interview with Helen, the interviewer asked, “Do individuals need one color or different colors?” Helen stated that “If an individual has the wrong color, it can create strain, fatigue, headaches, and make them sick or dizzy. Once a color is determined for that individual, it positively affects them.”

There is a simple solution for those with Irlen! Irlen-colored overlays for reading or colored filters worn as glasses, or contact lenses, can help individuals overcome this problem quickly and easily. 

If you think you are having symptoms of Irlen Syndrome, click on the link to take a short self-test: