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Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity)

Coloured Glasses for Better Reading

by Dianne Bevan

John's Story

John, age 10, is a bright child with good verbal skills who is struggling with reading. He has problems focusing and staying on task. His parents have tried tutoring, various reading programs, and other therapies; but he continued to struggle. He was tested w i thout finding any answers. He was even tested for ADHD. His parents know something is wrong but could not find any solutions.

John has a type of perceptual processing problem called Irlen Syndrome which can be removed with special coloured filters worn as glasses. He now has been wearing his Irlen Filters for just over six months and says, "I really enjoy reading now. The words stopped moving and I don't get any headaches."

His mother reports: "It is great to finally be able to find an answer. His Irlen Coloured Filters are the first thing he puts on when he wakes up and the last thing he takes off at night . Gone are all the headaches, he is now reading on grade level, and his grades have gone from C's to A's and 8's. He can now copy from the board without making errors."

Background: The Irlen Method

Children and adults with Irlen Syndrome perceive the printed page, numbers, and musical notes in a distorted fashion instead of clear and stable. The individual may not be aware of the extra energy and effort being put into reading. Nobody ever asks if the print is blurry, moves, or disappears. No one asks if reading makes your eyes water, feel sleepy, or gives you a headache. But this type of perceptual problem can make reading a difficult or even painful task. Perceptual problems can even affect the ability to pay attention and sit still.

When perceptual problems on the page are severe, difficulty seeing the print can interfere with learning to read. For most, however, it affects the ability to successfully use their reading skills, read with comprehension, or read comfortably without having to take breaks.

The Irlen Method corrects a visual processing deficit which causes problems reading, copying, with math, and affects attention and concentration. Thirty years of research have shown that this type of processing problem is a result of the brain not being able to process visual information correctly. The solution is using coloured overlays over the page or wearing specially tinted lenses worn as glasses with/without an optical script. The colour (which is different for each person) is the key to the success of the program and can only be determined after an assessment by an educational professional trained in the Irlen Method.

Typically, those who can be helped may have problems in one or more of the following areas:

Reading Difficulties: Losing place, misreading words, skipping words and lines, problems tracking, poor comprehension, and/or a slow reading rate.

Discomfort: Symptoms are varied and can include tiredness, sleepiness, headaches, and eyes that hurt or become watery when reading.

Attention and Concentration Problems: Problems starting and staying on task when reading and doing academic tasks. Sometimes misidentified as attention deficit disorder and given medication unnecessarily.

Light Sensitivity: Bothered by lighting, especially fluorescent lighting, bright lights, glare, and sunlight.

Distortions: Words on the page lack clarity or stability; i.e., may appear to be blurry, moving, or disappear.


No one really knows what reading is like for others. Some people who struggle with reading have a type of processing problem which can be helped by the Irlen Method. You can check to see if you or your child's reading can improve by taking the following Self-Test. .

When reading, copying from the whiteboard or using the computer:

  • Do you skip words or lines?
  • Do you lose your place?
  • Do you build breaks into reading?
  • Do you feel strain, fatigue, or tired?
  • Do you feel sleepy or get headaches?
  • Do you reread for comprehension?
  • Is your reading slow or hesitant?
  • Does reading get harder the longer you read?
  • Do you misread words?
  • Do you have trouble tracking from one line to the next?
  • Do you read in dim lighting?
  • Are you bothered by bright lights or fluorescent lights?
  • Do you get headaches or feel sleepy, antsy, or fidgety when in fluorescent lights?
  • Do you have trouble copying?
  • Do you have trouble keeping numbers in columns?

Individuals who are the most successful would answer "No" to all of the questions above. The more "Yes" answers, the harder you are working and the more difficult it will be for you to demonstrate your true potential until corrected by the Irlen Method.

For further information please contact Dianne at the Irlen Gold Coast Clinic.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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Welcome to the World of Home Education
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine


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