Do you have a child who struggles with reading? If you feel like it might be “more than just dyslexia” you could be right. Irlen Syndrome is a condition that affects reading, writing, and sensory processing. It is suspected that 50% of students diagnosed with dyslexia have Irlen Syndrome. Irlen Syndrome makes reading more difficult because of how the brain processes light. Certain light waves are harder for the brain to process in those with Irlen Syndrome and as a result, everyday tasks can be much harder. Not only reading and writing, but driving, playing sports, and depth perception.

If your child is struggling with reading and you are curious about Irlen, you may want to watch some of these videos to learn more. There are some great videos that demonstrate what having Irlen can look like. This can help if your child is having trouble explaining why reading gives them a headache.

In a previous post, I explained how we began our journey of learning more about Irlen Syndrome and did a screening test.  This is the first step for addressing Irlen Syndrome. In the first step, we found out that my child does have a sensitivity to light that is affecting her reading and that light blue overlays or paper can really help.

Diagnostic Testing

Testing involved holding up many lenses to the eyes and looking through them.

The second step was going for a diagnostic test to get glasses that can be worn every day.  These glasses will help my child read not just on flat paper, but things that are at a distance like scoreboards and street signs. It also means that if they work, we won’t be struggling with trying to figure out how to make her math book blue.  The glasses don’t make the world look blue, or another color. Colors look true, but the glasses screen out the spectrums of light that the brain can’t handle.

The testing involved looking through many different lenses to see what color lenses made the world more comfortable to live in. Irlen lenses can stack several colored lenses together to create an individualized lens color that filters out exactly what the brain needs. The testing took a few hours. My daughter looked at things near her and across the room as she assessed what made the world easier to see. When we started, she was complaining about the glare in the room. But as we added more layers the diagnostician turned up the lights and my daughter was more comfortable in the room with it brightly lit.

Getting Glasses

The testing wasn’t quick. We spent a few hours doing this. My daughter was tired by the time it was done. But she is hopeful that these glasses are going to make reading easier. It turns out that in a normal situation the words on the page tend to fade out. Her brain can’t seem to process everything it is looking at. The sensory experience of looking at words on paper is exhausting. But looking through the lenses should help keep the letters from disappearing.

To order the glasses, we had an eye exam done before the testing day with our regular optometrist. We purchased a pair of frames that are being sent to the Irlen center to become Irlen glasses. The process is going to take a few weeks.

I will post again when we’ve had the glasses for a few weeks to report back on if they make as big of a difference as we are hoping. I have my fingers crossed on this one.


Does this sound like something your child may be experiencing?

If you want to learn more about Irlen Syndrome, the website for the Irlen Institute has some great information. And there is a video on this website that demonstrates how words can move around on the page for some people who experience Irlen Syndrome. Watching this video with my child was amazing. They instantly identified with one or two of the ways the words moved and could finally articulate to me what happens when they read that they didn’t have words for before. If you have any questions about this that you’d like to ask me, please feel free to reply in the comments or reach out to me via the company email or Facebook.

About the Author

Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.

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