This article focuses on the Irlen Method, developed to address Scotopic Sensitivity, also referred to as Irlen Syndrome. The material is adapted from the website of the Irlen Institute. Helen Irlen is an advisory board member for Latitudes.org and we are very grateful for her expertise in this area.
The Irlen Method is non-invasive technology that uses colored overlays and filters to improve the brain’s ability to process visual information. Irlen Syndrome (also referred to at times as Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, and Visual Stress) is a perceptual processing disorder.
It is not an optical problem. It is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. This problem tends to run in families and is not currently identified by other standardized educational or medical tests.
Scotopic sensitivity affest different key areas
Not limited to reading problems, those suffering from Irlen Syndrome may be affected in numerous areas:
- Academic and work performance
- Ability to sit still
This problem can manifest itself differently for each individual. This problem is not remediable and is often a lifetime barrier to learning and performance. If you suffer from any of the following, Irlen Syndrome might be your problem:
- Print looks different
- Environment looks different
- Slow or inefficient reading
- Poor comprehension
- Eye strain
- Difficulty with math computation
- Difficulty copying
- Difficulty reading music
- Poor sports performance
- Poor depth-perception
- Low motivation
- Low self-esteem
It is the only method scientifically proven to successfully correct the processing problems associated with Irlen Syndrome. The cornerstone of the Irlen Method is its precision-tinted colored overlays and filters. It uses advanced color spectrometer technology to ensure that our overlays and colored glasses meet strict standards of color balancing designed to produce the most effective color-correction tool.
This technology can improve reading fluency, comfort, comprehension, attention, and concentration while reducing light sensitivity. This is not a method of reading instruction. It is a color-based technology that filters out offensive light waves, so the brain can accurately process visual information.
Testimonials from experts
“All of us who have labored to help dyslexics conquer reading disability have groped our way, trying to find techniques to reduce the perceptual handicap seen for more than 80 years in the dyslexic population. Helen Irlen’s color procedure has given us a dramatic solution to this age-old problem. Seeing is believing! This method is an answer to a prayer for the dyslexic population.” Dale Jordan, Ph.D., author of Overcoming Dyslexia in Children, Adolescents, and Adults and Attention Deficit Disorder
“As the Learning Strategy Coordinator at Stanford University, I have been interested and involved for over 30 years with a number of methodologies for enhancing the student’s process of learning. Since my initial training as an Irlen Screener, I have used the Irlen questions and have identified dozens and dozens of students who have gone on to use the Irlen lenses. One example is a second year medical student in the Medical Program at Stanford University who was a slow reader and always got headaches while reading. With her Irlen overlay, her reading speed immediately increased from 145 words per minute to 190 words per minute with comprehension.” Sue Willows-Raznikov, Learning Strategies Coordinator, Department of Teaching and Learning at the School of Medicine, Stanford University, California
“The Irlen Method has been an amazingly simple and effective way to diagnose and provide support for students who struggle with reading. We have found that students who can be helped in no other way have success with using this method. I would consider this an essential component to a successful program providing a comprehensive program of reading support and instruction.” Dr. Robert J. Van Maren, Superintendent, USD 204, Kansas
“Irlen Syndrome is a most significant piece in the jigsaw puzzle of dyslexia, and the Irlen solution can resolve several apparently intractable problems for dyslexia sufferers.” Felicity Craig, author of Conquering Dyslexia
“The relative simplicity of wearing Irlen Filters or using plastic sheets to correct color sensitivities that interfere with reading and the dramatic effects Irlen Filters have had on some individuals have made this a popular choice of treatment.”
Lorraine Hammond, author of When Bright Kids Fail
“When I first learned about Irlen Syndrome, I was skeptical. I never heard about it in my psychiatry training program. Yet, over time I had friends and family members who benefited from the treatment. Remarkably, when people obtain benefit from the treatment, it helps to balance brain function. One of the factors that drew me to Irlen Syndrome and the Irlen treatment is its simplicity and effectiveness.” Daniel Amen, M.D., Amen Clinics, Newport Beach, CA
“During a 15-month period, I evaluated 460 patients, including both adults and children. Using questions that would uncover problems related to light sensitivity and reading difficulties, I found 122 patients. Many were treated with (Irlen) tinted lenses and were enthusiastic about their improvement. For these patients, Irlen Syndrome is an authentic diagnosis.
Robert Dobrin, M.D., F.A.A.P.
“…our feeling as disinterested outsiders is that the technique developed by Helen Irlen addresses a severe, unmet need in the community, has promise, and has benefited many individuals…” David M. Hailey & Anthony R. Lea, Health Technology Division, Australian Institute of Health
“Should reading educators support an approach that works for some children without knowing why it does? At the risk of sounding scientifically premature, we think they should … The use of (Irlen) colored overlays and filters may provide the fighting chance many at-risk readers deserve.” William Henk, EdD., Associate Professor of Education and Reading, Pennsylvania State University, Robert J Rickelman, Millersville University
“It is the single most important advance in the treatment of reading difficulties I’ve ever seen.”
John Bald, Literacy Expert, Consultant-National Curriculum Council, writer-The Mail
“My research studies have identified Irlen Syndrome as a primary reason that students avoid reading and struggle with reading and learning. With the appropriate colored transparencies, college students gained nearly four grade levels in reading and middle school students gained from one year to five years in reading. Irlen Syndrome is the principal and most widespread “invisible” barrier to reading and learning for upwards of forty percent of student populations.” Dr. France Morrow, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Washington State University
“We have been convinced of the value of Irlen Filters. All special education referrals must have a Irlen screening as part of the referral process. Secondly, we have placed over 800 colored overlays in our schools to be used by students. We have evidence of children in three months going from non-reader to grade level reader and no longer a behavior problem, children going from a C/D student to an A/B student on one report period, and attendance has gone from chronic absences with stomachaches to regular attendance; and a dyslexic 12 year old who could not read the most simple of reading material, in spite of four years in a special education resource room, being able to read a book at the 4th grade level immediately upon placing on the colored filters.” Wes Nedrow, Special Education Director of Lower Kuskokwim School, District, Alaska
“As a Director overseeing exceptional student education for the Dade County Public School system in Miami, Florida, I am extremely skeptical of any new or unique techniques. Since piloting the Irlen Approach to Reading, the percentage of students that have been helped to increase their perceptual reading ability is genuinely impressive, and I endorse promoting the technique to a larger number of students.” Susan Renick-Blount, Director, Exceptional Student Education – Region II, Dade County Public School System, Florida
“I have watched a generation of adults and youngsters weep with joy as the Irlen procedure has stopped moving print and cleared smudged lines to let strugglers perceive printed information clearly for the first time.” Dr. Laurence D. Martel, author of The 7 Secrets of Learning Revealed
“Many children experience visual distortions which grossly affect their functioning. What is quite remarkable is how a non-invasive intervention (Irlen Method) can remove distortions in an instant for many people.”
Lisa Blakemore-Brown, author of The Autistic Tapestry
“Autistic individuals who have benefited from the Irlen Method report seeing better, feeling more relaxed, less sensitive to bright lights, having fewer perceptual distortions, and better small and gross motor coordination.” Olga Bogdashina, author of Sensory Perceptual Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome
“I have repeatedly seen dramatic, instantaneous response to using Irlen Filters and other transparent overlays; I am now convinced that Irlen Syndrome does exist and that it may be responsible for many of the so-called learning disabilities in our schools. I also believe that screening for Irlen Syndrome should be a regular part of every school health program.”
LouAnne Johnson, author of the best-selling book The Queen of Education, Rules for Making Schools Work, which inspired the movie Dangerous Minds
“This work has added a much needed therapeutic dimension to the treatment of dyslexics or learning disabled while high-lighting the underlying perceptual vs. linguistic origins. (Irlen) Colored lenses may significantly compensate for visual overloading and the destabilizing effects that result. They facilitate fixation and tracking by adding color to sharpen foreground/background relationships.” Harold N. Levinson, M.D., author of Smart but Feeling Dumb
“I feel that physicians should have open minds and consider all avenues to creating successful students. The Irlen Filters may not be the answer for everyone; but for those who have reading difficulties of a specific perceptual nature, they do help. They give students a tool to use for better education.” Robert Stuart, M.D., Long Beach, California
“Individuals come to us for help with a variety of learning difficulties. Most show difficulty in decoding/spelling or comprehension, but diagnosing the underlying cause of that difficulty requires sifting through many specific symptoms. We find it helpful to be aware of the particular symptoms Helen Irlen has identified for Irlen Syndrome, since that particular “layer” of difficulty is relatively easy to screen for and to resolve. And resolving any difficulty with visually handling a page of print can make it easier to develop other processes such as phonemic awareness or concept imagery.” Phyllis Lindamood, Director, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, California