David faced more frustrations than a young adult should have to cope with. Anxiety. Depression. Irritability. Tics. Academic problems. Yet, he was most upset by his inability to read sheet music.
You see, David had earned a California university music scholarship. He auditioned with a marvelous tenor voice and was assigned to the most advanced choir. But whenever new music was introduced, he cringed in silence. He couldn’t read the music and had to gradually find his way through the piece, eventually memorizing his work. According to David, the printed notes moved around on the page. A music tutor was hired but could provide little help.
It wasn’t just notes that moved. Letters and words on pages also shifted position while he was reading. As a result, David struggled with school work and was rarely able to maintain his attention to complete assignments.
Challenging symptoms had emerged when David was just two. He’d had major tantrums, mood swings, and experienced night terrors. Soon, his preschool teacher noticed attention difficulties. By six years of age, tics had emerged. The school day was now longer, and stress increased. Teachers complained he couldn’t keep his hands off other kids, and the mood problems continued. At times, David made repetitive vocalizations, blinked his eyes, jerked his head and flicked his wrist. He loved to tap with objects in his hand. A neurologist was consulted, and David received a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and Tourette syndrome.
Catapres (clonidine hydrochloride) was prescribed, and it helped reduce symptoms. David continued with this therapy until about ten years ago, when he took himself off the medication. “I just wanted to be normal,” he explained.
Other health concerns include a history of significant allergies and asthma. David is near-sighted and wears prescription glasses. Bright lights often seemed to bother him, and he wore sunglasses whenever he could. He complained of fatigue and irritability. In his early 20’s, serious depression set in. The family sought natural treatment, and nutritional supplements provided some relief.
Then one day last spring, David’s life took a dramatic turn for the better. Searching for answers to his problems, he entered the Irlen Clinic in Long Beach, California where he met with Helen Irlen, MS. Irlen is credited with discovering Scotopic Sensitivity, or Irlen Syndrome. Irlen tested David for light sensitivity. During this process, she placed various colored plastic overlays on top of test material—in this case, sheet music. When one particular overlay was used, he started weeping. He could barely believe what had happened: “The notes stopped dancing!”
For the first time in his life, David read the music.
During that session three colors were found to be calming for David’s vision. Special lenses were developed that included his prescription for distance vision as well as his need for colored lenses. While lenses may be of any color, his appear as a shade of gray.
Not only can David now read music easily, but general reading has improved as well. He recently boasted to his mother that he read a college text book, cover to cover, for the first time. His tics have always been triggered by stress, but with the lenses, his stress and anxiety are much reduced. His fatigue has lifted, and his mood has stabilized. Lights that used to irritate him no longer do.
David faithfully wears his colored lenses throughout the day. He is so grateful for the change the lenses make that he is arranging to have special Irlen goggles made for bike riding and ocean surfing.
Irlen colored lenses are designed for a person’s specific visual sensitivity. The tint may be of any color and shade, as needed.
Special thanks to Helen Irlen, executive director of the Irlen Institute, for collaborating on this article.