By Sarah Smye-Rumsby BA (Hons) QTS
Dolphin Computer Access Ltd
Do you have students who experience problems with reading that you can't quite put your finger on? Maybe they have dyslexia? Actually, they seem to lose concentration really quickly, so maybe it's attention deficit disorder? Or perhaps they are simply poor readers?
However, there may be more to it than meets the eye; maybe they just don't see the pages of a book in the same way that you do. In this article, Dolphin's Education Consultant Sarah Smye-Rumsby takes a look at Irlen Syndrome, identifying some of the methods which are available to help students affected.
Irlen Syndrome (also known as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome) is named after American therapist Helen Irlen, who wrote a paper in 1980 on the use of coloured overlays aiding the reading abilities of people who experienced difficulties with reading.
Irlen Syndrome is a visual perception disorder, or in other words, affects the way the brain processes what you see. People with Irlen Syndrome often experience difficulties with reading, whether reading a book, a magazine or a document or webpage on a computer screen.
According to Irlen.com, there are many reported symptoms of Irlen Syndrome. Symptoms can include:
For a full list of symptoms, visit Irlen.com.
For those of you who are not familiar with Irlen syndrome, you may be surprised by the amount of people who are thought to be affected by its symptoms. According to irlenuk.com, research has shown that 12-15% of the general population suffers from Irlen Syndrome. Many are not aware that they have a problem because they assume that everyone experiences the same distortions and physical symptoms.
Irlen syndrome is often categorised as a form of dyslexia, as a lot of the symptoms are very similar. Although it is accepted as a homogenous condition, Irlenuk.com continue to suggest that up to 47% of those who are dyslexic, autistic, suffer from learning difficulties or have ADHD, are affected by Irlen syndrome.
Essentially, people with Irlen Syndrome see the printed page very differently, even if they don't realise it. People with Irlen Syndrome may see standard text in a number of different ways, for example:
Some people with Irlen syndrome see blurry text
Others may see rivers appearing between the words
For other, lines of text may overlap each other
Some people experience distortions where the text appears shaky
For other people, text may appear as if it were in a whirlpool
For other people, the text can become washed out
What is clear is that when you see the world through the eyes of a learner with Irlen Syndrome, you can very quickly understand where his or her reading difficulties stem from.
The Irlen method is a system which is intended to improve reading difficulties associated with scotopic sensitivity syndrome by using colour filters.
Schools and organisations often make use of coloured overlays to assist people with Irlen Syndrome with their reading. These overlays can come in very useful for reading from worksheets or textbooks.
Top tip: As an additional practical strategy, you may also want to provide colour overlays for students to use with their student planners.
Computer software to support students with dyslexia, such as Dolphin SaySo, includes colour wash facilities to reduce the contrast of black text on a white background on the computer screen. These colour wash options can be extremely useful in helping individuals to view the computer screen more comfortably.
Top tip: When displaying text on an interactive whiteboard in class, why not put a colour wash over the screen so all your students can read the text? Varying the colour wash to find out what works best for different learners can also be a great way to identify previously hidden reading difficulties.
As well as the practical strategies outlined above, some individuals decide to go down the medical route in order to overcome Irlen syndrome. Irlen centres throughout the UK and worldwide help both individuals and companies to assess the presence of Irlen Syndrome and to prescribe remedies. Irlen diagnosticians are certified to test and determine your customized spectrum filter, which are worn as Irlen glasses. A useful link to a list of Irlen centres is available at IrlenUK.com.
Recently, the BBC aired a documentary following ex-Eastenders actress Kara Tointon. The documentary is called 'Don't call me stupid' and follows Kara as she is prescribed Irlen lenses to assist with reading as part of her battle with dyslexia:
In additional there is a whole host of information about Irlen Syndrome is available on the web. Popular sites include:
Dolphin are giving away FREE Irlen rulers. To order your free set of 10 Irlen rulers, email firstname.lastname@example.org today.