Irlen Syndrome

September 20, 2010

At one of our recent lessons, an adult learner mentioned that her eyes were bothering her.  I asked if she wanted to try a pair of our non-prescription reading glasses, but she said that they wouldn’t help.  She’d tried glasses in the past, but they didn’t stop the text from moving around on the page in a swirling pattern, which made her feel dizzy and sick.  Then it hit me.  I’d heard about something like this at a recent conference and then read about it online:

“Nearly half of this spring’s GED graduates suffer from Irlen Syndrome, a perceptual disability that makes words dance on the page because of the way the brain interprets black print against a white page. These graduates passed their GED by using simple, colorful plastic sheets—provided by Forsyth Tech— that they placed over the printed page to correct the problem. Forsyth Tech was the first community college in North Carolina to test for Irlen and provide treatment. Of the 2,015 candidates who came through Forsyth Tech’s GED orientation sessions in 2009, 890, or 44 percent, needed color overlays. ”  [Read more on Forsyth Tech’s Web site.]

The Irlen Institute describes some of the symptoms of Irlen Syndrome:  “Some individuals experience physical symptoms and feel tired, sleepy, dizzy, anxious, or irritable. Others experience headaches, mood changes, restlessness or have difficulty staying focused, especially with bright or fluorescent lights.” Specific reading problems include misreading words, problems tracking from line to line, skipping words or lines, hesitating frequently, and/or miscomprehending texts.

I didn’t have any colored overlays handy, but I did have some blue index cards.  When the student placed a card below a line of text, she was able to read it without a problem.  Her symptoms disappeared completely within 10 minutes.

Given the high proportion of Forsyth Tech students who tested positive for Irlen Syndrome, it seems likely that many of our students might suffer from it as well.  It’s worth checking to see if a colored index card or a colored overlay make a difference for your student.  We’ll soon be stocking both in the library at Lakewood.  Please let us know if you find  them useful.

The image of ‘dancing text’ (see above) was found here on wikipedia.


2 Responses to “Irlen Syndrome”

  1. Randy Says:

    There’s more information about Forsyth Tech’s work with Irlen Syndrome in the Fall 2009 issue of their magazine, Tech Quarterly. You can see a pdf of the magazine here:
    The article is on page 17 of the pdf (pages 32-33 of the magazine).

  2. rebecca Says:

    Thanks for the link, Randy. It’s a great article!

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