Irlen Syndrome affects half of slow readers

April 20, 2008 8:31:28 AM PDT
It's a disorder that may affect half of all the children considered "slow readers." But you probably never heard of Irlen Syndrome before.

Priscilla Klaus couldn't understand why her son Drew didn't like to read. "It was like pulling teeth - seriously, that's how I would look at it. He just hated to read."

She even had his eyes tested, but found out nothing was wrong.

At last, through rsding therapist Carla Jay, Klaus learned that Drew has Irlen Syndrome.

Jay says, "It's not eyesight. It's what happens from the eyes as it delivers it to the brain and they actually see too much information when it's a black and white or a high contrast."

For those with Irlen Syndrome, reading can be confusing, even painful.

Drew Klaus remembers, "I just didn't want to do it. I would just say no, I don't want to read anymore, because it would give me way bad headaches."

Some children get headaches, and some become nauseated, unable to make sense of what they see on the page.

Jay says "Many, many children will see rivers, which means the way the word breaks up in the background. It looks like rivers or cracks running down the page."

Irlen Syndrome can also cause pages to be fuzzy.

Children may also see in double vision, or the whole page will spin or move up and down. The kids with this disorder can be misdiagnosed as ADHD, or dyslexic.

Children with Irlen Syndrome don't understand that not everyone sees books the way they do. Jay says, "I'll have parents call backm and they'll say he is so relieved, he's so happy. He thought he was dumb all of these years. He had no idea that the page was moving around for him, and not for everyone else."

She says the treatment is very simple - removing the sharp black & white contrast. "If they do have Irlen Syndrome screening, we get out colored overlays or colored gels and determine which color calms the page down for the child."

Irlen Syndrome was first identified in the 1980s, so many vision and reading specialists may not know about it. Research into it has been limited.

For reading, Drew now wears tinted glasses.