Resources › For Educators Symptoms and Description of Irlen Syndrome Share Flipboard Email Print Liam Norris/Getty Images For Educators Special Education Inclusion Strategies Applied Behavior Analysis Behavior Management Lesson Plans Math Strategies Reading & Writing Social Skills Individual Education Plans Becoming A Teacher Assessments & Tests Elementary Education Secondary Education Teaching Homeschooling By Sue Watson Education Expert Sue Watson is a developmental support counselor who has worked in public education since 1991, specializing in developmental services, behavioral work, and special education. our editorial process Sue Watson Updated March 18, 2019 Irlen Syndrome was initially called Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. It was first identified by an Educational Psychologist named Helen Irlen in the 1980's. She wrote a book called "Reading by the Colors" (Avery Press, 1991), to support individuals with Irlen Syndrome. The exact cause of Irlen remains unknown. However, it is believed to originate in the retina of the eye or in the visual cortex of the brain. Individuals with Irlen Syndrome seem to see words that are blurry, have patterns or appear to move on the page. As the individual continues to read, the problem seems to worsen. Colored overlays and filters are used to help individuals with Irlen Syndrome because they sometimes appear to reduce the perceptual distortions and visual stress experienced by some children during reading. Research in this area, however, is quite limited. Most people are unaware that they have Irlen Syndrome. Irlen syndrome is often confused with an optical problem; however, it is a problem with processing, the inability or weakness in processing visual information. It often runs in families and typically goes misdiagnosed as a learning disability or dyslexia. Symptoms of Irlen Syndrome Trouble reading wordsHeadache while readingWeaker academic performanceWeak concentrationComplaints of eye strain while readingTires while readingDepth perception is much weakerWill also affect math performanceOften exhibits sensitivity to lights (especially fluorescent types)Trouble focusingWeak/poor comprehensionDifficulty tracking words on a line and will often skip wordsReads in a strained word by word fashion and with great hesitancyAvoids readingWeaker written workTrouble copyingRandom spacingRandom letter sizesWriting up or downhillInconsistent spelling The reason for all of these symptoms is largely due to the fact that print looks different to individuals with Irlen's Syndrome. How Can You Help? Dimmer lightsNatural lighting appears to helpIrlen lenses (colored lenses, colored overlays)Colored paper for reading materials and worksheetsAdditional time for reading assignmentsIf lights can't be dimmed, individuals should be allowed to wear a visor.Shorten time spent on readingProvide more frequent breaksAllow the child to use a ruler to ease the tracking of words while reading. It is important to note that Irlen syndrome and visual treatments are unproven and not recognized by the major academic Pediatric Organizations in the US(AAP, AOA, and AAO.). To learn more about Irlen's, you can take a self-test.