Colored Overlays — Rose-Colored Glasses of the Reading World?

By Angela Bunyi on April 23, 2012
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

"Less than two percent?" That was my response when my supervisor, Dr. Brooks, quoted the statistics that show how many students benefit from using colored overlays while reading. Considering that she holds a reading disabilities doctorate from Vanderbilt University, I trusted her completely. Then, like clockwork, students started to magically bring in the overlays — on their own. “Where did you get this?” I’d ask. “Oh, Mom got it for me at the parent/teacher store. I need it. Bad,” they’d respond. I knew it was time to do a little research and put my question to rest. Do colored overlays really help struggling readers, or is this an attempt to look at the world through rose-colored glasses? Read on to see what I found out.

 

Irlen Syndrome: Where That Two Percent Number Comes Into Play

A quick Internet search led me to find the stats that show that overlays are geared for children with Irlen syndrome. How many of your students have been identified with this? Probably not any, I am guessing. If you are not familiar with Irlen syndrome, I'll give you a brief summary. It is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. In terms of reading, for children with Irlen syndrome, print looks different. This means that they read more slowly and less efficiently and have poor comprehension. Symptoms may also include poor depth perception, eye strain, fatigue, headaches, and low self-esteem. Attention to lighting is also important for these students. Fluorescent and bright lights are not their friends. You can read more about this syndrome on the Irlen Method Web site.

 

Putting Overlays to the Test

Much of the population I work with has some of the symptoms described on the Irlen Method site. With nearly 70 students under my care, I could only think of two students that truly seemed to benefit from colored overlays. One was diagnosed with complex visual problems, and the other student is in the middle of testing for dyslexia and potential visual eye tracking issues, among other things. 

But the tipping point came when an ENTIRE grade level of students came in with colored overlays. I carefully shared the news that maybe they didn’t need the overlays. The crowd response of, “Oh yes, we do,” came quickly and strongly. Then one boy dared — I mean, asked — me to put the overlays to the test. He reminded me that I have to complete weekly progress monitoring and could compare past results to current ones, in which the overlays were used. Genius!

 

Results?

Meh. It was pretty much a wash. If I had the task of identifying which students benefited from the overlays, I’d be hard pressed to do it. Looking at my most struggling readers, I found results looked the same as before. A few even went down.

Of course, remember the student that asked me to put the overlays to the test? Here are his results:

Placebo effect?

 

The Research: To Use or Not to Use?

Try completing a quick Internet search on your own, and you’ll notice the messages tend to go as follows:

  • They work! And you can buy them from us.
  • They don’t work. If they do, it's the placebo effect.

It was incredibly hard finding a site that said they worked that didn’t have a monetary benefit at stake. I decided to stick with the controlled studies, and found that one study was referenced frequently: "Irlen Colored Overlays Do Not Alleviate Reading Difficulties" by Ritchie et al, published in Pediatrics vol. 128, no. 4, October 2011. The best, most objective evidence currently indicates that any benefit to struggling readers from Irlen lenses/filters is due to the placebo effect.

Of course, this study has drawn criticism for poor design and for being limited in scope. Regardless, looking at the findings, the Irlen Institute estimates that almost half of people with dyslexia have scotopic sensitivity syndrome, a syndrome for which there is no credible published evidence.

Have we all been duped? The research is still out on that one.

For now, I suggest you don’t pass them out like candy and expect miracles from your struggling readers. On the other hand, I can assure you that my two students have completely benefited from the overlays (after carefully selecting a color that works for them). Cautiously proceed, my teaching friends. Cautiously proceed.

Comments

I think you've missed an important point. While overlays may not improve reading achievement per se, they may well alleviate reading discomfort. The visual stress of looking at a bright white black lined page should not be overlooked as a factor in child and adult willingness to read. I suffer from a perceptual disturbance - not a visual disturbance whereby I experience some discomfort focusing in bright light - there's nothing wrong with my vision and nothing wrong with my visual field. I am not dyslexic and have no problems with academic achievement. Nevertheless, using tinted glasses helps reduce the discomfort which in turn reduces my stress and allows me to focus on the content of what I'm working on rather than the aversive perceptual aspects. Coloured overlays cost hardly a thing - I was tested at the Royal College of Optometrists in the late 90s and given tinted specs and overlays - it wasn't expensive and was very experimental back then too. I never used the overlays but I used the glasses a lot. I also learned to replace white backgrounds on my computer screen with pink. In my opinion, where there is no clinical disorder of vision, this is about visual perceptual comfort versus discomfort and it shouldn't be overlooked.

Overlays man not be the answer for everyone however if they help even just one person then they are a success. My son has had difficulty reading since he started school. He has also had eye surgery because of muscle problems and lazy eyes. His eyes had to learn to work together which is a work still in progress. He also suffers with dyslexia. My son when I started the overlays this year "5th grade" was reading at a 1st grade reading level. Now, I am not claiming they cured his reading problems but they greatly improved his reading skills. My son will always struggle with reading issues but I can tell you that he is of the group that totally benefit from using reading overlays.
Maybe a lot of the studies showed no imrovement because they did not find the color scheme that works best for each person. That is the true key to success with the overlays. I am currently looking for a way to get my son eye glasses with tinted lenses. He also needs the words magnified.

I have been teaching for over 20 years Preschool children-Adults. I have Visual Stress and so does my daughter. Our sensitivity varies greatly, however we both benefit from using the overlays and colored tinted lenses.

Visual stress is the correct medical term. If you do a google search with the terms: Dr Bruce J. W. Evans and Arnold Wilkins, you'll find a wealth of scientific FACTS- NOT OPINIONS with numerous PUBLISHED scientific studies done under the authority of The Medical Research Council,a British Governmental Agency, which holds the rights to the Intuitive Overlays,Intuitive Colorimeter and Precision Tints.

These lenses and overlays have made a world of difference in our lives. My daughter cannot read without them. Otherwise she suffers from severe headaches and mental fatigue as well as experiences great difficulty reading and writing, both on paper and the computer.

I urge you to look into it. There is too much evidence to ignore and even if you help one person you will have a positive impact on his or her life forever!

Not exactly. The intuitive colorimeter had an MRC license as an investigational not as a therapeutic device.
The scientific studies by Arnold Wilkins and Bruce Evans have not convinced most independent bodies, their 1994 randomised controlled trial, which was hampered by a high drop out rate, showed no improvement in reading using the Neale rate of reading test(1). The most recent RCTs by an independent groups again fail to show any benefit from colour in terms of reading (2)(3)

1. Wilkins AJ, Evans BJ, Brown JA, Busby AE, Wingfield AE, Jeanes RJ, et al. Double-masked placebo-controlled trial of precision spectral filters in children who use coloured overlays. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt J Br Coll Ophthalmic Opt Optom. 1994 Oct;14(4):365–70.
2. Henderson LM, Tsogka N, Snowling MJ. Questioning the benefits that coloured overlays can have for reading in students with and without dyslexia: Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, •• ••-••. J Res Spec Educ Needs. 2013 Jan;13(1):57–65.
3. Ritchie SJ, Della Sala S, McIntosh RD. Irlen colored overlays do not alleviate reading difficulties. Pediatrics. 2011 Oct;128(4):e932–938.

.

I found overlays (I used browser extensions) at 30 years old. My reading rate nearly doubled at once. After years of using them I have been able to continue this progress without them. I have recomended with others that have claimed it helped them as well. What harm in there for anyone to try them. Angela, Angela Bunyi, you need to SHUT UP!

This is a terrific post. It is great that someone is questioning the evidence for this treatment and is doing some research of their own. What is needed are high quality randomized trials with appropriate educational endpoints. It seems that your thinking is way ahead of some of the proponents of this type of treatment.
The evidence has been reviewed by a number of independent bodies with no financial interest and they all reach the same conclusion. That this treatment lack scientific foundation.
In the UK, Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
In USA, The American Academy of Ophthalmologists, Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Council for Disability and the Board of Certified Orthoptists, produced a joint report.
In the UK a systematic review by the Health Technology Assessment Board combined all the randomized controlled trial and found no convincing evidence of any treatment affect and commented on the poor quality of the trials.
As you say the most recent and rigorous trial found no beneficial effect on reading.
Although it may be true, that even if it is placebo effect, it does not matter as long as it works. However, the same effect could be achieved at a much lower cost than a £500 (UK prices) assessment and prescription from an Irlen or Wilkins practitioner. Furthermore, placebo effects are usually short-lived but the effects of good teaching last a lifetime.
The answer to reading difficulties lies with great teachers not bogus medical diagnoses.

Who cares if it is a placebo or if it improves work or grades? If it makes reading more comfortable for the pupil it will make it easier for them to concentrate and make them more willing to complete their work. Also you have no idea of the impact that the strain of trying to read off white paper on the health of those who are Irlen positive. I was hospitalised for suspected brain tumor my head aches were so severe. With my 'placebo' Irlen overlays all that pain went away. The overlays dont hurt anyone, dont cost very much and can have a HUGE impact. Why the aggressively anti-article?

Professor Bruce Evans and Professor Arnold Wilkins both UK vision scientists designed an experiment to dismiss Irlen lenses as being of benefit to children with reading disabilities. At the end of their experiment (1995) they had proved a positive effect. 5% of the population have severe scotopic sensitivity (Meares Irlen syndrome) and another 15% were helped by filter lenses. There were positive effects for some migraine sufferers and the autistic. The modern apparatus for diagnosing which filter is required is the Wilkins Colorimeter and this is extensively practiced by optometrists in the UK and is taught in their Optometric University degrees. The British Government is considering subsiding the filter lenses due to the dramatic difference they can make to children who are failing within the education system. Matthew Auckland New Zealand Optometrist

Actually their trial published in 1994 showed no improvement in reading using the Neale rate of reading test. Although some subjects experienced greater subjective comfort this part of the trial was severely hampered by follow up of just over 50% of subjects so we do not know what happened to the rest.
Governmental bodies such as the West Midlands Health Technology Assessment Board and various Health Authorities have reviewed the evidence and found it lacking and have not recommended funding and do not accept that coloured lenses and filters can make a dramatic difference.

I agree with some of the other comments - it's not really fair to judge Irlen when the students were handed out overlays, and do not appear to have been properly screened for the correct color - and YES, if there is a reading difficulty present, it must still be remediated once the color is chosen. The difference is - it now CAN be SUCCESSFULLY remediated so that it is not an ongoing struggle. I don't sell overlays for monetary gain - I buy them and sell them (often at a loss) to the students I screen. The screening fee barely covers the time I put in. Please go out and visit some screeners, diagnosticians, and successfully and properly screened students before you make this judgement.

A Functional Neuroimaging Case Study of Meares-Irlen Syndrome/Visual Stress (MISViS).
(PMID:22124535)

Chouinard BD,
Zhou CI,
Hrybouski S,
Kim ES,
Cummine J

Brain Topography [2012, 25(3):293-307]
The aim of this study is to evaluate the data from a participant in a reading study who had a diagnosis of Meares-Irlen syndrome/visual stress (MISViS). MISViS is characterised by visual distortions and somatic issues, which are remediated using coloured filters. The authors present a case study providing descriptive neurobiological comparisons of MISViS versus a control group. The study involved eleven English language speakers who participated in behavioural and neuroimaging versions of a language experiment with varied proportions of regular and exception words. Behavioural measures included accuracy and response times. Neuroimaging was conducted using a 1.5T Siemens Sonata MRI. The MISViS participant's data were removed from the overall experiment and analysed as a case study. Impulse response functions (IRFs) and percentage of active voxels were extracted from four regions of interest: BAs 17, 18, 19, and the postcentral gyrus (PG) and two control regions (BA6 and left BA45). The results indicated that significant differences existed between the control group and the MISViS participant for IRF intensity in two regions (BA6 and PG) and percentage of active voxels in four regions (BA17, BA19, PG, and BA6). No significant differences occurred in left BA45 for either variable of interest. No significant differences were found for behavioural measures. In conclusion, our findings offer one of the first neurobiological descriptions of differences in IRF intensity and percentage of active voxels in visual and somatosensory cortex during a language experiment for a participant with MISViS in the absence of migraine compared to controls. « Less
The aim of this study is to evaluate the data from a participant in a reading study who had... More »

Irlen colored overlays do not alleviate reading difficulties.
(PMID:21930551)

Ritchie SJ,
Della Sala S,
McIntosh RD

Pediatrics [2011, 128(4):e932-8]
OBJECTIVES: To test the efficacy of Irlen colored overlays for alleviating reading difficulties ostensibly caused by Irlen syndrome, a proposed perceptual disorder with controversial diagnostic status.

PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS: Sixty-one schoolchildren (aged 7-12 years) with reading difficulties were assessed by an Irlen diagnostician. We used a within-subject study design to examine differences in reading rate across 3 conditions: using an overlay of a prescribed color; using an overlay of a nonprescribed color; and using no overlay. In a subset of 44 children, all of whom had a diagnosis of Irlen syndrome, we also used a between-group design to test the effects of Irlen colored overlays on a global reading measure.

RESULTS: The Irlen diagnostician diagnosed Irlen syndrome in 77% of our poor readers. We found no evidence for any immediate benefit of Irlen colored overlays as measured by the reading-rate test or the global reading measure.

CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that Irlen colored overlays do not have any demonstrable immediate effect on reading in children with reading difficulties. « Less
OBJECTIVES: To test the efficacy of Irlen colored overlays for alleviating reading difficulties... More »

The role of attributional bias and visual stress on the improvement of reading speed using colored filters.
(PMID:21853766)

Vidal-López J

Perceptual and Motor Skills [2011, 112(3):770-82]
This study tested the predictions derived from two explanatory theoretical models of the effects of colored filters on reading speed: the theory of attributional bias and the theory of visual stress associated with reading. The experimental group consisted of 27 secondary school students (14 boys, 13 girls) diagnosed with the Meares-Irlen syndrome; the control group had 27 students paired in age and sex with the experimental group. The mean age of the sample was 12 years, 10 months (SD = 8.9 mo.). The effects of colored filters on reading speed and accuracy were tested using a word reading test and a visual stress induction text. The presentation method tapped individuals' visual sensitivity and response criteria. The results support some predictions of the theory of attributional bias, but more research is needed to assess each theory of reading speed. « Less
This study tested the predictions derived from two explanatory theoretical models of the effects... More »

Screening for dyslexia, dyspraxia and Meares-Irlen syndrome in higher education.
(PMID:19089876)

Nichols SA,
McLeod JS,
Holder RL,
McLeod HS

Dyslexia (Chichester, England) [2009, 15(1):42-60]
This study reports a comparison of screening tests for dyslexia, dyspraxia and Meares-Irlen (M-I) syndrome in a Higher Education setting, the University of Worcester. Using a sample of 74 volunteer students, we compared the current tutor-delivered battery of 15 subtests with a computerized test, the Lucid Adult Dyslexia Screening test (LADS), and both of these with data on assessment outcomes. The sensitivity of this tutor battery was higher than LADS in predicting dyslexia, dyspraxia or M-I syndrome (91% compared with 66%) and its specificity was lower (79% compared with 90%). Stepwise logistic regression on these tests was used to identify a better performing subset of tests, when combined with a change in practice for M-I syndrome screening. This syndrome itself proved to be a powerful discriminator for dyslexia and/or dyspraxia, and we therefore recommend it as the first stage in a two-stage screening process. The specificity and sensitivity of the new battery, the second part of which comprises LADS plus four of the original tutor delivered subtests, provided the best overall performance: 94% sensitivity and 92% specificity. We anticipate that the new two-part screening process would not take longer to complete. « Less
This study reports a comparison of screening tests for dyslexia, dyspraxia and Meares-Irlen... More »

Dyslexia: a review of two theories.
(PMID:18430036)

Nandakumar K,
Leat SJ

Clinical & Experimental Optometry : Journal of the Australian Optometrical Association [2008, 91(4):333-40]
Optometrists will frequently see patients, who may have a diagnosis or a suspected diagnosis of dyslexia (specific reading disorder) and will need to manage and counsel such patients. There are many propounded theories on the cause(s) of dyslexia. Although most professionals in this area consider that dyslexia is chiefly a linguistic disorder, the possibility of a visual component is contentious. This article is a selective review of two commonly discussed theories that suggest a visual component in dyslexia; the magnocellular deficit theory and Meares-Irlen syndrome. « Less
Optometrists will frequently see patients, who may have a diagnosis or a suspected diagnosis... More »

The Pattern Glare Test: a review and determination of normative values.
(PMID:18565084)

Evans BJ,
Stevenson SJ

Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics : the Journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) [2008, 28(4):295-309]
Pattern glare is characterised by symptoms of visual perceptual distortions and visual stress on viewing striped patterns. People with migraine or Meares-Irlen syndrome (visual stress) are especially prone to pattern glare. The literature on pattern glare is reviewed, and the goal of this study was to develop clinical norms for the Wilkins and Evans Pattern Glare Test. This comprises three test plates of square wave patterns of spatial frequency 0.5, 3 and 12 cycles per degree (cpd). Patients are shown the 0.5 cpd grating and the number of distortions that are reported in response to a list of questions is recorded. This is repeated for the other patterns. People who are prone to pattern glare experience visual perceptual distortions on viewing the 3 cpd grating, and pattern glare can be quantified as either the sum of distortions reported with the 3 cpd pattern or as the difference between the number of distortions with the 3 and 12 cpd gratings, the '3-12 cpd difference'. In study 1, 100 patients consulting an optometrist performed the Pattern Glare Test and the 95th percentile of responses was calculated as the limit of the normal range. The normal range for the number of distortions was found to be <4 on the 3 cpd grating and <2 for the 3-12 cpd difference. Pattern glare was similar in both genders but decreased with age. In study 2, 30 additional participants were given the test in the reverse of the usual testing order and were compared with a sub-group from study 1, matched for age and gender. Participants experienced more distortions with the 12 cpd grating if it was presented after the 3 cpd grating. However, the order did not influence the two key measures of pattern glare. In study 3, 30 further participants who reported a medical diagnosis of migraine were compared with a sub-group of the participants in study 1 who did not report migraine or frequent headaches, matched for age and gender. The migraine group reported more symptoms on viewing all gratings, particularly the 3 cpd grating. The only variable to be significantly different between the groups was the 3-12 cpd difference. In conclusion, people have an abnormal degree of pattern glare if they have a Pattern Glare Test score of >3 on the 3 cpd grating or a score of >1 on the 3-12 cpd difference. The literature suggests that these people are likely to have visual stress in everyday life and may therefore benefit from interventions designed to alleviate visual stress, such as precision tinted lenses. « Less
Pattern glare is characterised by symptoms of visual perceptual distortions and visual stress... More »

Meares-Irlen syndrome - a need for increasing awareness in the general public.
(PMID:18426430)

Kapoor S

Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics : the Journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) [2008, 28(3):291; author reply 291-2]

Visual processing characteristics of children with Meares-Irlen syndrome.
(PMID:18201334)

Kruk R,
Sumbler K,
Willows D

Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics : the Journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) [2008, 28(1):35-46]
The potential role of visual processing deficits in reading difficulty was brought to public attention by claims that a large proportion of children with dyslexia suffer from a perceptual dysfunction currently referred to as Meares-Irlen syndrome (MISViS). A previous study showing that visual perceptual measures involving visual memory and discrimination predict independent variance in reading achievement [J. Learn. Disabil. 28 (1995) 216] provides a basis to examine their relationships with the diagnostic criteria of MISViS. This study examined these visual processing characteristics in 36 eight- to ten-year-old children, half of whom were experiencing reading difficulty. Children were assessed for MISViS by Irlen screeners; approximately half of the participants in each group were positively identified. Concurrent performance on standardized visual processing tests showed that while a positive diagnosis of MISViS is not indicative of reading ability, nor in particular of a visual-processing deficit subtype identified by Watson and Willows [J. Learn. Disabil. 28 (1995) 216], MISViS can indicate visual processing difficulties potentially related to visual attention inefficiency. « Less
The potential role of visual processing deficits in reading difficulty was brought to public... More »

Are orthoptic exercises an effective treatment for convergence and fusion deficiencies?
(PMID:17162439)

Aziz S,
Cleary M,
Stewart HK,
Weir CR

Strabismus [2006, 14(4):183-9]
PURPOSE: To investigate whether orthoptic exercises are an effective way to influence the near point of convergence, fusion range and asthenopic symptoms.

METHODS: Seventy-eight patients met the inclusion criteria of visual acuity 6/9 or better, no history of orthoptic treatment, squint surgery or Meares Irlen syndrome/dyslexia. Information was collected from case records related to diagnosis, near point of convergence, fusion range, prism and cover test measurements and symptoms. Type, duration and frequency of exercises were also recorded. Non-parametric statistics were applied.

RESULTS: Patients ranged in age from 5 to 73 years (mean 11.9). Females outnumbered males (46:32). The diagnoses were: decompensating heterophoria (n = 50) or convergence insufficiency (n = 28: primary 27; secondary 1). Exophoria was more common (n = 65), than esophoria (n = 11) or orthophoria (n = 1). Treatments were aimed at improving near point of convergence and/or reduced fusional reserves. The mean treatment period was 8.2 months. Reduced near point of convergence normalized following treatment in 47/55 cases, and mean near point of convergence improved from 16.6 to 8.4 cm (p = 0.0001). Fusional reserves normalized in 29/50. Fusional convergence improved significantly for those with exodeviation (p > 0.0006). Asthenopic symptoms improved in 65 patients. A reduction in deviation of 5 pd or more occurred in 20 patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Orthoptic exercises are an effective means of reducing symptoms in patients with convergence insufficiency and decompensating exophoria, and appear to target the proximal and fusional components of convergence. Their role in esophoria is unclear and needs further study. « Less
PURPOSE: To investigate whether orthoptic exercises are an effective way to influence the near... More »

Colour processing in autism spectrum disorders.
(Thesis:428989) Free resource

Ludlow AK
University of London [2006]
The research described in this thesis investigated colour processing in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Although idiosyncratic responses to colour have been widely reported in autism (William, 1999; White & White, 1991), and therapeutic interventions involving colour are frequently used with individuals with this disorder (Howlin, 1996; Irlen, 1991), few controlled colour processing investigations have been carried out. The experiments reported in the thesis have two main points of focus. Firstly, the therapeutic effects of colour overlays on different aspects of cognition were tested, and secondly, studies into colour discrimination, memory, naming and categorisation were carried out in order to evaluate the role of language and perceptual processing in colour processing. In experiments one and two it was established that significantly more children with autism than age and intelligence matched controls improved their reading speed when using a colour overlay. In experiments three and four, these effects were further investigated using visual change detection and reading comprehension tasks with and without colour overlays. Again, a significant improvement in performance was noted in the autism group when using colour overlays. The results from experiments four to eleven, testing colour discrimination, memory and naming failed to confirm atypical colour processing in autism, although the findings did suggest that cognitively unimpaired children with autism showed sharper category boundaries than those with autism and cognitive impairment and typically developing controls. Finally data from a case study of a boy with Asperger Syndrome who showed highly idiosyncratic colour responses were presented. The findings from the studies are discussed within the context of current theories of visual cognition in autism and theories of colour perception. « Less
The research described in this thesis investigated colour processing in children and adolescents... More »

The need for optometric investigation in suspected Meares-Irlen syndrome or visual stress.
(PMID:15953122)

Evans BJ

Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics : the Journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) [2005, 25(4):363-70]
Meares-Irlen syndrome is characterised by symptoms of eye strain, headaches and visual perceptual distortions when viewing text. The symptoms are alleviated with individually prescribed coloured filters, such as precision tinted lenses. Meares-Irlen syndrome, and the related condition of visual stress, are likely to result from hyperexcitability of the visual cortex, which can also occur in migraine. The symptoms of Meares-Irlen syndrome and visual stress are non-specific and the condition needs to be differentially diagnosed from other optometric conditions, such as refractive error, binocular vision anomalies, and accommodative anomalies. Three case reports are described of patients who consulted the author with suspected Meares-Irlen syndrome but were found to have other causes for their symptoms: posterior sub-capsular cataract, high uncorrected astigmatism, and decompensated convergence weakness exophoria. These cases highlight the need for professional eye care for people with suspected Meares-Irlen syndrome. Although this advice is stressed in literature on the well-established MRC/Wilkins Intuitive Colorimeter system, it is not always stressed in literature about other systems. This may be a cause for concern. « Less
Meares-Irlen syndrome is characterised by symptoms of eye strain, headaches and visual perceptual... More »

Plasma cholesterol levels and Irlen syndrome: preliminary study of 10- to 17-yr.-old students.
(PMID:14738334)

Sparkes DL,
Robinson GL,
Dunstan H,
Roberts TK

Perceptual and Motor Skills [2003, 97(3 Pt 1):743-52]
The preliminary study investigated metabolic anomalies in children and teenagers with Irlen Syndrome, particularly in relation to the levels of n-3 and n-6 essential fatty acids, plasma cholesterol levels, and the relative abundance of plasma saturated fatty acids. The experimental group involved 13 subjects with Irlen Syndrome (M=13.3 yr., SD=2.5 yr.), with a comparison group of 16 age- and sex-matched controls (M=13.8 yr., SD=2.4 yr.). The Irlen Syndrome group were selected from people referred for help with reading and writing problems. The control group were primarily recruited from the general public. All subjects were screened for symptoms of the syndrome using the Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome Screening Manual. Samples of whole blood were collected and plasma extracted. Metabolites were compared using the Student t test. There were no differences in n-3 and n-6 essential fatty acids between Irlen Syndrome and control groups, although the former group had lower mean levels in most of these essential fatty acids. Total plasma cholesterol level was significantly decreased for the Irlen Syndrome group, and there was a significant increase in the relative abundance of the odd-chain fatty acid, heptadecanoic acid. The differences in heptadecanoic acid may have implications for altered membrane function and neurotransmission. The differences in plasma cholesterol levels, as well as heptadecanoic acid, may also point to the presence of viral or bacterial infection. « Less
The preliminary study investigated metabolic anomalies in children and teenagers with Irlen... More »

The Irlen syndrome--are there pathophysiologic correlates and scientific evidence for "reading with colors"?
(PMID:14694847)

Döhnert M,
Englert ED

Zeitschrift fur Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie [2003, 31(4):305-9]

Psychophysical and ocular motor aspects of visual processing in dyslexics with Meares Irlen Syndrome.
(Thesis:404683) Free resource

Northway N
Glasgow Caledonian University [2003]

The effect of coloured filters on the rate of reading in an adult student population.
(PMID:12477018)

Evans BJ,
Joseph F

Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics : the Journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) [2002, 22(6):535-45]
Meares-Irlen Syndrome is characterised by visual stress (visual discomfort) and visual perceptual distortions that can be alleviated by individually prescribed coloured filters. The benefit from coloured filters can be demonstrated with the Wilkins Rate of Reading Test (WRRT). Previous research using individually prescribed coloured overlays (sheets of plastic placed on a page) found that between one-fifth and one-third of unselected school-children show a significant (> 5%) improvement in their rate of reading with their chosen overlay. This 5% cut-off has good sensitivity and specificity for predicting those children who will continue to voluntarily use their overlay for a sustained period. Previous research has concentrated on children, and we sought to investigate the immediate effect of overlays on rate of reading in an adult population. Subjects were 113 unselected university students who answered a symptom questionnaire and were tested with the Wilkins Intuitive Overlays and WRRT. Some symptoms were common: 73% reported sore or tired eyes when reading and 40% reported four to 12 headaches a year. One hundred of the subjects chose an overlay as improving their immediate perception of text. These subjects were significantly more likely to report perceptual distortions and visual discomfort on viewing text than subjects who did not choose an overlay. The 100 subjects read 3.8% faster with the overlay than without any overlay (p < 0.00001), whereas the 13 subjects who did not choose an overlay read 1.7% slower with a placebo overlay than without (p = 0.37). Of the subjects who chose an overlay, 38% read more than 5% faster with the overlay and 2% read more than 25% faster. These results are comparable with those obtained for children. We conclude that Meares-Irlen Syndrome is likely to be as common in adults as it is in children. « Less
Meares-Irlen Syndrome is characterised by visual stress (visual discomfort) and visual perceptual... More »

A biochemical analysis of people with chronic fatigue who have Irlen Syndrome: speculation concerning immune system dysfunction.
(PMID:11769907)

Robinson GL,
McGregor NR,
Roberts TK,
Dunstan RH,
Butt H

Perceptual and Motor Skills [2001, 93(2):486-504]
This study investigated the biological basis of visual processing disabilities in adults with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The study involved 61 adults with symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome who were screened for visual processing problems (Irlen Syndrome) and divided into two groups according to the severity of symptoms of Irlen Syndrome. Significant variations were identified in blood lipids and urine amino and organic acids of the two groups, which may be indicative of activation of the immune system due to some infective agent. It was suggested that metabolic profiling may help the development of more valid diagnostic categories and allow more investigation of immune system dysfunction as a possible causal factor in a range of learning and behaviour disorders. « Less
This study investigated the biological basis of visual processing disabilities in adults with... More »

Spatiotemporal visual function in tinted lens wearers.
(PMID:11222554)

Simmers AJ,
Bex PJ,
Smith FK,
Wilkins AJ

Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science [2001, 42(3):879-84]
PURPOSE: Tinted lenses have been widely publicized as a successful new treatment for reading disorders and visual stress in children. The present study was designed to investigate a variety of visual deficits reported by children who experience high levels of visual stress and perceptual distortions when reading (Meares-Irlen syndrome; MIS) and to assess the improvements in visual comfort they report when tinted lenses are worn.

METHODS: Twenty children (13.1 +/- 0.9 years of age) were recruited who had successfully worn tinted lenses for at least 6 months and were compared with an age-matched control group (12.6 +/- 2.2 years of age) of 21 children who were not lens wearers. A range of psychophysical tasks was adapted to identify specific anomalous visual perceptions. Spatiotemporal contrast sensitivity and contrast increment thresholds were used to investigate subjective reports of dazzle and hypercontrast, and a minimum motion perception (D(min)) and a motion-coherence task were used to assess subjective reports of visual instability and motion.

RESULTS: In all viewing conditions (with versus without lens), no selective functional visual loss was demonstrated with any of the tasks used. Psychometric functions also revealed no significant difference between subject groups (control versus MIS).

CONCLUSIONS: Under thorough psychophysical investigation, these results revealed no significant difference in visual function between subject group, and this finding is consistent with the absence of any effect of the tinted lenses in the group with MIS. « Less
PURPOSE: Tinted lenses have been widely publicized as a successful new treatment for reading... More »

The familial incidence of symptoms of scotopic sensitivity/Irlen syndrome: comparison of referred and mass-screened groups.
(PMID:11153837)

Robinson GL,
Foreman PJ,
Dear KB

Perceptual and Motor Skills [2000, 91(3 Pt 1):707-24]
The familial incidence of Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome was investigated in two samples. One sample involved parents and siblings of 126 children identified with symptoms who had been referred for screening. The other sample involved parents and siblings of 33 children who had been identified with symptoms through mass screening of all children in Grades 3 to 6 at two local schools. Two different samples were taken to investigate the possibility of parental referral bias. Familial incidence may be inflated in a referred sample because some parents may be aware of their own symptoms and actively seek assistance. For the sample of children referred for screening, there was an 81% chance of either one or both parents showing similar symptoms and a 76% chance of siblings being similarly affected. For the sample of children identified through school screening, there was an 85%, chance of either one or both parents showing similar symptoms and a 54% chance of siblings being similarly affected. The data confirm previous estimates of incidence and suggest that Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome may be a genetically-based deficit in visual processing. « Less
The familial incidence of Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome was investigated in two samples... More »

A review of the management of 323 consecutive patients seen in a specific learning difficulties clinic.
(PMID:10768028)

Evans BJ,
Patel R,
Wilkins AJ,
Lightstone A,
Eperjesi F,
Speedwell L,
Duffy J

Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics : the Journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) [1999, 19(6):454-66]
Visual correlates of specific learning difficulties (SpLD) include: binocular instability, low amplitude of accommodation, and Meares-Irlen Syndrome. Meares-Irlen Syndrome describes asthenopia and perceptual distortions which are alleviated by using individually prescribed coloured filters. Data from 323 consecutive patients seen over a 15 month period in an optometric clinic specialising in SpLD are reviewed. Visual symptoms and headaches were common. 48% of patients were given a conventional optometric intervention (spectacles, orthoptic exercises) and 50% were issued with coloured filters, usually for a trial period. 40% of those who were given orthoptic exercises were later issued with coloured overlays. 32% of those who were issued with coloured overlays were ultimately prescribed Precision Tinted lenses. Approximately half the sample were telephoned more than a year after the last clinical appointment. More than 70% of those who were prescribed Precision Tints were still wearing them daily, and results for this intervention compared favourably with data for non-tinted spectacles. The data suggest that many people with SpLD need optometric care and that the optometrist needs to be skilled in orthoptic techniques and cognisant of recent research on coloured filters. « Less
Visual correlates of specific learning difficulties (SpLD) include: binocular instability,... More »

Scotopic sensitivity/Irlen syndrome and the use of coloured filters: a long-term placebo controlled and masked study of reading achievement and perception of ability.
(PMID:10544403)

Robinson GL,
Foreman PJ

Perceptual and Motor Skills [1999, 89(1):83-113]
This study investigated the effects of using coloured filters on reading speed, accuracy, and comprehension as well as on perception of academic ability. A double-masked, placebo-controlled crossover design was used, with subjects being assessed over a period of 20 mo. There were three treatment groups (Placebo filters, Blue filters, and Optimal filters) involving 113 subjects with "reading difficulties", ranging in age from 9.2 yr. to 13.1 yr. and with an average discrepancy between chronological age and reading age of 1.8 yr. The 35 controls (who did not use coloured filters) ranged in age from 9.4 yr. to 12.9 yr., with an average discrepancy between chronological age and reading age of 2.1 yr. The treatment groups increased at a significantly greater rate than the control group in reading accuracy and reading comprehension but not for speed of reading. For self-reported perception of academic ability, two of the three treatment groups showed significantly greater increases than the control group. The larger improvements for treatment groups in reading comprehension may be related to a reduction in print and background distortions allowing attention to be directed to the processing of continuous text rather than to the identification of individual words. A reduction in print distortion, however, may not be sufficient to generate improved word-identification skills without additional remedial support, and this may be indicated by the nonsignificant increase in rate of reading. « Less
This study investigated the effects of using coloured filters on reading speed, accuracy, and... More »

Scotopic sensitivity/Irlen syndrome and the use of coloured filters: a long-term placebo-controlled study of reading strategies using analysis of miscue.
(PMID:10214632)

Robinson GL,
Foreman PJ

Perceptual and Motor Skills [1999, 88(1):35-52]
This study investigated the long-term effects of using coloured filters on the frequency and type of errors in oral reading. A double-masked, placebo-controlled crossover experimental design was used, with subjects being assessed over a period of 20 months. There were three experimental groups (Placebo tints, Blue tints, and Diagnosed tints) involving 113 subjects with reading difficulties, ranging in age from 9.2 yr. to 13.1 yr. The 35 controls (ranging in age from 9.4 yr. to 12.9 yr.) had reading difficulties but did not require coloured filters. There was a significant improvement for all groups in the accuracy of miscues over the period, although experimental groups over-all did not improve at a significantly different rate than the control group. The failure to find significantly greater improvement for the experimental groups over the control group for the total period, despite subjects' reports of improved print clarity, may be partly related to the lack of effective letter-sound analysis and synthesis skills and to the use of a word-identification strategy of guessing based on partial visual analysis. « Less
This study investigated the long-term effects of using coloured filters on the frequency and... More »

Visual perceptual difficulties and reading behaviour : Irlen syndrome and eye colour.
(Thesis:266995) Free resource

Gray J
University of Bristol [1998]
The familial incidence of symptoms of Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen syndrome.
(PMID:8961341)

Robinson GL,
Foreman PJ,
Dear KB

Perceptual and Motor Skills [1996, 83(3 Pt 1):1043-55]
The familial incidence of Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome was investigated using parents of 751 children identified with symptoms. Children were identified by methods independent of their parents' symptoms or lack of symptoms. For these children, there was an 84% chance of either one or both parents showing similar symptoms, with similar numbers of mothers identified with symptoms as fathers. The data suggest that Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome may be a genetically based deficit in visual processing, but the simplest genetic models do not appear to fit. « Less
The familial incidence of Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome was investigated using parents... More »

A preliminary investigation into the aetiology of Meares-Irlen syndrome.
(PMID:8796197)

Evans BJ,
Wilkins AJ,
Brown J,
Busby A,
Wingfield A,
Jeanes R,
Bald J

Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics : the Journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) [1996, 16(4):286-96]
A recent double-masked placebo-controlled trial has confirmed that some children experience a reduction in symptoms of eyestrain and headache when they read through individually prescribed coloured filters and has shown that this benefit cannot be solely attributed to a placebo effect. People who are helped by coloured filters in this way have been described as having "Meares-Irlen syndrome'. We investigated the mechanism of this benefit by studying the optometric and visual perceptual characteristics of the children in the double-masked study. This population had normal refractive errors and heterophorias (none of the subjects had strabismus). They demonstrated slightly, but significantly, reduced amplitudes of accommodation and vergence and poor stereo-acuity. However, these factors seemed to be correlates of Meares-Irlen syndrome rather than the underlying cause. Pattern glare, a sensitivity to striped patterns (e.g. lines of text), was prevalent in our sample and was significantly associated with the subjects' symptoms. The spatial contrast sensitivity function was normal. « Less
A recent double-masked placebo-controlled trial has confirmed that some children experience... More »

Optometric correlates of Meares-Irlen syndrome: a matched group study.
(PMID:8524579)

Evans BJ,
Busby A,
Jeanes R,
Wilkins AJ

Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics : the Journal of the British College of Ophthalmic Opticians (Optometrists) [1995, 15(5):481-7]
People who report visual perceptual distortions, typically when reading, that are alleviated by using coloured filters are described as suffering from 'Meares-Irlen Syndrome'. A recent double-masked placebo-controlled trial showed that this condition cannot be solely explained as a placebo effect and that the beneficial filter is idiosyncratic and sometimes needs to be highly specific. Several mechanisms have been suggested for Meares-Irlen Syndrome including ocular motor (binocular and accommodative) anomalies, a sensitivity to patterned stimuli (pattern glare), and a deficit of the transient visual sub-system. We investigated these hypotheses by comparing 16 children, who reported the symptoms described above and who showed a sustained benefit from coloured filters, with 25 control children who came from the same school and were matched for age, reading performance and intelligence. The 'Meares-Irlen Syndrome' group had slightly, but significantly, reduced vergence and accommodative amplitudes and stereo-acuity; they also demonstrated significantly more pattern glare. The two groups did not differ significantly in their visual acuities, refractive error, dissociated or associated heterophoria, AC/A ratio, or ability to perceive 20 Hz flicker. It appears that certain ocular motor factors are correlates of Meares-Irlen Syndrome, rather than the primary underlying cause of the symptoms. The results support the hypothesis that pattern glare may be involved in the mechanism of Meares-Irlen Syndrome. « Less
People who report visual perceptual distortions, typically when reading, that are alleviated... More »
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Use of filters to treat visual-perception problem creates adherents and sceptics.
(PMID:7882238) Free resource

Coyle B

CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal = Journal de L'Association Medicale Canadienne [1995, 152(5):749-50]
Patients who think they have a visual-perception dysfunction known as scotopic sensitivity-Irlen syndrome have trouble reading and may experience almost-constant headaches. Some find they are helped by coloured filters developed by a California researcher, Helen Irlen, who published a book on the subject called Reading by the Colors. Although Irlen has been criticized for not publishing scientific proof of the validity of her theories, her techniques have found some support, including some within the medical community. « Less
Patients who think they have a visual-perception dysfunction known as scotopic sensitivity-Irlen... More »

Comparison of Irlen scotopic sensitivity syndrome test results to academic and visual performance data.
(PMID:7995893)

Lopez R,
Yolton RL,
Kohl P,
Smith DL,
Saxerud MH

Journal of the American Optometric Association [1994, 65(10):705-14]
Irlen has defined a condition called Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS) that is associated with reading problems. According to Irlen, SSS can be treated by the use of colored filters, but there is disagreement about the existence of SSS and the efficacy of colored filter therapy. METHODS: Thirty-nine children participated in the study: 24 were academically normal, nine had specific reading problems, and six had problems in multiple academic areas. SSS levels and preferred overlay colors were determined. Optometric test data were also available for each subject.

RESULTS: No significant relationships were found between academic classification and degree of SSS. There were also no significant relationships between preferred overlay color and any other variables. There was, however, a significant tendency for subjects with higher SSS levels to be candidates for vision therapy and to derive greater benefit from the colored overlays.

CONCLUSIONS: Many questions about the use of colored filters for the treatment of reading problems remain unanswered. Among these are questions dealing with whether the M-pathway anomalies found in some dyslexics are also present to a lesser degree in other cases of reading disabilities, and how colored filters could re-balance the M- and P-pathways. Is it the color of the filter itself that is critical, or is it the change in luminance or contrast produced by the filter that seems to make it easier for some subjects to read? More research will be needed to answer these questions. « Less
Irlen has defined a condition called Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS) that is associated... More »

Effect of pattern glare and colored overlays on a stimulated-reading task in dyslexics and normal readers.
(PMID:7877805)

Evans BJ,
Cook A,
Richards IL,
Drasdo N

Optometry and Vision Science : Official Publication of the American Academy of Optometry [1994, 71(10):619-28]
Scotopic sensitivity syndrome or the Irlen syndrome describes symptoms of asthenopia anamolous visual performance experienced while reading that are lessened by colored filters. One putative explantation for this condition relates to pattern glare: a hypersensitivity to repetitive patterns, including lines of print on a page. Experiment 1 used a placebo-controlled paradigm to investigate the effect of pattern glare and colored overlays on performance at a simulated reading visual search task. Despite the fact that the subjects were university students, the results showed a tendency, of border-line significance, to support the conclusion that colored filters seem to improve reading through ameliorating pattern glare. In experiment 2 we compared the prevalence of pattern glare in matched groups of dyslexic children and good readers. The dyslexic group reported more pattern glare, but also reported more glare from a control stimulus. Pattern glare in the dyslexic group was directly correlated with flicker sensitivity. The results are related to recent research on visual processing and ocular-motor function in dyslexia. « Less
Scotopic sensitivity syndrome or the Irlen syndrome describes symptoms of asthenopia anamolous... More »

Dark adaptation in disabled readers screened for Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.
(PMID:8177650)

Carroll TA,
Mullaney P,
Eustace P

Perceptual and Motor Skills [1994, 78(1):131-41]
A peripheral retina, photoreceptor, or transient visual-system deficit has been suggested as a basis for dyslexia. We performed dark adaptation using a Goldmann-Weekers adaptometer on 41 dyslexic readers subjected to the Irlen Differential Perceptual Schedule for the Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome and on 23 volunteers of normal reading ability, all aged between 10 and 20 years. 12 of the 41 disabled readers examined had abnormally poor dark adaptation at peripheral retinal locations consistent with a rod processing-system deficit. « Less
A peripheral retina, photoreceptor, or transient visual-system deficit has been suggested as... More »

A model of visual discomfort and its implications for efficient reading performance.
(Thesis:406) Free resource

Conlon E
University of Wollongong [1993]
Visual discomfort has been described as an extreme sensitivity to bright or intermittent light and some forms of repetitive pattern stimuli. This sensitivity can result in physical symptoms of eye-strain and headache and induction of anomalous perceptual features with exposure to pattern (Wilkins et al., 1984). The pattern percept produced by the lines of print on a page of text has been likened to the pattern of anomalous stripes which can induce unpleasant effects in sensitive individuals (Wilkins & Nimmo-Smith, 1987). This sensitivity is increased in observers who report regular headache or those who report eye-strain and headache when reading.Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome was a term coined by Men (1983) to describe a symptom complex which described anomalous physical, perceptual and performance difficulties reported when reading. This symptom complex is characterised by experience of photophobia, eye-strain difficulties, difficulties with depth perception and experience of anomalous perceptual difficulty with exposure to the print on a page of text (Irlen, 1983). As a result of these difficulties severe reading difficulty has been reported.In this work a model of visual discomfort was developed which combined the reports of physical and perceptual difficulties induced from observation of high contrast square-wave repetitive spatial patterns and a page of text (Wilkins et al., 1984; Wilkins & Nimmo-Smith, 1984; 1987) and the performance difficulties reported by Irlen (1983) to occur when reading. A unidimensional model of visual discomfort was developed using a rating scale version of the Rasch model in which person and item parameters were combined on a simple logistic scale. From this model it was predicted that as the number of positive responses to items on the visual discomfort scale increased the probability of experiencing more severe visual discomfort increased. This increasing difficulty would be revealed by a greater number of reports of unpleasant physical side-effects and anomalous perceptual distortion from repetitive spatial patterns. Performance difficulty if present would be reflected in reduced task efficiency.The similarities between this model and Wilkins (1986a) conceptualisation of visual discomfort was tested with investigation of reports of unpleasant physical side-effects and perceptual distortion from observation of square-wave gratings of intermediate spatial frequency and a page of text. It was found that higher scorers on the visual discomfort scale reported significantly more unpleasant physical side-effects and perceptual distortions from all the pattern types presented than low scorers on the scale. Further analysis demonstrated that high headache susceptibility observers also obtained higher scores on the visual discomfort scale, and reported a significantly greater number of unpleasant physical side-effects from observation of the high contrast square-waves than low headache susceptibility observers. Reports of... « Less
Visual discomfort has been described as an extreme sensitivity to bright or intermittent light... More »

Irlen lenses: a critical appraisal.
(PMID:2136527)

Solan HA, Richman J

Journal of the American Optometric Association [1990, 61(10):789-96]
The purpose of this paper is to assess the credibility of the Irlen lenses, Irlen's hypotheses, and the scotopic sensitivity syndrome. The analysis includes a review of 13 pro and con research papers. Of special interest is the dichotomy which developed between researchers who were Irlen participants and the professional and scientific community who required less disputable evidence. Even the former, however, failed to find scientific support for Irlen's concept of dysfunction in the discharge rate of the retinal receptor cells. Furthermore, in the absence of any evidence that it is a separate and distinct entity, it appears that the scotopic sensitivity syndrome is, in fact, a symptom complex which results primarily from various refractive, binocular, and accommodative disorders. Some of the papers which support Irlen's hypotheses provide reason to believe that there is a strong placebo effect. « Less
The purpose of this paper is to assess the credibility of the Irlen lenses, Irlen's hypotheses,... More »

Method and apparatus of treatment of symptoms of the Irlen syndrom
(Patent:US4961640) Free resource

IRLEN HELEN L
Specially tinted lenses will provide substantial benefits to patients with various forms of visual disturbance caused by a recently identified functional disorder called the Irlen Syndrome of scotopic sensitivity, who show over-stimulation of receptor cells in the wavelength band of 425 to 575 nm. Symptomatically, the Irlen Syndrome is characterized by reduced visual resolution, impaired depth perception, impaired peripheral vision, and ocular vertigo. With use of the lenses the patients report improved visual resolution, increased comfort from reduced symptoms of eye strain, increased depth perception and peripheral vision, and reduced symptoms of ocular vertigo. The treatment includes experientially fitting the patient with lenses of an optimal color and transmission density, namely a predetermined attenuation in the 425-575 nm band. It has been determined according to the invention that pink and peach singly or in combination with blue, green, gray, purple, goldenrod, and yellow tints, can be effectively combined to achieve symptomatic relief. The color and density which is optimal for each patient must be determined individually for each patient and optimized as evaluated by pre-testing and post-testing on the Irlen Differential Perception Scale. Tinting and optical density are further optimized in each patient for near vision, far vision, and night vision. « Less
Specially tinted lenses will provide substantial benefits to patients with various forms of... More »

Vision characteristics of individuals identified as Irlen Filter candidates.
(PMID:2394899)

Scheiman M, Blaskey P,
Ciner EB,
Gallaway M,
Parisi M,
Pollack K,
Selznick R

Journal of the American Optometric Association [1990, 61(8):600-5]
Individuals with "scotopic sensitivity syndrome" have been reported to have visual symptoms including eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, double vision and words moving on the page. This study was designed to investigate Irlen's claims that these symptoms are unrelated to vision anomalies. She suggests that the use of Irlen tinted lenses/filters relieves these symptoms and results in improved reading performance. Thirty nine subjects (age 10-49) were recruited by advertising for a study of Irlen Filters/Lenses. Before the Irlen screening all subjects received an optometric examination. The results of this study demonstrate that 95 percent of the subjects identified as candidates for Irlen Filters did have significant and readily identifiable vision anomalies. Fifty seven percent of the subjects had received vision care within the past year, yet testing revealed that 90 percent of these subjects had significant vision problems that had not been corrected. « Less
Individuals with "scotopic sensitivity syndrome" have been reported to have visual symptoms... More »

A review of the use of Irlen (tinted) lenses.
(PMID:2261178)

Cotton MM,
Evans KM

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Ophthalmology [1990, 18(3):307-12]
Helen Irlen identified a syndrome defined as 'scotopic sensitivity' which it was claimed could be responsible for the inability of some people to read fluently and the symptoms of which could be ameliorated by the wearing of prescribed coloured lenses. The literature to date presents a confused and inconsistent picture concerning the use of the lenses. The literature (much of which is unpublished and difficult to obtain) is critically reviewed. Recent experimental evaluations of the lenses do not support the use of the lenses as a useful intervention for children with reading disabilities. « Less
Helen Irlen identified a syndrome defined as 'scotopic sensitivity' which it was claimed could... More »

Reading with colours ... Irlen lenses and the treatment of scotopic sensitivity syndrome.
(PMID:2804724)

Davies M, Caritas [1989, 55(71):3-4]

Recently I tested a 12 year old girl for Irlen's syndrome. She reported big improvements in blurriness, movement, spacing, comfort and more, and went away with overlays.

Her Dad went online and found some negative comments like Angela's. He's now saying it is all smoke and mirrors. Meantime the girl constantly uses the overlays, resulting in faster reading and fewer errors.

She's pleading to be allowed to get Irlen lenses, despite the fact that she won't use her optometrist-prescribed lenses (I'm not sure whether it is because she gets a hard time about wearing glasses, or if she doesn't think they make enough difference).

What 12 year old ever WANTS glasses? Only one who is convinced that the result is worth it.

The teacher is so right - do not pass them out like candy! Irlen falls into disrepute when people attempt to fix the symptoms like this.

You don't ask your mate for help with a medical problem - you ask the doctor and he/she systematically looks at the symptoms, tests and then prescribes. The doctor will treat the problem much better than an amateur. Same with Irlen - get a trained Irlen assessor/diagnostician to assess the kids and the results will be different.

Also, why ignore 699 pieces of positive research and make sweeping statements based on one negtive one - just becasue it is much-quoted does not make it good research.

I am proud to be a representative of the Irlen Method in Wichita, KS. I have spent 19 years doing screenings and evaluations for filters in eyeglasses and contacts. I have made money from this practice, but not enough to keep my office open or to retire. On the other hand, the instant gratification I get when listening to a youngster read on grade level with overlays or to hear what they thought was normal before getting the correct lenses is worth any effort on my part. Some people cannot be helped in this way, and I'm proud that the screening lets me know, so that I can recommend other avenues for seriously frustrated parents and students.
When I hear that there are no more migraines, that a child is removed from a "behavior disordered" setting because he or she can control and function in a regular classroom when wearing Irlen filters, I am thrilled. When I hear that teachers send home for some child's glasses because they are not doing well without them (many of these glasses with no prescription other than the color), I celebrate. When I see someone with an essential tremor hold his lenses up with no difficulty during testing, I know that person's life will be different.

I would like to know more about the essential tremor part of your screening with color. My husband has this tremor and can only read so long without seeing double. All six of our daughter have the tremor and 2 of them have dyslexia. Please I would really like this information. I am always doing research on the internet concerning ongoing medical proplem existing in our family. Either let me know how to contact you or I will give you info to contaact me. Diane

I can tell you that my son, who is both gifted (math/science) and has a learning disability (in writing)could read if the print was a big enough font and not dense. As the fonts got smaller, he had more trouble. He couldn't copy off the white board, couldn't follow on overhead projectors and took 2 1/2 hours to read 8 pages of an AR (Accelerated Reader) 5.1 level book at the end of 5th grade. He had migraines, red eyes and would ONLY read outside during a specific time - he liked the light at that time. He was screened the next month. During the screening, I was looking on and when a yellow overlay was tried - I had an INSTANT migraine that lasted for 6 hours. With my son's colored overlay (thankfully NOT the yellow for my sake), he read the ENTIRE next book in the series (still a 5.1 AR level) in only 3 hours - about 100 pages, over 10 times faster. He still couldn't copy off the white board or see clearly overhead projected items until he got the glasses. By the way - when he first complained of not being able to read the board in 2nd grade - we started getting his eyes checked - he has 20/10 - BETTER than 20/20. How much of his writing disability developed because he couldn't read???

I now have the Irlen tinted glasses and I quit having migraines - except when I need the tints changed. Since I have a pair of tinted glasses with no prescription (for use with contacts), others have tried them - it's amazing when they sigh, relax their faces and shoulders, and tell me white is amazingly white. For others, it's not the right tint and they see a color. The cost puts off most of them. I have talked with special education teachers and most of them try colored overlays, never knowing why one color worked over another.

If my son hadn't gotten the Irlen glasses, what do you think the odds would be of him being in college - working towards an ENGINEERING degree??? His brother - who has the same gifted/LD and same test scores, but was almost out of High School when his brother started with the overlay (and refuses to even consider wearing the glasses) refuses to attend college, even though he has CREATED after market car parts and SELLS them. He would benefit from at lease some engineering classes, but hates school because he struggled for 12 years.

I have used Irlen lenses for twenty years. If I wear them I can read for as long as I like with no problems. If I dont I end up suffering chronic migraines and can only work for 1-2 hours a day. This is no placebo. Irlen lenses and Irlen overlays dont cure dyslexia but they 100% cure Irlen syndrome.

I'd like to start by saying that I do not make any money from the increased sales of colored overlays and I don't' care who you potentially buy them from... I have been a teacher for 20 years and I have a hard time getting many of my co-teachers to believe in the benefit of trying covered overlays with their struggling readers. (But, I'd like to thank my co-teacher, Sam, for posting this article on my FB page).

Why do I believe in them? I did not read for pleasure until I was 19 years old -- I was the kid who had a book open, but wasn't really reading; I was the one who took as long as possible looking through the book shelf so that I didn't have to read; I was the one who went to the nurse during reading because I had a headache (sometimes I did); I was the one who struggled with spelling even though I studied a lot; I was one who was given reading glasses that didn't help any; I was the one who missed discovering the love of reading.

For those of you who have decided that 2% of students isn't a big enough percentage to bother and try covered overlays, I'm disappointed that you would be willing to leave students like me behind. I totally agree that there is some degree of novelty and the placebo effect with many students -- more of my students use them for a few days/weeks/months rather than use them long term. When that is the case, they turn their covered overlays back in and it doesn't cost the district a dime. However, a few of my student have kept them for years (I cut them in half -- the total cost is $5). I have had parents thank me for introducing them to their child -- I've even had a parent who went out and bought them for himself.

Once I got my covered overlay in 1990 (which, at the time, was a 1/8" piece of polarized, hard plastic), I was amazed to see the page like the rest of you see it; I was able to retrain my eyes to read correctly (without regressions and rereading lines); I stopped getting headaches from reading; I learned to dim the computer screen so that I didn't get eye fatigue and headaches; and, most importantly, I started reading for pleasure -- all the time!

Isn't that what it's all about? Once we get our kids reading for pleasure, we've won the battle -- we've made them life-long readers and learners, regardless of what their test scores are.

So, please... don't be turned off that covered overlays will ONLY help 2% of your students -- be thrilled that you have the opportunity to make a difference their lives!

Peter Mesh
Wynantskill, NY

Eye Care Tips For New Contact Lens Wearers

So you've bid farewell to the days of smudged lenses, crooked frames and slippery nose grips? Congratulations! Today's contact lenses are more comfortable and versatile than ever before. Wearing contacts can be an extremely liberating experience. These convenient lenses have allowed many people to cast aside their old eyeglasses and enter a world they haven't visited since childhood.

Now that you are free of the many restrictions you must endure when wearing glasses, there are a few things should know about wearing contacts. The following tips will help you make the most of your contact lenses.

Take Care of Your Vision

There are a variety of components involved in eye care. Regular eye checks are essential. During eye checks, an optometrist or ophthalmologist will administer a standard vision test. The patient will have to read several lines of progressively smaller letters and by doing so demonstrate a range of vision. The condition of the eye must also be examined. If any physical condition or symptom is detected, the eye care professional can then take appropriate actions.

In many cases, corrective lenses are an important part of vision care. Glasses or contacts can usually correct any vision problems the patient is having. Most vision care insurance plans will include regular replacement of contacts or glasses or both, approximately every two years.

Another option that can be extremely effective in correcting Vision without Glasses vision issues is LASIK surgery. LASIK can sometimes eliminate the need for corrective lenses altogether, however, not everyone is a candidate for the surgery. Consult a trained professional to determine whether LASIK is right for you.

Dry Eyes

There is no specific contact type or brand intended for dry eyes, but there are contacts that work better for those who tend to have drier eyes. Most of the traditional soft contacts are "wet" containing up to 75 percent water in some cases. The wet contacts evaporate throughout the day. Since soft contacts are moisture absorbing, they draw water from the eye to replace the moisture that has evaporated. This leads to dry eyes.

Look for soft contacts that contain less water. Some soft contacts are now being made from a hydrogel material that contains only about 30 percent water. Hydrogel contacts are the best option on the market for those who struggle with eye dryness.

Cleaning Extends Life of Contacts

When properly cleaned and stored, many soft contacts can last up to an entire year. The job of contact lens cleaners is to remove protein buildup. The most common way to clean and store your contacts is with one solution, referred to as a multi-purpose solution.

The multi-purpose solution allows you to clean, disinfect, rinse and store your contacts using the same liquid. Some hydrogen peroxide-based cleaners are used on a weekly basis in the absence of multi-purpose solution. Proper rinsing is essential when using hydrogen peroxide-based cleaners or irritation and burning of the eye is likely.

Enzymatic cleaners are another option. They usually come in the form of small tablets that are dissolved in distilled water. The contacts are soaked in the resulting solution overnight and then rinsed well before insertion. Protein buildup makes contacts cloudy, much less comfortable and ultimately makes them ineffective much sooner than they should be.

Eye Fatigue

When you wear your contacts for extended periods of time without a break, your eyes will inevitably become fatigued. The amount of oxygen and moisture your eyes normally receive is lessened when you wear contacts.

In 2nd grade my daughter was struggling with her reading. She kept telling me she couldn't keep her lines. I told her to use her finger, a ruler, a line guide anything but she said it didn't work because the lines never stayed still. When I asked her what the lines looked like she said they looked like waves in the ocean or fish swimming in a river. When I told her teacher about this she instantly knew where to send me. She had had a student previously with Irlen Syndrome and thought my daughter should be tested. She even brought in a colored overlay the next day for my daughter to use. The overlay didn't help much and I was skeptical about paying the money for the Irlen screening just to find out it wasn't going to help but my daughter was crying and frustrated with her homework every day. She had migraine headaches every day (we later found out this was caused by the fluorescent lighting)and she would get nausea whenever she tried to read for more than 10 or 15 minutes. So off to Irlen we went. My daughter was diagnosed with Irlen and then had to start the process to find the right color overlay and filter for her. This is key for Irlen sufferers. The wrong color overlay or filter will not help a person with Irlen BUT the right color overlay or filter will CHANGE THEIR WORLD. It was amazing to watch the change in my daughter once she got her Irlen glasses. No more headaches or nausea, her DRA (reading level) jumped 10 points because her lines and words were not longer moving on the page. She went from a 16 to a 26 in a matter of a few weeks. As her world became calmer and more "still" her confidence in doing new things grew and she started to blossom. It may be a true statistic that only 2% are going to benefit from the colored overlays but if your child is one of those 2% you can't ignore the life changing affect it will have on them. I urge all parents to do whatever they have to do to help their child succeed. If that means spending a few dollars on an overlay then so be it. If you are concerned your child actually does have Irlen Syndrome, have them tested. The right color overlay is crucial.

I am considering to send my son for further diagnosis for the Irlen syndrome . We did try on the overlay but is only work for white paper with black ink , And it also depend on the lighting . I am not sure how much can the glasses help .

It's hard to even know where to start. For over 20 years, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have benefited from Irlen filter or lenses - there are volumes of letters and stories that people wrote on their own volition. Why would this be a placebo affect? Why would people believe they could read better if they could not? What benefit would that be for anyone?

No Irlen filter will not help everyone, nor will overlays nor will any new product on the market. The filters or overlays help only a percentage of people with this visual perceptual disorder as well as people with light sensitivity, headaches and symptoms from autism and dyslexia. They do not cure people, they help people. If a child struggles with the skills involved in reading or has dyslexia, he or she will still not read well because of these lenses - they are not magic - BUT they will simply make the words and letters clearer. Prescription glasses will also not make a non-reader a reader if he or she does not know how to sound out the words. Was any of this taken into account in this study? No. As someone else pointed asked: Where these children tested for the colors in the spectrum that would best suit them? I do not think so.

In a world where major drug companies are touting ADHA and numerous other trends of the day with cures, it's hard to claim that people making and marketing overlays are wrong for doing so because they make a living from it. Your doctor and dentist makes a living as well as does Angela for writing the article and the work she does. Even the non-profits of the world have a staff whom they pay, so the concern that people are making money in the this area is not valid in the scope of the world we are living in and the entire health care industry.

When Dr. Amen, noted in the field of brain scans and brain research and author of several best selling books stands behind Irlen filters it makes me question whether his testing or Angela Bunyi's single test has greater validity. With all due respect Angela, I'm going to go with Dr. Amen.

the comment about looking around the internet can be easily addressed by keeping in mind that you can find anything you want on the internet. As a strong proponent of adoption, I found people who are anti-adoption, as someone with statistics of the dangers of guns, I can find numerous people who think owning a gun is a blessing and site facts and statistics to support their argument. You can find any side to any argument on the Internet.

It's just hard to fathom why so many regular people worldwide would simply write about and talk about positive results if they have no reason to do so. Perhaps it's just too simple. People want high tech solutions or the latest pills. Overlays don't fit that level of complexity - they are simply something that helps some people.

It reminds me of someone trying to sell me on an amazing home cooling system. He was very distraught when explained that if my simple little air condition wasn't doing enough I had another solution - I opened a window. Overlays are a simple answer that work very well for some people, not all. Why mus you challenge someone's success? Nobody is saying everyone must buy them.

To the poster at 8:57- The simple preference of a color overlay was something my EA partner and I were talking about. She wondered if our children's digital presence online and through gadgets would have something to do with that. With the frequent glare they encounter, it makes me wonder as well.

To the poster at 8:20- I believe Dr. Irlen's work came out in the 1980's so that makes sense.

To the poster at 7:54 pm- The students that I looked at were in fifth grade, for the most part. Most students were screened using Carbo, including the two students that really seem to need it. Through Carbo testing, specific shades of a color are even recommended, but I'll be honest and say I have never administered a test before.

And I didn't mention this in the post, but that teacher that did the testing has over 20+ shades of colors and they are 8.5 x 11 in size (through Carbo). I have a several who just purchased the kind pictured in my post (smaller) through a parent/teacher store.

-Angela

Funny. I was just asking a reading teacher about these today. She didn't know much and I think I will save my money. Thank you!

I have, in 11 years of teaching, had 1 student with Irlen Syndrome. He and his mother both wore tinted glasses. I had not heard of this syndrome prior to having him. I do use colored overlays from time to time, though for a different reason. Some students just PREFER not so see the bright white paper. And if I can eliminate one more distraction from their reading, you bet I'm going to! Whether it's a placebo effect or not, if it helps them I'm game!

Twenty years ago, a teacher at my son's Junior High suggested that possibly my son's dyslexia could be helped by these overlays, there was even some testing she did. He used the overlays for a couple of years, they helped, kind of, or at least he thought they did (placebo effect?). They were not a cure for his dyslexia, however. I am a Title One Teacher and I work with many struggling readers and I had not even thought to try the colored film. I don't think I will.

Were the students individually tested for the correct colors or combinations of colors?

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