Irlen Syndrome

Irlen syndrome is not an optical impairment. It affects the brain’s ability to process visual information and in most cases it’s hereditary. This causes physical symptoms like headache, fatigue, depth perception and inability to stay focused.

What is Irlen Syndrome?

Irlen syndrome is not an optical impairment. It affects the brain’s ability to process visual information and in most cases it’s hereditary. This causes physical symptoms like headache, fatigue, depth perception and inability to stay focused.

Irlen syndrome is a spectrum disorder just like autism. This means that a person with Irlen syndrome can fall within a continuum of severe to mild.

What causes Irlen Syndrome?

Irlen syndrome is often hereditary and is caused by a defect in visual pathways. This triggers a lack of synchronicity when processing visual information from the eye to the brain.

Whilst there’s a correlation between Irlen syndrome running in families, it’s not always genetic. There’s often a correlation between those with a learning or reading difficulty and also having Irlen syndrome. Around a third of individuals with autism or a concentration problem may have Irlen syndrome.

What are the signs of Irlen Syndrome?

 

Irlen syndrome makes it difficult for the brain to process visual information, as a result, individuals may see some of the following signs:

  • Text and environments look different
  • Slow reading
  • Slower comprehension
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty with maths, copying text and reading music
  • Poor depth perception
  • Light sensitivity
  • Attention and concentration problems
As with all neurological disorders, Irlen syndrome can manifest itself differently for each individual. However, the main sign is an altered visual perception which impacts reading ability and focus.

Common Irlen Syndrome strengths

Good oral memory

Growing up with Irlen syndrome means that a person’s sight isn’t always reliable. Their best option is to use other senses, like hearing. Years of practice make them good listeners and very good at memorisation.

Imaginative / creative

They’re very imaginative and creative. Even though they can’t read quickly, they listen to their surroundings. They process this information differently and tend to think outside the box.

Storytellers

They’re great at telling stories and keeping people’s interest for an extended period of time. Writing as a way of expressing themselves is challenging, which is why they have overdeveloped their verbal expression.

Problem solvers

Growing up was difficult so they’re very good at approaching a problem from a different angle. Their brains learn differently and therefore are great at finding creative and practical solutions to a problem.

Examples of good jobs for people with Irlen Syndrome

  • Counsellor
  • Job Coach
  • Talent management
  • Care assistant
  • Hospitality
  • Call Centers
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Retail

How is Irlen Syndrome treated?

Irlen syndrome can be treated through the use of tinted glasses or contact lenses. Coloured overlaps for books and screens for technology can also be used. This method works by filtering out specific light wavelengths to correct the defect in visual pathways.

Individuals with Irlen syndrome will need to attend testing to determine the severity of the syndrome and if colour technology can eliminate the defect. The correct colour overlay for the individual will then be decided.

Once the prescribed tinted glasses or contact lenses have arrived, individuals with Irlen syndrome often see a reduction in light sensitivity, headaches and fatigue. Reading, depth perception, concentration, driving and computer use can all also see an improvement.