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Irlen Syndrome – A personal journey

In 2020 Frances’ youngest child was diagnosed with Irlen syndrome at age 6. After 12 months of struggling to learn to read, one day a chance question revealed that, for her, the words on the page did not stay still. The letters switched, flipped and merged from one word or line to another. After a developmental optometry assessment confirming these experiences (usually assisted by a level of magnification), she attended the Irlen Dyslexia Clinic in Ipswich.

During the screening assessment, coloured transparency after coloured transparency was rejected as making no difference to the visual task she was required to do. However, when the deep blue transparency was laid over the work, she exclaimed “It’s bigger!” and the screener knew we had found a colour that worked. Although the transparency did not magnify the work, for her it appeared bigger, clearer and more stable. Some pastel coloured papers were also recommended for worksheets and writing activities, with a pale blue paper proving the best one for her.

The change in the Frances’ daughter’s ability to read was immediate and astounding. From painfully decoding one sound at a time and saying these out loud to hear and blend the sounds of individual words, she went to sounding words silently and reading whole sentences of decodable readers with reasonable fluency. Up to this point, she had refused to attempt to read the readers as the challenge was too great.

As a result of these experiences, Frances has decided to become an Irlen Screener to help other people in the remote and regional areas near her find out if they can also benefit from this assessment and treatment. Treatment initially uses coloured overlays and paper, but many people go on to have a full diagnostic assessment and wear coloured glasses which can help with more problems than just reading (including attention/concentration, headaches and eye strain).

For more information you can check out the Irlen website or the Irlen syndrome foundation websites (both in USA). The Irlen website has details of testing centres internationally.

If you suspect you or someone you know may have Irlen Syndrome, you may complete a Self Screener to see if you exhibit some of the symptoms.

If you live in the SW Darling Downs area of Queensland, Australia, please contact Frances to enquire about an appointment. If you live in other areas of Australia or overseas, please look up your local diagnostician on the Irlen website.

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