Irlen syndrome is a genetic condition that affects visual perception. Influenced by light sensitivity, it impacts the way a person sees and processes the written word and their environment. It affects 10 to 20 per cent of the population, more than 50 per cent of those with reading difficulties and more than 33 per cent of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. One of the challenges with the syndrome is that it can only be identified by completing an Irlen reading perceptual scale.
“Children five years and under can be too young to complete the IRPS assessment as they have limited vocabulary,” says Nerida Crowe of the Irlen Dyslexia Centre. The syndrome presents in many ways and to various degrees. For example, some people will only experience issues with light sensitivity when looking at black text against a white background, while some will find fluorescent lighting more problematic than others. “Sufferers can be easily frustrated,” says Crowe. “They can have behaviour issues, difficulties with concentration … they may distract others, become the class clown and may avoid work.”
The condition is managed with Irlen lenses, worn as glasses. It eliminates, or significantly reduces, a person’s visual perception difficulties, and allows the brain and the eyes to relax. For those who have difficulty with glare in the environment or experience depth perception difficulties, the lenses will need to be worn as often as possible, day and night.