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Light
 sensitive, depth perception difficulties? You may suffer from Irlen Syndrome

Mid adult Asian teacher uses flash cards while working with a female student.

Light
 sensitive, depth perception difficulties? You may suffer from Irlen Syndrome

Light
 sensitive, depth perception difficulties? You may suffer from Irlen Syndrome

Nerida Crowe, Regional Director of the Irlen Dyslexia Centre, explains Irlen Syndrome, which can often present itself in simple and unassuming ways.

Irlen Syndrome, also known as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS), is a genetic condition that affects visual perception. Influenced by light sensitivity, Irlen Syndrome impacts 
the way a person sees and processes the written word and their
 environment. It affects about 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 (ADHD). 

One of the challenges with Irlen Syndrome is that it can only be identified by completing a visual processing assessment
 called the Irlen Reading Perceptual Scale (IRPS).

“Children five years and under can be too young to complete the
 IRPS assessment as they have limited vocabulary and experience around
 explaining what perceptual difficulties they experience,” says Crowe.

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, some will 
find fluorescent lighting more problematic than others, and some will be extremely 
sensitive to sunlight but not necessarily fluorescent
lighting.

Headaches, migraines, eye strain, fatigue and chronic
fatigue are all possible symptoms while there can also be emotional challenges such as anxiety and low self-esteem.

“Sufferers can be easily frustrated,” says Crowe. “In the educational setting
they can have behaviour issues, difficulties with concentration… they may
 distract others, become the class clown and may avoid work.” Some people will have difficulties with depth perception and
 judging distance, and may be clumsy. They may veer into people when walking 
beside them, trip on stairs, have difficulty catching balls, have trouble judging the distance of
traffic when driving and may hit the kerb or leave a lot of room between the car
 and the kerb when parking.

The condition is managed with Irlen lenses, worn as glasses. The lenses eliminate, or 
significantly reduce, a person’s visual perception difficulties, and allow the
brain and the eyes to relax. Some people require the lenses for reading only while others
 may need them for reading and computer work. 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. sidc.net.au

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