Using Color Screens to Treat Poor Reading and Autism

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April 11, 2011

Using Color Screens to Treat Poor Reading and Autism

Debra Prince (Medford, OR), certified Irlen screener, "The Irlen method - reading by the colors."

Debra Prince is a certified "Irlen Syndrome Screener." Irlen Syndrome (also called Scoptic Sensitivity Syndrome and Meares-Irlen Syndrome), is a perceptual disorder that can result in slow reading and poor academic performance. The syndrome, sometimes be associated with slight autism, was identified by Helen Irlen, a reading therapist, in the 1980's.

It is not an optical problem but involves the processing of visual information. It is not usually "outgrown" but tends to worsen as the patient gets older. The screening process is not difficult to learn but requires an ability for intuitive interpretation.

Misperceptions can very greatly and are highly individualized but often involve exaggerated glare from the white paper making the printed black letters vibrate (appear to move), run together or change shapes so the person cannot read the line by simply scanning it. Treatment is not medical or surgical and frequently involves the use of tinted glasses or a tinted acetate overlay.

Symptoms of Irlen Syndrome (Source: Wikipedia):

  • Eye-strain
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches (including migraine)
  • Nausea, including visually related motion sickness
  • Problems with depth perception (catching balls, judging distance, etc.)
  • Restricted field of view and span of recognition
  • Discomfort with busy patterns, particularly stripes ("visual stress" and "pattern glare")
  • Discomfort with extreme conditions of bright/dark contrast (i.e. backlighting)
  • Discomfort or difficulty reading (reading involves busy patterns, particularly stripes. People with strong symptoms of the syndrome find it difficult to read black text on white paper, particularly when the paper is slightly shiny.)
  • Text that appears to move (rise, fall, swirl, shake, etc.)
  • Losing text content and only seeing rivers of white through the text
  • Words moving together becoming one unrecognizable word
  • Attention and concentration difficulties
  • Seeing the part and losing the whole
  • Epileptic seizure related to strobing or pattern glare