As someone who suffers from Irlen syndrome, I know that many children are being misdiagnosed with learning difficulties and dyslexia, when in fact, they are suffering from a condition that affects the way they perceive visual information and light.
In a bid to inform parents about this condition, I have decided to tell my story and explain how a pair of specially tinted Irlen glasses transformed my life, forever.
Many people know me as an Internet journalist, an author and an activist, writing on the subject of vaccination. However, as a child, I struggled not only to read and write, but also with everyday life.
At school, I was identified as having special needs and, as a result, was taught in a small group. However, I knew that I did not have learning difficulties and that I could read and write perfectly well. I did not understand why I was being treated differently than my peers. I knew that the only problem from which I suffered was trying to read words as they appeared to move around the page, which I found extremely difficult.
I became angry with my teachers for treating me as a child with special needs and for labelling me as different, when I knew there was nothing wrong.
Over the years, I noticed that I had other problems besides reading. The colour white blinded me and made me suffer from severe headaches. Daylight and artificial lighting made me feel dizzy and disoriented because they were too bright and hurt my eyes. I would squint, shield my eyes with my hands and blink a lot to protect them from the light.
At home, I preferred soft lighting, dimming the lights and changing the colour of the bulbs to feel calm.
I had difficulties with depth perception and spatial awareness and have always found simple jigsaw puzzles to be impossible. I found patterns on flooring difficult to see and could not identify where there was a step. As a consequence, I fell easily and was identified as being clumsy. I often bumped into things and knocked things over and when I was out, I would walk diagonally instead of in a straight line, often bumping into people.
I suffered from huge panic attacks because everything was too noisy for me and if someone were talking to me, I could not filter out the other noises around me and therefore, I was bombarded with unwanted sound from everywhere.
The best way to describe how Irlen Syndrome feels is having the sensation of living inside a bubble and everything you see and hear outside of the bubble is distorted.
Irlen Syndrome Explained
It was not until I met child psychologist Lisa Blakemore-Brown, who came into my life to assess my two sons for autism, that my problem was identified.
She noticed that I had difficulties and believed that I was suffering from Irlen syndrome. She explained that many children were being falsely diagnosed as suffering from dyslexia, when in fact they were suffering from something entirely different.
She urged me to go and get tested for the condition, telling me that she had seen for herself how specially tinted lenses had transformed children’s lives and pointed me to the website irlen.com. 
Reading through the information on the website, I was shocked to discover, that, like me, many people suffered from similar issues on a daily basis. I found pages and pages full of information; one page was full of endorsements, recommending the work of Helen Irlen, the founder of the Irlen Institute.
One of the endorsements was written by Ms. Blakemore-Brown. She wrote:
“Many children experience visual distortions which grossly affect their functioning. What is quite remarkable is how a non-invasive intervention (Irlen Method) can remove distortions in an instant for many people.”
In fact, many professionals specializing in the field of dyslexia have used the methods recommended by Ms. Irlen with huge success.
One such professional is Dale Jordan, Ph.D., the author of the book Overcoming Dyslexia in Children, Adolescents, and Adults and Attention Deficit Disorder. He wrote:
“All of us who have labored to help dyslexics conquer reading disability have groped our way, trying to find techniques to reduce the perceptual handicap seen for more than 80 years in the dyslexic population. Helen Irlen’s color procedure has given us a dramatic solution to this age-old problem. Seeing is believing! This method is an answer to a prayer for the dyslexic population.”
What is Irlen Syndrome?
Irlen Syndrome is a condition that affects the way that a person processes visual information and light and was first identified by psychologist Helen Irlen in 1983.
According to the short film shown at the end of this article, today, the Irlen spectral filters and the colored overlays are being used in over 47 different countries worldwide and they have been found to help millions of children, as well as adults. This non-invasive technology is the only method that is scientifically proven to correct the processing problems associated with reading, learning and attention difficulties.
The Irlen Institute describes Irlen syndrome as the following:
“Irlen® Syndrome causes eye problems for many people because it alters the way they see things. These eye problems are based on their visual perception. The eyes are not the main source of the problem. The problems are caused by the way in which the brain interprets the visual information that is being sent through the eyes. Having Irlen Syndrome prevents many people from reading effectively and efficiently. Individuals with Irlen Syndrome perceive reading material and/or their environment differently. They must constantly make adaptations or compensate for their eye problems. Individuals are often unaware of the extra energy and effort they are putting into reading and perception.” 
Imagine living in a world in which everything is too loud, where everyday colors in the world around you are so bright and confusing, that you feel completely overwhelmed. This is what it feels like to have Irlen Syndrome.
However, there is an answer. With the use of colored overlays and Irlen glasses, a person’s life can be totally transformed.
Colored Overlays Changing the World of Reading
Firstly, it is advisable for anyone who has been diagnosed with dyslexia, or is having any of the problems that I have identified, to be fully assessed for Irlen Syndrome by a qualified Irlen screener.
An Irlen screener will carry out a series of tests to identify whether or not a person is suffering from the condition. The screener searches for telltale signs of the syndrome. For example, they will examine whether or not the client displays excessive blinking, rubbing of the eyes, reading avoidance or complains that the room is too bright. They will also listen to the client reading to assess how fluently they read.
The screener asks their client how they feel about certain colors and if there is any color that makes them feel uncomfortable in any way. If they are testing a child, they will speak to the parent about whether or not the child has poor attention, finds concentration difficult and whether or not they are clumsy and fall over a lot, more than a typical child.
The screener will then ask the client if they enjoy reading. If the client says no, the screener will then ask them why not and score them on their answers. The client will then be asked to read out loud and to describe what they are seeing when they read. A person suffering from Irlen syndrome will often describe seeing rivers running through the words on the page, the words blurring in and out of focus, moving around the page or falling off the edge of the page as they read.
The screener will then lay a series of colored overlays on a page of writing (age appropriate) and will ask the client if there is any difference in what they are seeing. A person with Irlen syndrome often finds that one of the colored overlays, placed over the page, will help to correct what they are seeing, making the words easier to read.
It is important to note, at this point, that this method is unlikely to make any difference to a truly dyslexic person.
At the end of the first session, the screener will send the client home with the appropriate overlay and arrange another appointment.
The overlays have been so successful that many schools are now adopting these methods and using the overlays at school. This is because the overlays have been found to help a wide range of children with reading difficulties.
Irlen Filters Can Change a Child’s Life Forever
The second session looks at other ways for the screeners to help their clients. The Irlen Institute states:
“The second testing session is only for individuals who show moderate to significant improvement with colored overlays. In this session, we target the precise wave lengths of light causing your problems by using a limitless number of color filter combinations. Your precision color is worn as glasses or contact lenses. The color worn as glasses will not be the same as your plastic overlay color. If your problems are related to math computation, copying, depth perception, light sensitivity, and headaches, colored glasses are your best treatment option because they correct problems with the printed page and also the environment.”
They continue by stating:
“Importantly, wearing the wrong color can actually cause or worsen your problems. The testing to identify your correct colored glasses can only be conducted by Certified Irlen Diagnosticians/Clinics.
Colored lenses provided by optometrists and vision specialists to treat reading problems are NOT the same as the Irlen Method. These professionals do not have the right colors, or diagnostic process for color selection. Inaccurate colour selection can result in headaches, eye strain, and fragmented brain processing resulting in more distortions and reading problems. 
An Irlen diagnostician has a briefcase containing hundreds of different colored lenses which they will test in many different combinations until they discover a color or combination of colors that considerably helps their client.
When the colored lenses are placed in front of the eyes or the transparent colored overlays are placed directly over the page, they normalize the brain's ability to process visual information.
For furtherinformation,please see this short film that is below this blog post.
There are no known causes of Irlen Syndrome; however, many professionals have contributed the syndrome to head injuries, specific medical conditions and, in some cases, adverse reactions to vaccinations.
In her book Reweaving the Autistic Tapestry, Lisa Blakemore-Brown wrote:
"The way in which the unique person tapestry is constructed and unified into the wider social tapestry is still a beguiling mystery. Behaviors and interactions which can weave together into interwoven developmental disorders include autism, ADHD, language spectrum disorders including the dystonias and dyspraxias, Tourettes syndrome, Irlen syndrome and other behavioral presentations as well as some of the shared difficulties experienced by children with specific medical conditions including central nervous system disorders such as hydrocephalus. Clusters of behaviors can interweave together but if they are understood only as purely separate disorders without understanding the threads, the interweave and other factors which also impact, interventions may be of little use." 
I would recommend that anyone who wishes to further explore Irlen Syndrome read the Irlen website or read Ms. Blakemore-Brown’s book.
As a person suffering from the condition, I know just how effective this treatment can be and what a positive difference it can make to a person's life. Since wearing my Irlen glasses, I have gained far more confidence and I feel as if I can see for the first time without pain and discomfort.
When I first tried on my glasses, it was like bathing my eyes in a bath of warm water. The intense glare and pain that I had become accustomed to suddenly disappeared and for the first time I could see what was really there and not what I thought was there. My eyes felt calm, relaxed and rested.
As a result of the Irlen treatment, I have been able to go to university and, for the first time in my life, study for the career that I had always wanted. I have since graduated and qualified to become a journalist, enabling me to have a career that I believed was totally impossible for me to achieve.
I can confidently go into shops as the lights no longer blind me. I can walk up and down stairs without holding on to the railing and I no longer bump into people and knock things over. These may be little things to others, but to me they mean the world.
I have far more confidence in myself. I am no longer shy and do not find talking to people difficult as I once did. Since being diagnosed and receiving treatment, I have spoken at conferences worldwide and been a guest on many radio shows.
I am not saying that things are perfect; they are not. I still have difficulties with the color white, noise, columns of figures and reading for long periods. However, compared to what my life was like before diagnosis and treatment, my life since then has changed completely.
I would urge any parent who believes that their child is having difficulties to have their child tested for the condition. It could change their lives forever, as it did mine.
I would like to thank Lisa Blakemore-Brown for noticing my difficulties and teaching me about Irlen Syndrome, my wonderful diagnostician, Sonia Dimont. for all her patience and kindness over the years and finally, Helen Irlen, for all of her amazing work.
For further info please check the video below this blog post