What is Irlen Syndrome?

Irlen Syndrome was discovered by Helen Irlen 35 years ago! Irlen syndrome is common in students with dyslexia and affects reading and environmental stresses related to light. It is an inherited visual perceptual problem (NOT vision) and affects how the brain perceives light waves. Irlen Syndrome can affect reading, writing, copying, depth perception, and night driving, as well as comfort, energy level, productivity, and concentration.

Who is Affected?

Irlen Syndrome can be inherited, acquired through brain injury through high contact sports or concussions. Or it can be misdiagnosed since it has identical symptoms as ADHD and Dyslexia. Irlen can be in addition to those with dyslexia, autism, etc.  Most people never realize they have a problem that can be readily corrected.

What is Perception?

Definition of Perception: “is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information or the environment. It is also shaped by the recipient’s learning, memory, expectation and attention.”

It is NOT uncommon for the brain to translate items differently than they appear. Everyone perceives information differently.

Optical Illusions

“It is NOT the eyes, but rather the brain that causes the illusions.” Helen Irlen.

Optical illusions are created by using high contrasts like black and white. The brain is perceiving the high contrasts and causing the pictures to appear to move, change and to have colours even when they do not.

Irlen is Not

It is crucial that you understand that Irlen Syndrome is:

  • Not a learning disability
  • Not a visual disorder
  • Not a medical issue.

Irlen Syndrome is not diagnosed through regular channels but by a Certified Irlen Screener.

This problem tends to run in families and is currently not identified by standardized educational or medical tests. Unfortunately, most school systems don’t recognize Irlen Syndrome as a possible detriment to learning.  Please share what you have learned today so we can make a positive change in peoples’ lives.


A variety of problems can arise from seeing a distorted page of words, or perceiving the environment in a distorted fashion. Poor perception can affect reading, writing, spelling, math, copying, reading music, working on a computer, sports performance, comfort under fluorescent lights and many other areas of a person’s life.

Reading rate, comfort, flow, fluency, tracking, comprehension, attention, and concentration are all areas where people with Irlen Syndrome experience problems. They often use their finger or a marker when reading. Discomfort can interfere with ease and length-of-time of reading, studying, or doing homework, thus making breaks necessary. All of these symptoms can be solved using the Irlen Method.

Visual Symptoms

“Not everyone sees letters and words in the same manner. Some see letters jumping around, dancing, etc.” Helen Irlen

Symptoms that those with Irlen may experience are visual distortions on a written page and sometimes environmental.  Some have symptoms so severe that the world around them can appear to be continually moving, jiggling and blurry. Words on a white page with black letters can also have similar effects.

Physical Symptoms

Everyone experiences Irlen Symptoms differently. Some of the most common symptoms are becoming easily tired, frequent headaches, stomach aches, anxiousness, dizziness, and restlessness.

Reading Difficulties

The most common reading difficulties are skipping lines, rereading words, poor comprehension, slow and choppy reading, taking breaks and losing the place on their page.

These symptoms are very similar to signs of dyslexia thus easily misdiagnosed.  Seeing a Certified Irlen Screener is the most effective way to know if Irlen is the culprit.


Signs of Irlen

A person can feel strain in one or more of the following areas…

  • Fatigue
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Poor Depth Perception
  • Headaches and Physical Symptoms
  • Attention Deficit
  • Concentration
  • Reading Difficulties
  • Achievement
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Inefficient Reading
  • Slow Reading Rate

The Solution

The Solution

The simple solution is called the Irlen Method.  The Irlen Method is a patented technology which uses coloured overlays and precision tinted filters worn as glasses or contacts. It is the only method proven to correct the processing problems associated with Irlen Syndrome.


Coloured overlays are a temporary solution and unique to each Irlen individual. To find out which coloured overlay is needed to alleviate Irlen symptoms you need to see a trained Certified Irlen Screener.  You cannot choose your colour as you do not know how the page is supposed to look.


Coloured Filters (glasses) is a more permanent solution as it allows you to control the lighting in every environment you experience. Precision-tinted Irlen Spectral Filters filter out the wavelengths of light, which create perceptual difficulties. This is the only method scientifically proven to correct the processing differences associated with Irlen Syndrome.

If your temporary coloured overlay is yellow, it does not necessarily mean that your coloured glasses will be yellow.  The light waves bouncing off in your surrounding environment versus a black and white page is different, making temporary coloured overlay colours and coloured filters not interchangeable.

Another essential thing to understand is that if you see an individual’s coloured filters to be bright pink, it does not mean they are living in a pink world. Individuals with Irlen filters see colours as usual; white is still white, blue is still blue, etc.  It is a fascinating science.  To a person wearing pink glasses, everything around them is “normal” and calmer, and they are no longer living with Irlen symptoms.


Step One:

The Irlen diagnosis is done by Renae Bergen, a Certified Irlen Screener: the first in the Pembina Valley.

Screening is done in-office out of Morden and takes an hour. The report will state the diagnosis and severity of Irlen Syndrome if present, as well as the recommended coloured overlay.

Step Two:

The Screening which takes about 2 hours, is done by Val Rizok, a Certified Irlen Diagnostician. During the initial testing session, an individual is screened to determine whether wearing Irlen Spectral Filters will make a difference and the amount of improvement for reading and other academic activities.


If you answer YES to three or more of these questions, you could have a type of visual stress called Irlen Syndrome.

When reading do you…

  • Skip words or lines
  • Reread lines
  • Lose your place
  • Use your finger or marker
  • Prefer dim light
  • Find it harder the longer you read
  • Get easily distracted
  • Need to take breaks
  • Get tired or sleepy
  • Have difficulty reading off the whiteboard or overhead projector

When estimating distances do you…

  • Wonder how far away cars are when driving
  • Have difficulty catching a fly ball or batting the ball in baseball
  • Bump into things
  • Take the handrail on the stairs, have difficulty with escalators

Do you have these physical symptoms?

  • Headaches/migraines
  • Stomach aches
  • Fall asleep when reading
  • Sore, watery or dry eyes
  • Bothered by computer screens or fluorescent lights

If you answered YES to three or more of these questions, you could have a type of visual stress called Irlen Syndrome.

Copyright © 1998 – 2019 by Perceptual Development Corporation / Helen Irlen. Translated from www.irlen.com by Renae Bergen. All rights reserved.