It’s been a long time since my first book, Reading by the Colors. So much has changed, and there have been so many new revelations. We now understand that brain-based differences give people with Irlen Syndrome a unique way of seeing the world. In this book, I cover the broad spectrum, from the early days of research with struggling readers to the latest findings that have helped so many individuals with symptoms caused by illnesses and injuries.
The book begins by discussing an innovative approach to help those struggling with perceptual processing problems. I create an awareness of the various difficulties that result from this one underlying and, often, unidentified root cause. One method—the Irlen Method—offers a solution.
This book explains how having a problem processing visual information can cause physical symptoms and fragmented vision that affects attention, concentration, and performance for many with reading difficulties, as well as those with learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and those with certain medical and psychological conditions. Regardless of whether or not you or your child have been diagnosed as having a problem—and regardless of the diagnosis—an inability of the brain to accurately process visual information may be the root cause, and Irlen Method may be the solution.
The Irlen Method has been able to help children and adults who come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and ages and who have a wide variety of diagnoses. Many people wonder: How can one method be the solution for so many different problems? There is a simple explanation: All of these problems have one root cause—the brain's inability to correctly process visual information.
There is an old saying, “You shouldn't comment on what I am saying until you have lived life through my eyes.” This is particularly true for the millions of children and adults who have been helped by the Irlen Method. No one knows what anyone else is seeing or feeling, nor do those who have processing difficulties understand that what they see is different from what other people see. Some of their stories are included in this book so that you can understand the personal challenges these people experience and the changes that the Irlen Method has made to each of their lives.
As with any other method, the Irlen Method has faced—and still sometimes faces—a handful of cynics. Most often, these cynics are professionals who do not personally suffer from any of the issues my clients face. However, critics want more than personal stories of success, and with that in mind, I have included the results of brain studies that have established the link between the Irlen Method and improving the brain’s ability to accurately process information.
There are four categories of people who can be helped by the Irlen Method, all of whom are discussed in this book. They are:
● People who have an inherited predisposition
● People who acquired this problem as a result of some medical condition or head injury
● People who have been misdiagnosed with other conditions
● People who are suffering from a disability without any current known cause, such as autism.
The first group, people who have Irlen Syndrome, are born with an inherited predisposition to having sensitivity to certain environmental stimuli. For these individuals, the environments that are the most stressful are the classroom and workplace, where fluorescent lighting, whiteboards, textbooks, computer screens, and the need to focus and stay focused for long periods of time are dominant. This book allows you to identify whether you, or a loved one, have a reading or learning problem related to Irlen Syndrome.
The second group of individuals that the Irlen Method can help includes those who, as a result of a wide variety of medical conditions or a head injury, have acquired difficulties processing visual information. Their problems and symptoms are not life-threatening and do not respond to medical attention. Therefore, if reported, they are usually dismissed and no recommendations are made. However, these symptoms do create problems dealing with the environment on a day-to-day basis. This book will help you identify if you, or your child, are silently suffering with symptoms that can be resolved by the Irlen Method, regardless of the medical condition.
The third group discussed in this book includes people who have been misdiagnosed. For many children and adults with learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, and certain psychological problems—such as anxiety, depression, panic disorders, and even agoraphobia—the root cause of their difficulties is being overlooked. Their symptoms are thought to have an entirely different cause, which can lead to years of frustration.
The final group discussed in this book is people who suffer from either inherited or acquired Irlen symptoms. Similar to the others discussed in the book, the symptoms of sensory sensitivity and sensory overload can be addressed with the Irlen Method for these people, including those with autism spectrum disorders. Although not a cure for this population, in some cases the Irlen Method can alleviate some of their difficulties. For me, the saddest part of not recognizing the importance of reducing sensory overload for this population is the resulting chaotic world in which they continue to live. The symptoms caused by sensory overload are more severe for those on the autism spectrum than for any of the other populations discussed in this book, an issue you will learn more about in Chapter 10 (page 129).
It goes without saying that for all of the populations discussed, only some individuals will be able to be helped. There are various self-tests included throughout this book to help you identify if you or your child are one of the lucky ones. The changes that occur with the Irlen Method can be immediate and life-changing. Since Irlen Syndrome is only a piece of the puzzle, and since the Irlen Method can help only certain individuals, Appendix A (page 176) describes other underlying and silent root causes for difficulties with attention, concentration, and performance, along with providing a variety of recommendations for how individuals who fall into these categories can be helped.
In certain cases, such as with certain academic difficulties, neither the Irlen Method nor any other method can remove the learning barrier. In recognition of the many other pieces of the puzzle and wanting to provide your child with the greatest likelihood for success, an Appendix (page 184) of strategies for success is also included, featuring suggestions for the struggling learner. This helps you become the expert and lets you be able to determine the strategies which are best suited to your, or your child’s, learning style.
For parents, another major topic of my book is advocating for your child. For those of you who are parents, you will understand what I mean when I say that sometimes we need to play detective and dig deep before discovering the pot of gold. This means starting at the top with the behaviors your child exhibits. However, behaviors do not tell you the cause. You need to dig down to uncover the cause of the behaviors. In this book, you will find many possible underlying reasons for the behaviors your child exhibits. For some, Irlen Syndrome may be the cause, but I encourage you to explore all the different possibilities I present—you never know which one will fit best.
Also in the pages you are about to read, I hope to create an awareness of problems and symptoms that are often deemed unimportant or insignificant. The widely accepted concept that everyone sees the exact same thing when looking at a printed page is wrong, and has been proven wrong through research and numerous tests. Whether the problem is hereditary or caused by any number of factors, including illness or injury, this very real processing problem affects people worldwide.
Therefore, if you are a parent, an educator, or an individual working hard to process information on the printed page; if you are struggling with light sensitivity or have trouble with depth perception, this book is for you. It is for everyone who is searching for answers, everyone who is frustrated and trying to determine why processing sensory information is so difficult, and everyone who is discouraged by the limited options offered by the educational, medical, and/or bureaucratic systems—none of which are coming up with sufficient answers or solutions, and in most cases are not even providing adequate testing to do so. The hope is that this book will provide another avenue that you can explore to help your child, your student, and/or yourself.
In short, I wrote this book so individuals would know that the Irlen Method is available and can help the many ongoing symptoms and challenges they face. My wish is for as many children and adults as possible to enjoy living the best life they possibly can. The more pieces of the puzzle that can be identified and addressed, the closer we are to achieving this goal.
It is time for you to learn about the story of Irlen Syndrome and how far it has come over the past two decades.