Millions of children and adults around the world cope with reading, writing, or depth perception problems, such as dyslexia. For one in every six, this problem is a result of a condition called Irlen Syndrome--the inability of the brain to process certain light waves or colors. Symptoms can include headaches and stomachaches when reading, sensitivity to light, poor sports performance, inability to focus, clumsiness, and low self-esteem.
The Word Gobblers is a handbook for parents who witness their child struggling to read and write. The book begins by explaining what the signs of Irlen Syndrome are. It then provides a questionnaire designed to alert you to what behaviors to watch for in your child. This is followed by exercises to help you determine if you should take the next step--having your child evaluated by a Certified Iren Syndrome Screener. The Word Gobblers will also show you a few modifications you can make immediately to ease your child’s symptoms and discomfort.
Children who are poor readers or poor in sports are often teased, resulting in feelings of shame and low self-worth. The Word Gobblers offers a medically-based reason why children—and even adults—struggle to read. It shows them that they are not at fault, and their difficulties can be lessened or overcome. By identifying and relieving the symptoms of the problem, children can begin to enjoy and succeed at reading and math and sports, and all other endeavors that were once difficult due to Irlen Syndrome.
Joan Gilbert is a renowned and accomplished illustrator.
Catherine Matthias is a Certified Irlen Syndrome Screener. She is also the published author of six early reader picture books, four fiction, and two nonfiction. Her love of children’s books began when she worked in a preschool during her mid-twenties. The Word Gobblers is a natural extension of her Irlen Screening work, her picture book writing, and her desire to see all children enjoy reading. Catherine lives with her husband, Stewart Jones, in rural Joseph, Oregon.
Foreword by Helen Irlen vii
How to Use this Book 5
1. What Is Irlen Syndrome? 7
2. What Are Your Child’s Symptoms? 13
3. What Does Your Child See? 19
4. Does the Color of the Paper Make Reading Easier? 39
5. It Is Not Your Child’s Fault 59
6. The Next Step 69
About the Author 79
I s your child reading below grade level? Does your child miss words while reading? Read choppily or hesitantly? Have difficulty staying focused? Complain of headaches or stomachaches when reading? Does your child avoid reading? These are just a few examples of the symptoms that might be displayed if your child has Irlen Syndrome—a malfunction in the brain’s ability to process visual information. Parents are usually the first ones to observe these behaviors or hear their child’s complaints. Parents may notice other symptoms long before their child is of school age. These may include being bothered by glare or a preference for dim lighting, mood changes, depth perception problems that show up as clumsiness or poor sports performance, such as not being able to catch a ball. If any or several of these symptoms are displayed by your child, working though the tasks in this book will help determine if Irlen Syndrome could be the cause. Also discussed are remedies that will ease symptoms and help your child live a more productive and satisfying life. The title of this book, The Word Gobblers, came about because I want children who struggle with reading to understand that just as food or pollen allergies are not their fault, neither is difficulty with reading. Just as important, by using the right tools, children can conquer those nasty Gobbler characters who munch and crunch and scrunch words and numbers. Although this book is written for parents who are on the front lines when dealing with their child’s symptoms and behaviors, it can also be useful to teachers, who occupy an important place in children’s lives, and who must accommodate the various and often competing needs of many children in a single classroom. 2 The Word Gobblers Discovery of Irlen Syndrome Early in her career, Helen Irlen became the coordinator of a federally funded adult learning disability program at California State University–Long Beach. Over a two-year period, she interviewed more than 1,500 adults, ranging in age from 18 to the mid-40s. She noticed a sub-group emerging: individuals who had adequate decoding skills and sight vocabulary, and good phonetic skills, but who avoided reading as much as possible because it was so difficult, and the longer they read, the more difficult it became. What happened next is something Helen Irlen calls a lucky break. I call it paying attention. One of the five students she was working with brought a red colored overlay with her to class. The student had used it for vision training exercises four years earlier. As stated by Helen Irlen in her book, Reading by the Colors, “Another student put the colored sheet on the page she was looking at and gave a little scream. It was the first time she had ever been able to read without having the words constantly sway back and forth.” The results of that “lucky break” were years of experiments and studies, the development of an institute dedicated to the study of Irlen Syndrome, the creation of specifically colored overlays, the invention of Irlen Spectral Lenses, the publication of several in-depth books, and the helping of hundreds of thousands of people around the world who suffer from the symptoms of this syndrome. What You Will Find in this Book Chapter One of The Word Gobblers is an examination of Irlen Syndrome: what it is, how it is acquired, and what can be done to overcome it. Chapter Two presents a list of questions concerning symptoms your child may exhibit. You can answer the questions for your child by observing the child’s behavior or, if the child is old enough and self-aware enough, your child can be asked directly. Chapter Three shows examples of how a child with Irlen Syndrome might see words and numbers. The Fourth Chapter presents reading exercises for your child using white paper with black ink, then repeats the exercises using various colored papers. Because children who struggle with reading may suffer from low self-esteem, and are often bullied, Chapter Five lists questions parents can ask children to help them express their feelings and thoughts about these issues. I try to show children who suffer from this condition that they are not alone and they are not at fault. Chapter Six shows parents the next steps to take if this workbook leads them to believe that Irlen Syndrome could be the cause of their child’s difficulties with reading.