Parents, has your child been labelled in school as “dumb”, “stupid” or “lazy” – and faces constant, humiliating failure as a result? An undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed, reading disorder could be the cause, according to a leading international expert.
“Struggling readers may actually be suffering from visual perceptual disorders,” according to educational psychologist Helen Irlen.
“Correct and early identification can reduce frustration, but it may take a team effort from educators, parents and kids alike. Many children have trouble learning to read, even with extra support or tutoring. As a result, they may suffer from low self-esteem, and tend to give up easily, for fear of making a mistake. They try hard, but simply don’t understand why they are falling behind their peers.”
“Without proper diagnosis, students can face a myriad of challenges. These can include falling behind in school, displaying problem behaviour, dropping out of school, trying drugs, becoming involved in crime or ending up with depression. But appropriate action, including screening and intervention from educators, can save young lives.”
Ms. Irlen is the researcher responsible for discovering the Irlen Method of treating visual-perceptual, reading, attention, and learning disorders. Such disorders are known as Irlen Syndrome, which is caused by sensitivity to particular wavelengths of light, causing distortions of print.
“Children who suffer from Irlen Syndrome may read normally up to year two in school and then start to have difficulties as the vocabulary becomes harder and the print smaller. Once the distortions are removed, most can read,” Ms. Irlen said.
The Irlen Method uses coloured overlays and spectrally modified filters, worn as glasses, to enable the brain to process visual information accurately. The Method can improve reading fluency, comfort, comprehension, attention and concentration, while reducing light sensitivity.
For those parents whose hearts break as they watch their children struggle to read, Ms. Irlen provided these five top tips:
1. Glasses may not be the cure. Reading glasses for children may not always be the solution, according to Ms. Irlen. “When corrective lenses are prescribed, they may be ineffective in cases where reading difficulties are not due to a vision problem. For the student with a visual perceptual dysfunction, a different approach is called for.”
2. Don’t jump to conclusions. “Standardised tests serve as a warning sign that problems exist,” said Ms. Irlen. “However, make an effort to identify the root cause of readers’ struggles before jumping to conclusions.” For example, as many as half of the children and adults with perceptual-processing problems are misdiagnosed with dyslexia. According to Ms. Irlen, they may have Irlen Syndrome and can often be helped with Irlen spectral filters.
3. Keep a close eye. Parents, it is not normal for kids to be tired or to have physical symptoms – like headaches and stomach aches – from reading. Observe your child, and react by partnering with teachers to explore causes.
4. Don’t blame. Parents sometimes fear that their child suffers from a reading disorder because they didn’t read to him or her enough in formative years. In reality, reading problems are typically hereditary. Just as importantly, don’t blame your child for being “dumb”, “lazy” or stupid” – and don’t let others do so, either.
5. Uncertain? Get your child screened. Parents should ideally screen at-risk children in year two for visual perception disorders. This can eliminate the need for tutoring or serve as an alternative to medication. Today, millions of children use Irlen coloured overlays or filter lenses to manage reading disorders, as well as conditions such as Aspergers, Autism, and ADHD. A qualified Irlen Screener can screen a young child, teenager or adult.
Irlen Syndrome (also known as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome) was identified by Ms. Irlen while she was working with adult learners at California State University Long Beach in the 1980s. Until described in her book, Reading by the Colours, there was no explanation or treatment for perceptual reading difficulties; many people were misdiagnosed as dyslexic, slow learners or having ADHD.
Today, Ms. Irlen’s research-based, non-medicated treatment for Irlen Syndrome – the Irlen Method – is considered a groundbreaking solution. The Irlen Method is used in over 44 countries, and there are over 174 Irlen Clinics worldwide. Learn more at www.irlen.com.