Extract from Clare Champion
Ennis School Irlen sufferers improve reading by 20%
By Dan Danaher
Some of the students in Ennis National School who were diagnosed with a visual perceptual disorder improved their reading by up to 20% with the benefit of a colour overlay. That's one of the benefits for pupils in the school who participated in a project spearheaded by a teacher who accidentally discovered she also had Irlen Syndrome.
Over half of Ennis National School pupils who were tested for this syndrome were shown to be at risk of having this condition. In total, 360 children in the school attending third, fourth, fifth and sixth class completed a group pre-screening questionnaire of ten questions for the Irlen syndrome provided by Fíona de Buitléir.
The results of this preliminary screening showed that 80 children were at-risk of Irlen syndrome of which 55 have been screened individually and 44 of these experienced distortion, movement or glare from black and white text or pictures.
The children who experienced distortion, movement or glare ranged in ability from special needs to high achievers. All of these children will be provided with colour overlays while some of those with severe symptoms have already been referred on for coloured lenses.
Ms de Buitléir, who is a music teacher, runs the school band and teaches students with dyslexia, completed a Rate of Reading test with the pupils to see how many words per minute they could read. Once Irlen was diagnosed, she chose a colour and repeated this test by laying the colour overlay over the page to see how it worked. In some cases the reading rate of students who used the colour overlay improved by as much as 20%. More tests will be completed for the remainder of students over the coming weeks.
Ms de Buitléir, who runs the Reading Class for students with dyslexia, accidentally discovered she had the condition in 2003 when she was conducting research for the school. At the time it was difficult to get information about the condition and she contacted Marita McGeady who tested her and confirmed she had a mild form of this syndrome. Ms de Buitléir also suffered from what she believed was light-induced migraine, which is related to Irlen syndrome.
She is also completing a research project comparing and contrasting the application and benefits of the Irlen project in Ennis National School with St Killian's National School in Cork City, which caters with students who have moderate and severe forms of dyslexia.
She pointed out that the effects of Irlen seem most pronounced in high contrast situations such as black print on white paper.
"The text moves for me when the page is blue and yellow. The first time it happened about 15 years ago I was dumbstruck the words were all floating above the page like a host of little fairies. "It was quite attractive actually. However, I would not like to have to read that text!
The depth perception aspect of the syndrome can affect handwriting. The child may write uphill or downhill, spacing between letters and words may be uneven, non-existent or huge. Letter size may be bizarre and they may be unable to write consistently on the line.
"The Irlen syndrome is a perceptual disorder which can exist on its own or in conjunction with other difficulties. Most sufferers will have a 'pick-and-mix' of the symptoms rather than all of them. The Irlen treatment method is non-invasive and provides immediate relief when prescribed properly.
"It can alleviate or remove symptoms in over 40% of cases of learning difficulties. However, it is not a miracle cure it simply makes visual life comfortable for the child, and gives them a fighting change of tackling their work. They still have to learn to read, spell and write. Occasionally the Irlen method is the only treatment a child needs but, more often, it is just one layer of a person's problems or as Helen Irlen says 'one piece of the puzzle'," she said.
One Ennis mother, who didn't wish to be named, told the Clare Champion, that her 10 year-old son, who was regarded as a high achiever with no requirement for remedial help, was diagnosed by Ms de Buitléir. Even though the child had perfect vision and didn't require glasses, his mother admitted she was surprised how easily his problem could be resolved by wearing the equivalent of sun glasses.
His mother had previously noticed his writing was on the line and wasn't as neat at is should be and occasionally he had complained about a glare while he was reading.
"I wasn't aware of this condition and the questions that I should have been asking to check out if he had Irlen. He doesn't have any special needs and I now know that Irlen can also affect children who don't have dyslexia.
"I couldn't understand why he wasn't interested in reading and I presumed he just didn't want to read. Public awareness is very important because if parents aren't aware of the condition, they will not know there is a solution. My child was fortunate that he is being taught in a school where a teacher has taken a very proactive role when it comes to diagnosing this condition," she said.
More Clare children could benefit from Irlen therapy
By Dan Danaher
Almost have of Clare children with special needs who have reading and learning problems could benefit from using coloured overlays and filters, according to the only Irish Irlen diagnostic specialist. Marita McGeady also believes that about 12% of Clare children who are regarded as high achievers but suffer from the Irlen syndrome could also find it much easier to read using research-based technology to reduce light sensitivity.
Ms McGeady spent three days in the Clare Education Centre conducting a diagnostic assessment using the Irlen Differential Perceptual Schedule (IDPS) for students from Ennis National School last week. She spent a couple of hours with every child to identify which of the hundreds of colours/ tints in her kit would best alleviate their symptoms. In the United States, Irlen screening is considered as a basic right for all children and Ms McGeady believes it would be hugely beneficial if it was introduced as part of the Irish curriculum at national school level.
She discovered she had the condition in 1986, got the specialist glasses in February 1987 and completed the necessary training in London for initial screening and diagnosis to qualify as an Irlen diagnostician. The mother, teacher and wearer of Irlen lenses has been diagnosing and treating Irlen syndrome in Ireland since the late eighties. She has another person in training in Dublin to use the Irlen method and hopes to get more people involved to identify the problem as quickly as possible in the classroom.
She completed a research project with St Oliver Plunkett School in Dublin in association with the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin and managed to secure funding from Bord Telecom. "I hope that Irlen screening would be incorporated into the support structures already in place for children with reading difficulties and that psychologists and remedial teachers would screen for this syndrome as part of their normal testing procedure."
"Irlen filters are not an alternative approach to learning to read. Irlen filters are a treatment that needs to be implemented when appropriate so that a particular child may benefit fully from a chosen reading method. The alternative is to leave a child struggling to read fluently and comfortably under an unnecessary handicap," she said.
Irlen or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome is a disorder where the sufferer experiences visual discomforts and may see text 'moving' or distorting, or they may suffer from pattern glare from the black and white page, when they try to read. The Irlen Method is the only research-based colour method. Used by educators since 1983, this patented method and colour-based technology was discovered by Professor Helen Irlen, MA, LMFT, the nation's leading expert in perceptually-based reading and learning difficulties.
It is a non-invasive, patented technology that uses coloured overlays and filters to improve the brain's ability to process visual information. It is the only method scientifically proven to successfully correct the processing problems associated with Irlen Syndrome. This technology can improve reading fluency, comfort, comprehension, attention, and concentration while reducing light sensitivity. This is not a method of reading instruction. It is a colour-based technology that filters out offensive light waves, so the brain can accurately process visual information.
It helps children and adults suffering reading and learning problems, dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism and Asperger Syndrome, behavioural and emotional problems, headaches, migraines, fatigue and other physical symptoms, light sensitivity/photophobia, traumatic brain injury (TBI), whip lash, and concussions as well as certain medical and visual conditions.
The syndrome causes difficulties with reading, spelling, writing or leads to headaches / migraines, nausea, problems with depth perception which affects activities such as catching a ball, or stepping onto an escalator. For adults, it can cause difficulties with driving.
Ms. McGeady screening pupils at Ennis National School