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Irlen Syndrome: Educators and MDs Speak Out

The reason most people become educators, is to effect the lives of the next generation of humanity, in a tangible way, during their crucial juvenile years. For some students, learning seems remarkably easy, and they grow to enjoy the school experience. But for other seemingly bright kids, learning comes with formidable, and sometimes invisible, challenges, that stand in their way of achieving academic success.

One of these challenges, has to do with brain processing problems, caused by a timing fault in messages running from the optic nerve to the brain. Encompassing hundreds of unique conditions, these disorders are known as Irlen Syndrome. Courting a history of controversy within the education and medical sectors, Irlen Syndrome has now become the elephant in the room, for many students facing these “invisible” challenges.

The following quotes are from some of the leading educators, medical doctors and education specialists, from across the USA and Australia. They’ve been compiled in the hope of offering new information, on this long debated issue.

Dr. France Morrow, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Washington State University: “My research studies have identified Irlen Syndrome as a primary reason that students avoid reading and struggle with reading and learning. With the appropriate colored transparencies, college students gained nearly four grade levels in reading and middle school students gained from one year to five years in reading. Irlen Syndrome is the principal and most widespread “invisible” barrier to reading and learning for upwards of forty percent of student populations.”

Sue Willows-Raznikov, Learning Strategies Coordinator, Department of Teaching and Learning at the School of Medicine, Stanford University, California: “As the Learning Strategy Coordinator at Stanford University, I have been interested and involved for over 30 years with a number of methodologies for enhancing the student’s process of learning. Since my initial training as an Irlen Screener, I have used the Irlen questions and have identified dozens and dozens of students who have gone on to use the Irlen lenses. One example is a second year medical student in the Medical Program at Stanford University who was a slow reader and always got headaches while reading. With her Irlen overlay, her reading speed immediately increased from 145 words per minute to 190 words per minute with comprehension.”

Dr. Daniel Amen, M.D., Amen Clinics, Newport Beach, CA: “When I first learned about Irlen Syndrome, I was skeptical. I never heard about it in my psychiatry training program. Yet, over time I had friends and family members who benefited from the treatment. Remarkably, when people obtain benefit from the treatment, it helps to balance brain function. One of the factors that drew me to Irlen Syndrome and the Irlen treatment is its simplicity and effectiveness.”

Dr. Robert Dobrin, M.D., F.A.A.P: “During a 15-month period, I evaluated 460 patients, including both adults and children. Using questions that would uncover problems related to light sensitivity and reading difficulties, I found 122 patients. Many were treated with (Irlen) tinted lenses and were enthusiastic about their improvement. For these patients, Irlen Syndrome is an authentic diagnosis.

LouAnne Johnson, author of the best-selling book The Queen of Education, Rules for Making Schools Work, which inspired the movie Dangerous Minds: “I have repeatedly seen dramatic, instantaneous response to using Irlen Filters and other transparent overlays; I am now convinced that Irlen Syndrome does exist and that it may be responsible for many of the so-called learning disabilities in our schools. I also believe that screening for Irlen Syndrome should be a regular part of every school health program.”

David M. Hailey & Anthony R. Lea, Health Technology Division, Australian Institute of Health: “…our feeling as disinterested outsiders is that the technique developed by Helen Irlen addresses a severe, unmet need in the community, has promise, and has benefited many individuals…”

Wes Nedrow, Special Education Director of Lower Kuskokwim School, District, Alaska: “We have been convinced of the value of Irlen Filters. All special education referrals must have a Irlen screening as part of the referral process. Secondly, we have placed over 800 colored overlays in our schools to be used by students. We have evidence of children in three months going from non-reader to grade level reader and no longer a behavior problem, children going from a C/D student to an A/B student on one report period, and attendance has gone from chronic absences with stomachaches to regular attendance; and a dyslexic 12 year old who could not read the most simple of reading material, in spite of four years in a special education resource room, being able to read a book at the 4th grade level immediately upon placing on the colored filters.”

John Bald, Literacy Expert, Consultant-National Curriculum Council, writer-The Mail: “It is the single most important advance in the treatment of reading difficulties I’ve ever seen.”

Dr. Robert J. Van Maren, Superintendent, USD 204, Kansas: “The Irlen Method has been an amazingly simple and effective way to diagnose and provide support for students who struggle with reading. We have found that students who can be helped in no other way have success with using this method. I would consider this an essential component to a successful program providing a comprehensive program of reading support and instruction.”

Lorraine Hammond, author of “When Bright Kids Fail”: “The relative simplicity of wearing Irlen Filters or using plastic sheets to correct color sensitivities that interfere with reading and the dramatic effects Irlen Filters have had on some individuals have made this a popular choice of treatment.”

Susan Renick-Blount, Director, Exceptional Student Education – Region II, Dade County Public School System, Florida: “As a Director overseeing exceptional student education for the Dade County Public School system in Miami, Florida, I am extremely skeptical of any new or unique techniques. Since piloting the Irlen Approach to Reading, the percentage of students that have been helped to increase their perceptual reading ability is genuinely impressive, and I endorse promoting the technique to a larger number of students.”

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Irlen Syndrome: Educators and MDs Speak Out
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