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Tuesday, August 17, 2004



I'm a grad researcher at U of Ga and investing the Irlen phenomenon and controversy. What I've found is that although there is much criticism (esp from our own ophthalmologist associations) about the positive research that has been conducted, they can point to NO negative research. The research that has shown positive (usually extremely positive) results are found on the medical databases (e.g., "Medline"). Their is no negative research and scare neutral research. Dr. Hoyt, professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics at the University of California-San Franicisco, (Journal of Learning Disabilities, 23, l0. 1990) wrote in response to three very positive American research articles in the same journal. He stated that he was delighted and encouraged with the articles but that he would like to see more rigorous research conducted. There have been volumes of research conducted since then. Have none met with American ophthalmalic approval? The Irlen Syndrome is widely accepted in The United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Furthermore, check out the feedback from Arizona school systems--I found at least one school system documenting their ecstacy (I'm not exaggerating) with the Irlen Method. Your article has the same tone as all the critics seem to have--there is a call for research (that has already happened) and a reliance on our own Ophthalmalic associations to steer us right. Even your remarks from Dr. Eugene McGillis Helveston point to suspicion in the objectives of the Irlen Institute not whether or not the Method works! I share many of your passions, but I also am passionate about unfettering the good.


Dyslexia is not an issue of the eyes--the optometrists and ophthamologists are out of the running. It is an issue of the brain making correct and rapid connections between symbol (letters) and sound.

My complaint here is that there is that chasing off after some illusory defect in vision delays effective remediation.

The Arizona school systems and Irlen--as far as I can tell, there was a pilot program in 1996 and expired in 1998--where's the data? Where's the state-wide adoption of Irlen as a cure for reading difficulties?

This message is a reponse to Gary Probst and Amy Crouse-Powers (originally responding to Norm Stahl's request):

I have an instructor who is trained as an "Irlen Specialist." She is
dyslexic and swears by her "pink" tinted glasses. I don't really understand
how the screening works, but different colors of transparencies or
combinations are given based on the testee's response to various samples of
text in different visual contexts. Here is the Website for Irlen:

I don't know if this really applies to the original question, but it's the
little I know about the color overlays.

Cris Richardson
Assistant Director, Learning Center
Rogers State University
1701 W. Will Rogers Blvd.
Claremore, OK 74017

From: Palau, Susan [mailto:Susan.Palau@PURCHASE.EDU]
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2001 9:23 AM
Subject: Re: A question - A comment in reply

In my former life I was a reading specialist, an Orton-Gillingham tutor and
have a Masters in Special Education. In all my trainings, we were warned
about the quick-fix for dyslexia. I do not believe there is any good
research out there that supports the idea of colored lenses as a cure for
reading problems. If it exists, it is usually done by the manufacturers of
these lenses. Buyer Beware!
Susan Marcus Palau
Learning Center
Library Lower Level
Tele: 914. 251-6488
Fax: 914. 251-6451

o be honest, Susan, I agree. When I first came here, she was screening
every student in our developmental studies program. However, I have not
pushed the issue, and she is now the only one screening her students. I'm
not sure how helpful these things really are, and I have been suspicious
about the cost of the overlays and the cost of training for "specialists."
Thanks for reminding me, that I wanted to add that caveat. ;-)
Cris Richardson

If one of the oldest and most successful schools for dyslexics, the Greenwood School, has determined

What has been the experience of The Greenwood School with Irlen lenses? The Greenwood School has never recommended or required the Irlen lens for its students. However, some students enrolled have tried and discarded the lenses as being ineffective. Others arrived having been recently fitted with the lenses as part of an overall effort by parents to place every possible helpful resource at the service of their child. In every case, the lens was abandoned soon after admission as being unhelpful.

This author once attended a panel discussion concerning the Irlen lens which included Mrs. Irlen, Jean Chall, and a representative from the American Academy of Ophthalmology. When presented with the lack of evidence for the effectiveness of her lens in remediating reading problems, Mrs. Irlen agreed that she should, and already had changed her promotion to suggest that her lenses would be effective with dyslexia only if used in conjunction with an appropriate educational strategy.

P. Rogers, I have some research questions for you: why do outdated "therapies" persist? What are the payoffs for teachers in becoming Irlen Screeners?

pam rogers

In answer to Liz who has asked,

"P. Rogers, I have some research questions for you: why do outdated "therapies" persist? What are the payoffs for teachers in becoming Irlen Screeners?"

First off, thank you for including me in this discussion!

Is the Irlen Syndrome/Method considered an outdated therapy? The reason that the Irlen Method persists--in spite of a lot of skepticism--is because sometimes colored overlays work! There is a teacher in one of my classes who teaches students with autism who volunteered that her students can read when they look through clear, red rulers. She quickly added that she was sure it was psychosomatic. I was intrigued by her guarded support for the clear, red rulers.

The fact is that there is a great deal of research that has been conducted, most of it coming out of England and Australia, much of it recent (2004). Almost all of the research shows positive results! This research can be found, not on the educational data bases, but on the medical data bases, such as "Medline". I will add a description of the a few items of research I've found as a post script.

I don't know what the payoffs would be for teachers to become Irlen screeners. I think it might be sufficient to have a stack or two of overlays in every classroom, and kids could read with or without an overlay if they wished. What harm could it do? I don't know how much of an exact science screening and finding the exact color would be. I do think that if there is any hope in the method that it does needs to be investigated.

I do see that the money to be made lends a little suspicion to the enterprise. However, we need to get beyond that and check it out. There's too much to be gained if it is useful.

Also, please remember that the Method is no substitute for reading instruction, it just allows the print to be readable if one already knows how to read.

Thank you,
Pam Rogers

P. S. These are a few examples of the research on Medline:

Jeanes, R. J., Pumfrey, P. D., & Laskier, M. (1996). Rate of reading test(r) - its reliability, and its validity in the assessment of the effects of colored overlays. (italics) Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics (l6) 6. Abstract: A simple reading test that can be undertaken by disabled readers is described. The test is suitable for use in the optometric clinic, taking less than 2 minutes to administer per passage. Test-retest scores are acceptably reliable. The test reveals increases in the speed of reading when coloured overlays are used both (l) in children who have made long-term use of coloured overlays for reading, and (2) inchildren who will subsequently do so.

Harle, D. E.,& Evans, B. J. W. (2004). The optometric correlates of migraine. (italics) Ophthalmic and Physilogical Optics 24 (5). Abstract: Migraine is a common, chronic, multi-factorial, neurovascular disorder typically characterised. . .In particular the link between migraine headache and pattern glare is striking. The therapeutic use of precision-tinted spectacles to reduce pattern glare (visual stress) and to help some migraine sufferers is described.

Robinson, G. L. (1999). Scotopic sensitivity/Irlen syndrome and the use of coloured filters: A long-term placebo controlled and masked study of reading achievement and perception of ability. (italics) Perceptual and Motor Skills (89) l. Abstract: This study investigated the effects of using coloured filters on reading speed, accuracy, and comprehension as well as on perception of academic ability. A double-masked, placebo-controlled crossover design was used, with subjects being assessed over a period of 20 months. . .two of the three treatment groups showefd significantly greater increases than the control group.

Bouldoukian, J. (2002) Randomised controlled trial of the effect of coloured overlays on the rate of reading of people with specific learning difficulties. (italics) Ophthalmic and Physilogical Optics (22) l. Abstract: A randomised controlled trial has demonstrated that, for selected children with reading diffulties, individually prescribed coloured filters reduce symptoms of asthenopia. . .Further analyses support the conclusion that individually prescribed coloured filters can improve reading performance for reasons that cannot be solely attributed to conventional optometric factors or to placebo effects.

There is very much more research than these few items. Get into the Galileo on-line library and access "Medline" in the medical databases and search Irlen--stand back, you'll get quite a few matches!

Pam Rogers


I'm going to get in touch with the Arizona School Board and hear it from them--how the Irlen pilot project worked out. This IS an important issue. I will root out that information and post it here.

Meanwhile, I did find a letter (allegedly) from the Las Cruces Public Schools at, where the assistant director of their Special Education Department is raving about the Irlen Method.

What I've been reading online from a Yahoo Search tells me that there is a lot of confusion on this topic. For instance, one site thought that the Irlen Method only involves expensive lenses and not colored overlays, and then they applauded SOMEONE ELSE'S invention of colored overlays! (The Irlen Method has nine colored overlays @$3.95/overlay; to get one's eyeglasses tinted takes a couple of hundred dollars to find the exact tint and then to get the lenses tinted--which is a greater exactness of color than the nine tints of the overlays. One can stop with the overlays.) This Yahoo person was mistaken about Irlen not having overlays, voiced approval of overlays, all the while trashing Irlen!

This truly is an intriguing study.

Pam Rogers

pam rogers

Liz! I found something.

Yahoo! search "arizona irlen pilot project" brought me to "Health News" from the A column by Matt Riehl, Staff Writer, June l6,2003, entitled "Yuma school psychologist fighting to keep words on the page where they belong."

This article tells us what happened to the pilot project in Arizona. It says that in l996, public schools in the state of Arizona were to participate in an Irlen Syndrom pilot program; however, each school district that wished to participate was required to submit a grant. Only one school district in Arizona bothered to submit a grant!

How about that? The lack of publicity from Arizona was NOT because of the failure of the Irlen Method!


Daniel Burge

Dear Susan Marcus Palau et al,

I read your letter on this website with interest.

I was born and raised in the UK and now live in Ireland. Three years ago during a stay in Canada studying post-graduate computer science I found myself wondering why it seemed that I needed to be in far more silent areas of the college than my peers to undertake any reading. It had always been like this but up to this point I had just taken it for granted. It was only when I asked my friends how long it had taken them to read the first “Harry Potter” novel (everyone seemed to have read it so I thought it would make a good benchmark) did I realise that my reading rate was very poor over an extended period of time. It wasn’t that I am always a slow reader; I can in fact be very fast, but all in all I surmised that my reading stress level was higher than those around me. I started researching into dyslexia but it was clear that this wasn’t what I had, but this brought me to the Irlen field. It was only when I visited and saw the movie that plays at the start of the website did I realise I was onto something. I consequently got screened and was diagnosed as having quite severe symptoms. Incidentally during the screening when a coloured overlay was put on a sheet of text did I experience seeing more than one word on the page at the same time; previous to this every other word would be blurred. I now have the glasses and for the first time in my life I enjoy reading instead of it being a necessary ordeal (apart from the Harry Potter anomaly – it was just too much fun, even though it took me 2 months to read book one!).

I do not consider Irlen overlays or glasses to be the “cure” of my problem but it very effectively suppresses my symptoms, so this really is an allopathic fix like most modern medical approaches. At the same time it is clearly not a clinical model. I believe there may be a physiological malfunction of some sort that could be addressed in the future but for now this system is one that we have to work with and can be appropriate in certain circumstances. I would appeal to you to go with your direct experience of a matter in the future and not with any beliefs or opinions you may have. There are many thousands of people in the world who I would imagine might have this condition and the more we honour their right to be helped the better. I was fortunate enough to be aware enough to have my own realisations and the capacity to source the solution. Others, especially the smaller ones do not and I have written to you today with them in mind.

Best wishes,

Daniel Burge

Ryan Logsdon

To All,

My confidence in Optometrist and Opthamologist has greatly declined over the last several months due to their lack of effort in helping me resolve this problem with my vision I am currently having. I have visited several offices in the Louisville, KY area and have received 4 totally different prescriptions for glasses. My vision is 20/20, but I have problems reading for long periods, looking at black print on white paper, light sensitivity, etc.. When I found the information online concerning the Irlen Syndrome and looked over the symptoms I was astonished due to the fact that I was experiencing the majority of them. And since my overall confidence in the local Optometry environment has seen its better days I find myself with no choice but to at least try the Irlen approach. If anyone has a better alternative my ears are open.



Just recently, I attended a workshop to become a certified Irlen/Scotopic Sensitivity Screener. I entered the workshop skeptical-but was interested in learning about any method which may help my students read with less difficulty. I think the public needs to be aware that Helen Irlen is not promoting her product as a "cure" for dyslexia-or any other learning disability. Identifying and treating symptoms of SSS may be a small piece to the puzzle of improving reading ability. SSS is not a vision problem-it is called a visual perception problem. I know this is where the controversy among opthomologists and optomotrists enters the picture. Since I am new to this whole concept, I have remained open minded and have tried to read up on all the research, testimonials, piloted programs, etc. Although I am certain that Irlen filters are not a good fit for everyone, why not give it a try with a student who is struggling? I have not advertised myself as an Irlen SSS screener as of yet. I am trying to gather more background information around Irlen in order to answer questions of prospective parents and/or school systems.


Lisa Dill

I would like to comment to the above statements about Irlen Syndrome. I have a child that had a great deal of difficulty in school reading. He came home with black cicles under his eyes everyday, and with severe headaches. I searched and searched why this was happening to him, and he told me that looking at a paper in the classroom was like looking at bright headlights coming at you. I do not believe any of the study's but do read them. I believe my 8 year old son!! He is the one that this affects, not anyone else. As a parent it is my duty to take care of my child and regardless of how many studies there have been done, I will still believe my child!!



I had eye surgery and in the post-op pack was MAXIDEX (dexamethasone) drops by Alcon Labs. Two days later I was BLIND Other complicatione are optic nerve damage, corneal damage, glaucoma and secondary infection


Ian Jordan

I will be showing at US national optometric conference (Anaheim Oct 24 2008) why tints do work, how they can be measured and how the results can be measured. Brain scans and other objective techniques will be introduced.

Obviously not all people with reading problems have visual processing difficulties, but a significant proportion do and the research is now conclusive.
Early methods however, were relatively poor in both recognising, managing and treating the problems encountered and this to some extent explains the controversy


I have both Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (Irlens) and ADD.
My ADD was diagnosed before the Irlens, but it wasn't until I got the glasses that I truly excelled in the math and science courses I'd always failed before.
I am a chemistry class short of my pre-medical degree and just completed a Masters in Public Health, both of which I would not have passed without my Irlens glasses.

But then, if someone had taken my best friend's "normal" refractive lenses from her and refused to let her use them during lectures and tests, she wouldn't have passed either. Neither of us have eyewear that "cures" anything-- both pairs simply allow us to read and function better. Period.

SSS is NOT dyslexia. It is a neuro-perceptual problem in which certain frequencies of light cause difficulty in the visual processing center of the brain. It has nothing to do with the speech center of the brain whatsoever.

The controversy is mostly due to the fact that it takes roughly 20 years for the medical establishment to accept any new discovery. Nobel laureate Dr. Louis Ignarro was scoffed at for years for his support of the premise that NO (nitric oxide) was the compound the body produced as a natural vaso-dialator. But after years of persevering, his discovery was finally lauded and has become the basis for many ED and cardio vascular treatments.
Same thing happened to the first doctor to link histamines and heart attacks. Even the great Pasteur's discovery of germs was mocked by the surgical establishment who defiantly stropped their scalpels on the soles of their boots before cutting into patients to punctuate their contempt.

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Ramona Cordero

MY NAME IS RAMONA CORDERO. I HAVE A 7YR OLD GIRL. She hae been having trouble with her vision. At school the vice principal talked to me about this syndrome. I have been lookin for help but no one seem to accept this syndrome. I need my daughter to be test . The school system does not have anyone. Can you help me please?


Hi Ramona,
You can go to to get information about the closest Irlen clinic to you.
My best to you and your daughter!



I should disclaimer this reply by stating that I know very little about opthamology or the neurological aspects of visual processing, although I do have an academic background in science. My experience is that of an autistic person who experiences significant reading comprehension problems, sensory processing issues and visual distortions.

If Irlen Syndrome/Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome as described by Helen Irlen and her institute doesn't actually exist, there is some other neurological reason why colored lenses and filters improve reading comprehension and visual processing in a certain number of people with atypical neurology, including myself. It is definitely not a "placebo effect." I have never met Helen Irlen in person or any therapist who works with the Irlen Institute or anyone who works to promote its products. I was actually somewhat dubious of claims that it could massively change one's perceptions of the world, until I happened to find a pair of sunglasses (not official Irlen lenses) that happened to be in the right color and tint to affect my perceptions. The world suddenly seemed to acquire three-dimensional depth and distance that it had never had before, for me. I also downloaded a program online that replicates the effects of colored overlays, on one's computer screen, and when I adjusted it to the right color, my reading comprehension and ability to read without exhaustion and eyestrain improved measurably.

I really don't know what else to say, except that the fact that I, a scientifically-minded person who is skeptical of things I can't prove or test and almost everything promoted as a "treatment/cure for autism," who is not particularly "hypnotizable" or "susceptible to suggestion" or any of the other ideas about neurology people invoke (I actually consider most ideas about "hypnosis" and what it can supposedly be used for, to be dubious in the first place) to explain why some people experience things others insist aren't real, is sitting here getting measurable help with reading comprehension from overlays and screen filters.

How does this possibly have anything to do with belief in the existence of "satanic cults"? I STUDY science. I know how to think scientifically and how to be critical and skeptical of unproven claims. How are the two things in any way comparable? Associating an urban legend propagated by word of mouth and fundamentalist propaganda, which caused material and financial suffering to real people, with an assistive technology which may be promoted as having wider applications than it actually does, and/or is not yet adequately scientifically explained, is simply illogical and unreasonable, and serves no purpose other than to smear the reputation of the latter by implying it is somehow comparable to a destructive paranoid belief.

When "skepticism" turns into "anyone who experiences this thing I say does not exist/work is just not skeptical enough," it's no longer skepticism-- it's dogmatism. Rather than laughing off the person's claims of experiencing this thing and comparing them to belief in urban legends, the proper thing to do is to find some way to evaluate their experience scientifically. Surely there must be a way to measure differences in my brain activity when reading with vs. without filters and transparencies, and that of any other person who says that Irlen or Irlen-like technologies have helped them.

I'm not sure what to say to convince people that colored overlays and filters actually do work for some people with reading and perceptual problems, and that it isn't a "placebo effect" due to any personal charisma on the part of anyone promoting this stuff, if that doesn't do it. I'm not some kind of gullible credulous person who lets people wave crystals at me; I've participated in professional scientific research and critiqued scientific papers. I tested my own perceptions repeatedly with and without the glasses and the screen filter to check the difference in things like depth perception. Nobody prompted me into it or tried to sell me on it. It only works with some colors; there are others which make my perception and comprehension worse, not better.

If people could actually put some research into figuring out *why* colored overlays and glasses help some people with dyslexia and sensory processing problems, if they don't work for the reasons Helen Irlen claims they work, it would help more than saying that the whole line of scientific inquiry should be shut down just because they don't work for the reasons someone said they did. The flipside of overzealousness to root out every single suggested treatment or assistive technology that hasn't been rigorously scientifically validated is that it can lead to yanking this stuff away from people who actually *do* find benefit in it, or revoking their coverage for it or some organization's ability to provide financial assistance, because "there's no proof it works" or "that's just due to a placebo effect; it only works because you think it does." I've known several autistic people, as well as people with chronic illnesses or other health problems, who knew a particular thing was useful to them, but had a doctor or insurance company withhold it, or coverage of it, from them because they insisted it wasn't sufficiently proven. Shouldn't there be some effort to listen to disabled people's voices in all of this? Someone who has struggled with a particular issue for a long time is likely to be able to tell the difference between something that may work temporarily due to a placebo effect, and something that really works.

Saying that we don't know why something helps some people is not an insistence that it works for some magic woo-woo reason, or that an explanation that didn't hold up under close scientific scrutiny must "somehow" be right anyway. It means there is an explanation that can be explored by science, it just hasn't been discovered yet. There's nothing scary, threatening or magical about that. It just means that unbiased research needs to fill the gap.

Flo Reynolds

I work as the education director at a school for troubled teens at risk. More than half of my students experience learning difficulties and many of these kids tried to self medicate with illegal drugs. I have worked with the Irlen Institute for ten years now, with 100% success rate. By success, I means improved reading and math scores, improved behavior, and many changed lives. Granted the overlays and tinted lens are not the fix-all for all learning issues but anything that improves the quality of someone's life is definitely worth looking into.

Ian Webb

I find it incomprehensible that people are so close-minded. There is now physical proof that dyslexia exists, however it is now accepted. It isn't a visual acuity problem, it is a visual perceptual problem, just as Irlen Syndrome is.

This basically means the only possible evidence is anecdotal, you can't have empirical evidence in this case. I know the lenses work for me. How? Before I got them I could spend seemingly endless hours studying and not get very far. After, I could spend much less time and get more out of my studying, with fewer headaches and needing fewer breaks.

Do I know why this is? No. I just know it works for me.

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