Irlen Syndrome / Scotopic Sensitivity
This is a controversial diagnosis in our profession. The proposed idea is that some patients may have "over-sensitive" retinal receptors and therefore in order to perceive their world (especially reading material) correctly, they need to wear special colored filters or specially-tinted glasses/contacts. Theses "Irlen-blue" filters, overlays & tints are supposed to selectively decrease certain wavelengths, and "ease" the "hypersensitivity" of the retinal receptors of patients who have this condition. We get asked about this all the time, mostly from parents of learning-delayed (specifically reading-delayed) children who are understandably looking for answers and solutions to their child's reading problem. Some schools have embraced this idea and it's becoming popular among school occupational therapists. Even a few O.D.'s have embraced this idea and its therapies as part of the portion of optometry dedicated to "vision therapy". Irlen Syndrome is usually described as a form of dyslexia. So what are my thoughts on it? In my sometimes brutally honest way, I think it's completely worthless. I think dyslexia is obviously a valid diagnosis, but I do not think that "hypersensitive retinal receptors" exist, nor do I believe that colored overlays or tints have any effect on reading or reading comprehension. Dyslexia is not an "eye problem", but rather a neurological one, and therefore there are no eye or vision solutions to this problem. But the real problem I have with it is that in order to diagnose "Irlen Syndrome", a person has to be specially trained and certified by the Irlen Institute, and in order to obtain the specially-tinted lenses and filters, one must be diagnosed by a certified Irlen practitioner (at great cost). The lenses and filters that are probably not very "special" in any way can ONLY be made by the Irlen Institute (again, at great cost). Convenient. So there you have it. I'm not a believer. Sorry! I don't diagnose or treat Irlen Syndrome, I don't provide the special testing or filters (how could I? I'm not "certified" haha), and I don't refer patients for it. I feel that if you're convinced this is the problem you or your child has, then the Irlen Institute is easily found on a Google search.