Irlen Kool-Aid consumed again

Yet another reporter has covered the benefits of providing colored lenses or overlays for improving reading performance. Based on subjective reports from a child and her father, Morgan Bond of television station KPVI in Pocatello (ID, US) described Irlen’s Syndrome as the cause and blue-tinted glasses as the solution to Noel Chapman’s reading problems.

In a new-to-me twist, there is a known etiology for Irlen Syndrome.

Irlen’s is primarily a genetic disability but it can be brought about by head trauma. In Noel’s case, it was genetically passed down to her, even though neither of her parents exhibit signs.

I wonder how someone (who?) determined that Ms. Chapman’s problems are genetic. Regardless, I hope that Ms. Chapman gets some powerful reading instruction very soon. That’s likely to help a lot more in the long run than the colored glasses.

And, I’m sad that yet more folks—parents, children, and reporters—have been taken for this ride.

Link for Ms. Bond’s story.

3 Responses to “Irlen Kool-Aid consumed again”


  • Wow! It’s *back* to “Irlen Syndrome” from “Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome”? Many years ago, there was a push to call it SSS and avoid the Irlen name. I wonder what caused the name change?

    Regardless, the “method” is still the same — unverified claims, hit-and-miss diagnostics, and a handy solution all for one price.

  • That head-trauma one is new — I wonder if Janet Lee-Schubert, made it up.

    She’s got some sciency stuff going:
    “What happens with Irlen’s is your brain timing is slow processing and makes it look like things are moving on the page.”

    Lee-Schubert is evidently a licensed clinical professional counselor (LPCP) in Idaho. She also provides “brain fitness” from this company: http://www.positscience.com/ and this one: http://www.scilearn.com/our-approach/index.php

  • Hi,

    I am a neurologist who developed severe reading difficulties as an adult. It seemed like the letters were moving on the page, and I had to cover the line above the line I was reading, and the line below it, in order to be able to make out the line I was reading. I used cards that I had cut a linear hole in to help with this.

    I also couldn’t read in bright light, and generally turned all the lights off except for a not-very-bright light over what I was reading.

    Historically, I had been an excellent reader as a child, even after I had a right frontal head injury in a car accident. I had an IQ in the 160s.

    I had reading problems during part of college, and through all of medical school and residency. Nobody would believe me or help me because they assumed it couldn’t be that much of a problem, or I wouldn’t be able to succeed. I became ill with profound fatigue and more cognitive problems eventually.

    During my fellowship at the best program in the country in my field, I saw a TV show about scotopic sensitivity and Irlen lenses. It sounded like my problem, so I wrote to them, got the information, and was evaluated in Boston. The difference between my profoundly difficult reading normally, and my ability to read using my new orange/amber glasses was absolutely amazing.

    I understand why you believe what you do about scotopic sensitivity and Irlen lenses. Certainly more research needs to be done. We are more or less taught that the more skeptical we are, the smarter we are.

    But, in the right patient, this syndrome exists, and it is dramatically improved by the use of the appropriate lenses. You are doing your patients a disservice if you keep them from this possible remedy by your skepticism. Certainly it won’t help everyone with dyslexia, but the effect is so dramatic, and the risk to the patient so minimal, that it should be tried in any dyslexic patient.

    By the way, it eventually turned out that I have Lyme disease. I finally saw a neuropsychologist who believed me, and who did the testing finding my deficits. He said that I was so smart that people didn’t believe that I had lost so much function. He diagnosed my “pattern glare”, something I had never heard of, but had been complaining of since medical school. With treatment, my IQ went up 40 points to 160, and my reading problems improved about 90%. I think I would still benefit from using the tinted lenses, but I improved so much that they were no longer necessary. Tonight, for some reason, I thought about this again, and did a small search, and found your sight. I was moved to write this note.

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