Irlen Filters — Reading by the Colors

We’re periodically asked about the application of Irlen tinted lenses or filters for persons having difficulty reading or learning. Helen Irlen, a psychologist, introduced the concept of “Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome” (SSS), a condition suggestive of vision problems when reading.

The symptoms of SSS include print blurring, ghosting, and swirling. A person with the condition can experience any or all of its factors: light sensitivity, poor print resolution, restricted span of recognition, and lack of sustained attention. Irlen test centers have sprung up all around the world, but testers seem to have overlooked Irlen’s caution about searching for the magic pill.

In her book, Reading by the Colors, Irlen writes that individuals interested in being screened for SSS should first see an optometrist and receive a complete visual examination. When the exam is more than routine, additional tests will analyze the visual system in greater detail and will also evaluate focusing and tracking skills. Irlen notes:

“For SSS treatment to be successful, existing visual problems need to be treated first. Perception skills are based on a solid visual foundation. It is essential for individuals to eliminate all visual problems prior to getting treatment for perception and other learning difficulties.”