Irish Study of Children in Special Reading Class Found That Half Had Correctable Irlen Syndrome and 41 % Had Migraines (possible Corrected By Resolving Irlen Syndrome)

By Fiona de Buitléir

According to Professor Helen Irlen, who identified this phenomenon in 1983, Scotopic Sensitivity and Visual Stress affect five per cent of the mainstream population and over 40 per cent of the learning disabled population, (chiefly dyslexic and autistic spectrum disorders).

Irlen Syndrome involves a cluster of visual perceptual difficulties, which means that sufferers experience high levels of visual “noise” when looking at (in particular) black & white pages.

This abnormal light sensitivity leads to print distortions/text instability, slow reading rate, attention deficits and poor depth of perception. It is a sensory, rather than an optical, issue – vision appears normal.

My research into the incidence of Irlen Syndrome, was carried out in two Irish schools, a large mainstream primary school, Ennis National School (NS), Co. Clare and a specialist school for students with severe dyslexia, St Killian’s NS ,Cork revealed that visual perceptual difficulties are indeed present in Irish schools, essentially to the same extent as in other western societies.

The individual screening process confirmed that 63 children (17.5 per cent) at Ennis NS had significant symptoms. In the Reading Class, incidence was 50 per cent. A Family History Survey conducted at the time of the research also revealed: left-handedness (58 per cent) migraine (41 per cent) allergies (33 per cent) and travel sickness (29 per cent).

However, the most significant finding to emerge from the survey was the problem posed by whiteboards. Over 50 per cent of children complained about the whiteboard and many more cited it as a problem when asked specifically. The glare from the board made it difficult for many students to look at for long and for some to look at it at all.

Many reported that they found it difficult to actually see what was on the board and had to guess. The white background was “dazzling” Some pupils said it gave them an instant headache and nausea. This lead to what appeared to be irritability and restlessness, but was essentially extreme physical discomfort.

Fiona de Buitléir heads the Senior Reading Class Ennis NS, Co. Clare Ireland.

You can also read an extended version of this story here on the Eduvac website. Visual Perceptual Difficulties: Extended Version by Fiona de Buitleir.

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