Coping Strategies of Irlen Syndrome Sufferers

Children and adults with Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity) develop a variety of strategies to deal with their sensitivity to certain light waves. People employ these strategies to avoid feeling nauseous, getting headaches and eyestrains, and to lower their level of exhaustion and fatigue from every day activities.

A note to parents: Children are extremely creative and smart in developing these strategies. They are usually not aware that they have developed strategies around reading and doing homework. They simply do whatever gives them the maximum academic results with the minimum of discomfort. Once these strategies are pointed out by an Irlen screener or diagnostician, they begin to make sense as responses to Irlen Syndrome.

Irlen Syndrome Ranges from Mild to Severe

Individuals experience Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity) from a range of mild to severe. For example, a reader with mild scotopic sensitivity might experience symptoms after about an hour or so of reading. An individual with severe light sensitivity might see letters and words moving around on the page after a few minutes of reading. Moderate scotopic sensitivity lands somewhere in between. The scotopic sensitivity ranges depend on the type, onset, number, and intensity of the distortions (Helen Irlen, Reading by the Colors, p. 49).

Irlen Syndrome Suffers Take Frequent Break

Coping strategies of Irlen Syndrome sufferers include taking frequent breaks. As a result of the differences in timing of when symptoms set in, individuals commonly take breaks right before or right when symptoms set in. The breaks allow the reader to regroup and then continue reading. It is also easy to see that this particular coping strategy falls apart as the reading requirements increase with higher grades in school, in college, and in the workplace. Irlen sufferers might take work home from the office to manage their workload.

Irlen Syndrome Sufferers Try to Avoid Light

Coping strategies of Irlen Syndrome sufferers involve limiting or avoiding the offending light waves. Children and adults go about their activities in dim conditions, read in a closet or under a blanket, prefer being up during the night when there is less light around, put their heads on their arms while listening to a teacher, wear visors and sunglasses most of the times, and shop as quickly as possible in brightly-lit stores (The Irlen Revolution by Helen Irlen, 2010, page 95).

Irlen Syndrome Sufferers Try to Avoid Glare

Coping strategies for Irlen Syndrome sufferes include avoiding glare. For some individuals, glare is difficult to handle. The bright white paper in a textbook, the whiteboards in modern classrooms, and the notebooks with white paper make it very difficult for some students to read and to copy notes into their notebooks. They often lose the place on the whiteboard because the letters and words wash in and out. Students with scotopic sensitivity often develop a heightened auditory sense. They forego writing and instead listen intently. They might also do math in their heads rather than on a worksheet.

Irlen Syndrome Sufferers Try to Finish Work As Quickly as Possible

Coping strategies of Irlen Syndrome sufferers include often working fast and furious. Many children who suffer from undiagnosed scotopic sensitivity are labeled inattentive, slow, or careless. They finish worksheets quickly – leading to careless errors – because they want to avoid the onset of their Irlen symptoms. Other children follow the text with their fingers while reading, thus reading slowly and painfully. Rereading one’s work is often not an option because reading is such an arduous experience.

Irlen Syndrome Sufferers Can be Helped

If you recognize a loved one or yourself exhibiting these coping strategies, please find a screener or diagnostician to possibly help. The Irlen website has several self-tests that give you further insights in Irlen symptoms and coping strategies. Please call me at (405) 296-0112 (after 4 p.m. during weekdays) if you have any questions or email me at susilavery@gmail.com.

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