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Is It ADHD or Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity)?

As of this writing, roughly 2 to 5% of American school-age children have been diagnosed with ADD and ADHD. Helen Irlen outlines these statistics in her book “The Irlen Revolution”. This situation does not differ much from other developed nations. The typical treatment for individuals with ADD or ADHD is medications, sometimes supplemented with various types of therapy.

Many parents know – consciously or subconsciously – that medication does not help much. Adults, too, may take medication but not feel significantly better. For other individuals, medication increases quality of life instantly.

How Is ADHD Diagnosed?

ADHD is a cluster of behaviors. In this respect, ADHD differs from other medical conditions. A typical medical condition shows a strong correlation between symptoms and diagnosis. ADHD diagnosis, in contrast, is based on the observations of parents, teachers, and health professionals. The testing has become fairly refined, but in the end, there is a high degree of subjectivity in the diagnosis. ADHD is difficult to diagnose because a behavior or set of behaviours may result from a variety of issues. One of those issues might be Irlen Syndrome (also called Scotopic Sensitivity).

Overlapping ADHD and Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity) Symptoms

Austrialian researcher Stephen Loewe, Ph.D. has studied Irlen Syndrome extensively. For an explanation of Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensititivy), please go to https://stillwaterokssi.com/2018/12/30/explanation-irlen-syndrome-scotopic-sensitivity.

Dr. Loewe conducted a study with 76 individuals. Individuals had been diagnosed with ADHD, Irlen Syndrome, or nothing (the control group). Dr. Loewe’s team examined 9 diagnostic symptoms of Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity) and ADHD. The team concluded that 7 diagnostic symptoms overlap. The overlapping sympoms are:

  • slow reading,
  • strain & fatigue with extended reading,
  • prefer reading text on colored or off-white paper,
  • lack of depth perception, difficulty catching a ball,
  • clumsiness when walking on uneven ground,
  • dislike of bright light or glare (photophobia),
  • difficulty keeping train of thought in conversation.

Two symptoms were unique to the Irlen Syndrome group: print distortions and dislike of reading/writing under fluorescent lighting. The study is published under the title: The Prevalence of Symptoms of Scotopic Sensitivity/Meares-Irlen Syndrome in Subjects Diagnosed with ADHD: – Does Misdiagnosis Play a Significant Role? in: Croatian Review of Rehabilitation Research, Vol. 49, Supplement, pp. 50-58.

Is it ADHD or Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity)? – A Possible Answer

The only way to find out whether you or a loved one suffers from ADHD or Irlen Syndrome is to have a screening done for Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity). A screener uses standardized and research-based questionnaires and tests to assess whether Irlen symptoms exist. If an individual is found to have Irlen Syndrome (Scotopic Sensitivity), s/he receives overlays and other suggestions. If his/her symptoms are severe, a diagnostician can adjust the individual for filters.

Even if Irlen Syndrome is present, it does not mean that ADHD is absent. Irlen Syndrome and ADHD often coexist. However, if Irlen Syndrome is present and treated, quality of life is enhanced. Please contact me at susilavery@gmail.com if you have further questions or want to schedule a screening. Or call (after 4 p.m. on weekdays): (405) 296-0112.

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