Irlen Syndrome | Contrast Sensitivity | Do Colored Reading Filters Really Help?Q: I read an article that talked about colored reading filters and how they can help our kiddos in school. Have you heard of these? Do they work?

A: Are you talking about colored overlays? That would be the colored plastic sheets that are used to help Irlen Syndrome. I have not only heard of them, but I’m a trained Irlen screener. It is a very common problem with head injury and with kids who exhibit signs of dyslexia. Irlen syndrome causes distortions when trying to read black text on white type. Read Contrast Sensitivity to learn more about these distortions.

What are the symptoms of Irlen Syndrome?

The symptoms of Irlen Syndrome are very similar to visual processing problems. I would always screen for both. If you have ruled out visual processing, then it’s worth it to get an Irlen Screening. Symptoms of Irlen Syndrome include:

  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Difficulty reading or focusing under fluorescent lights
  • May complain that text moves or looks ‘weird’
  • Easier to read when text is large or on a colored sheet
  • Eyes may hurt or water when working on computers
  • May get headaches while reading or studying
  • Prefers dim light
  • Tires easily when reading

I actually have Irlen Syndrome myself. Mine is very mild, but if I am fatigued or under fluorescent lights, it can cause me to get headaches. For those who have it really horribly, it really affects their ability to read and sometimes to function. Migraines can be a symptom of Irlen Syndrome.

How do I use these overlays?

I use one aqua-colored overlay to remedy the distortions I see, and most people only need one overlay color. Sometimes you need two colors to work. Best way to check it is have her look at a chapter book with small font. Put one color at a time over the text and ask if it helps. If one helps, but not 100%, then add a second one of each color and see if that helps. I one time had a child who needed 3 sheets in order for all the distortions to disappear.

The best way to find out which colors work, and how many you need, is to have a certified Irlen Screener do an assessment.

Feel free to call me to set up an appointment, or to get a referral to a screener in your area.

Bonnie Landau
Bonnie Landau
Bonnie Landau is a special education advocate and educational consultant in Ventura County, California. Her goal is to help parents find strategies and solutions to help their children succeed in school and in life. Bonnie is the author of Special Ed Mom Survival Guide: How to Prevail in the Special Education Process and Find Life-long Strategies for You and Your Child.