Charlotte, wearing her tinted Irlen lenses
I was diagnosed with Irlen syndrome when I was 16 years old. At the time it was a great relief because as high school academics progressed, I was having a harder and harder time keeping up with my peers.
The textbooks were getting longer and had smaller words. This was a problem for me because I have a limited range of focus. Without Irlen filters (tinted contacts or eyeglasses) I can only see a few letters in focus at a time. Also, because of the way my brain processes light, the white spaces of the page seem to take over the written text. For example, the spaces in the center of an "o" or a "b” appear brighter and too overbearing for the letter itself. This makes small text especially straining. I also see white patterns in the spaces between words on a page of text, which are known as “rivers.”
Depth perception problem
The first time I remember being aware of a problem with my vision was when I had tests in the sixth grade on judging distance. My friends seemed to pick it up so easily. I had no idea how they did it. I pretended to understand it so that they wouldn't know I had a problem. I realized later that I have a severely compromised judgment of distance due to Irlen syndrome. This lack of proper depth perception also led me to quit softball, a game I love, because I couldn't catch a fly ball to save my life. My team became very frustrated with me for my lack of skill in this area at the time.
I started to seek tutoring and assistance with academics when I was 15, just before I was diagnosed. At the time academics were so difficult for me that I never thought college was even an option. I figured if I actually made it to my high school graduation, I would end up being a homeless leech on society because I couldn't think of any jobs that didn't involve reading. I was also experiencing minor thoughts of suicide at the time.
Luckily I was then screened for Irlen Syndrome. Irlen filters (tinted eyeglasses) turned out to be the solution to my overbearing problem. At the time I knew I had some of the symptoms of Irlen Syndrome, but I thought everyone saw the way I did and I assumed that my lack of academic progress was because I was simply stupid. I remember being so astonished at my screening to learn that not everyone sees the way I did.
Since being diagnosed, I have gone through four different filter color prescriptions. Once I finished my adolescent years, my prescription stabilized and I have now worn the same lenses for the past five years. Now I plan to graduate from (university name) with a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation in December 2008. This is still amazing to me considering that at 15, I figured I had no future after high school.
Now that I wear Irlen filters (tinted contacts or eyeglasses) all of the time, my eyestrain is significantly reduced. During tests, I still usually wear a baseball cap so that the visor will block some of the overhead light.
Being screened for Irlen Syndrome was the single most important day of my life. I strongly recommend getting screened if you have any suspicion you may have this syndrome. All it could do is save your life.
-Charlotte, now a college grad in her 20s
For more, check out the video testimonials section for my own testimonial and summary of Irlen as well as some video clips of others with Irlen and how treatment helped them out.
- Have you already been treated for Irlen? If you think your experience could help others and you'd like to see your own story on this page, just send it in. I'll take a look and you might end up on this site!