Could Irlen syndrome be affecting your child?
HOUSTON – Some children who struggle in school or complain of headaches will get tested for learning problems, dyslexia, or other issues, but one lesser-known condition is potentially impacting thousands of kids and it's not a vision problem at all.
Someone who claims they have Irlen syndrome says without the use of colored glasses, words on paper and screen “move.” Blurry, shaky is often how people describe words on moving.
“Whenever I’m reading I see floating a lot, so the words will kind of pop up, kind of like popcorn,” Magnolia teen Regan Steinert said.
Regan was diagnosed this year and said before now reading was torture.
“I was about to fail every single class, and whenever I got the glasses I started making As on everything,” Regan said.
Her mother, Janelle Martin, said it was a struggle making sure Regan did homework and it led to an outburst one night.
“She was very frustrated and said ‘but the words move’ and I looked at it and said 'there's not any movement, I don't know what you're talking about, you're just being lazy,’” Martin said. “So, she told me that was a problem but I didn’t know that was even possible.”
When a friend told her about Irlen syndrome, Martin said it clicked.
“Everything he described to me at the table, I was riveted. I said that's what Regan has! That's what she's been telling me! This is exactly what she's been telling me all these years, I didn’t know!”
People who suffer from Irlen syndrome claim they struggle to read because words “move” and they can often be assisted with colored lenses. Some of the popular colors include: red, blue and yellow.
Since learning about Irlen, Martin created a Facbeook page.
However, the fields of optometry and ophthalmology do not recognize Irlen syndrome as a medical disorder. Insurance will not cover any diagnostics or glasses because they claim this is not necessary.
Yet, ophthalmologist Dr. Dora Cantu said the glasses may help since she knows colors can alter our perception.
“For instance, I use a type of blue filter in our prescription glasses to aid patients that have a lot of glare and because a wavelength of blue has a shorter frequency, there are more particles in the atmosphere that interfere with this blue wavelength,” Cantu explained how colors can change how people see.
There are clinics where kids can be tested for which color lens helps them read. Regan said blue lenses opened her eyes to a whole new world. She said her grades have improved, headaches are gone and words appear on screen and paper like they're supposed to.
Still, many are skeptical since clinics can charge essentially whatever they want in exchange for the glasses.
Here's where to find one of six Houston-area Irlen diagnosticians near you.
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