A serious anomaly has plagued struggling readers. It may look like a problem with fluency or comprehension. However, Visual Stress Syndrome (VSS), also referred to as Irlen Syndrome or Scotopic Sensitivity, is a neurological condition that is comprised of a cluster of visual symptoms thought to be due to the spectral variations of certain wavelengths of light.
Individuals with VSS often see the world around them as distorted. This can lead to difficulties with the reading process because they do not see the printed page in the same way as a reader without Visual Stress Syndrome. We know that bright florescent lights cause some people headaches and interfere with the reading of black letters on white pages. But, for some with Visual Stress Syndrome, the text on the page may even seem to move. Words can become blurry, change shape, or reverse and the page itself may flash, separate or pulsate. (See examples.)
The TLP Group, in collaboration with Dr. Jordan and the Irlen Institute, created PowerPath's quick Visual Stress Syndrome Screening. PowerPath's VSS Screening determines a level of challenge by using an individual's reflection and responses to a series of questions. Responses are noted, weighted, totaled and used to determine a level of difficulty: none, mild, moderate and severe.
If a participant is identified as having some degree of VSS difficulty using PowerPath's VSS screening, the individual and instructor can determine if one or more of the ten Irlen colored filters may temporarily alleviate symptoms, making it more comfortable to read, write, and focus attention under bright light.
In addition to recommending the use of filters, PowerPath's Individual Report suggests a variety of environmental modifications. The participant and instructor may also select other adaptations or strategies to try such as wearing a cap or visor to shade the eyes from bright overhead lights, selecting a seat based upon exposure to natural lighting or being away from bright overhead florescent lighting, changing the color of paper, using a highlighter, enlarging print, etc. If these adaptations and strategies for managing VSS do not work, or if the screening results in a severe level of difficulty, it is recommended that the individual receive a complete comprehensive vision exam and a medical check-up to rule out other conditions that may be underlying what appears to be symptoms of VSS.
In July, 2007, the National Education Association (NEA) adopted to inform all NEA members about Irlen Syndrome (Visual Stress Syndrome or scotopic sensitivity) and its effect on reading. Right now, low cost adaptations and strategies like Irlen colored filters, have quickly and positively impacted achievement. As you are already aware, the GED allows caps, filters, seat selection, highlighters, sticky notes, etc., for any student that asks for it when they take their exam...without a diagnosis.
For those who suffer from VSS, this simple screening can change their lives.
New options now exist in the United States. These include working with an optometrist to determine a specific color of lens tints using a Colorimeter or working with an Irlen Diagnostician to determine a specific lens tints. For more information on the Colorimeter or an locating an Irlen Diagnostician, please contact The TLP Group office.
Images reprinted with permission of Perceptual Development Corp.
For more information on Irlen Syndrome/Visual Stress Syndrome, please visit www.irlen.com.