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How does Irlen Syndrome affect people?

Irlen Syndrome can affect people in a variety of ways. It can impact on a persons learning ability, reading and mathematical capability, concentration and/or behaviour. Irlen Syndrome sufferers may have difficulty with some of the following areas: light/glare sensitivity, eye strain, fatigue, headaches, migraines, depth perpception, self esteem and anxiety.

Individuals with Irlen Syndrome will show one or more of the following:

Reading Difficulties

Reading can be slow, hesitant, word-by-word and inaccurate. People may lose their position while reading and can become fidgety, restless or easily distracted. Re-reading for comprehension may be required. There can be problems reading on white paper and some may experience distortions with print. Individuals with Irlen Syndrome may never have seen print correctly and consider the way they see the printed page as "normal". Therefore they may  not report difficulties with the clarity of the text. For some reading may be adequate, yet they may not be able to read for long periods, even with prescribed reading glasses. Music scores or mathematical notation can also be difficult to read.

trouble reading

With Irlen Spectral Filters individuals find:

  • Improved reading speed, fluency, accuracy and comprehension
  • Tracking across the page is easier
  • They can read in ordinary light
  • Less strain and fatigue, so they are more willing to read
  • They can read more and for a longer time

Poor Handwriting

Individuals with Irlen Syndrome display a number of difficulties which affect school and work performance. They may have difficulty copying, taking a long time to recognise letters and write them. Letters can be malformed, of unequal size, with unequal spacing between and within words, have a wavy baseline and an inconsistent slope.

When individuals with Irlen Syndrome write on their preferred coloured paper handwriting can become smaller, neater, faster and more even. They can write more, and for longer.

Irlen Spectral Filter lenses, Irlen coloured overlays and coloured paper can provide significant help for individuals completing assignments, reports, tests and especially timed exams including NAPLAN and Core Skills Tests for Year 12. 

Poor Depth Perception

When there is poor depth perception individuals can be regarded as clumsy - bumping into objects, knocking things over, veering into people when walking besdie them. They may have difficulty judging distances and participating in sporting activities. Adults may require additional caution while driving, parking or riding a bike.

With Irlen Spectral Filters individuals find:

  • They can navigate their environment better when walking, driving, playing sport
  • They are able to maintain appropriate social distances. 

Light Sensitivity

People can be bothered by glare, fluorescent light and/or sunlight. They are often identified for wearing sunglasses even on cloudy days. These individuals find it hard to stay focussed when listening, reading, working on the computer or completing other close visual work. This sensitivity can result in poor concentration, anxiety, irritability and the need to take frequent breaks. Physical symptoms can include: tiredness, headaches, dizziness, sleepiness and fatigue. These can be very debilitating and affect their ability to complete work to their desired standard, often resulting in low self-esteem and poor promotion prospects.

Irlen Syndrome how affect people boy With Irlen Spectral Filters individuals find:

  • Increased focus
  • A better ability to stay on task and do computer work
  • Reduced headaches, migraines and fatigue
  • Reduced mood changes and restlessness
  • Reduced tiredness, nausea and dizziness


Many adults and children, who work hard and still achieve work and output below expectations, may be suffering from Irlen Syndrome. These individuals can do poorly in timed activities, read the bare minimum required and complain of headaches, eyestrain or tiredness when doing visual work, even though they are very capable, and some are gifted.

With Irlen Spectral Filters individuals find:

  • They experience reduced visual stress
  • They are more able to achieve their potential.

Headaches, Migraines and Other Physical Symptoms

These can be symptoms of a more serious medical condition which also needs to be ruled out. Many who suffer from tension headaches are unaware that their environment and/or activities may be triggering stress. Irlen Syndrome is indicated when tension headaches, migraine and nausea sufferers experience  stress in any of the following:

my headache

  • Sunlight, bright light, fluorescent lighting, glare conditions 
    (snow, rain, and hazy days)
  • Headlights and streetlights at night 
  • Sustained reading, computer use or other visually intensive activities
  • Looking at stripes, patterns or certain colours which become bright
    and bothersome

With Irlen Spectral Filters individuals find:

  • Reduced headaches, migraines and fatigue
  • Reduced tiredness, nausea and dizziness

Phyllis Lindamood, Director, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, California says

"Individuals come to us for help with a variety of learning difficulties. Most show difficulty in decoding/spelling or comprehension, but diagnosing the underlying cause of that difficulty requires sifting through many specific symptoms. We find it helpful to be aware of the particular symptoms Helen Irlen has identified for Scotopic Sensitivity, since that particular "layer" of difficulty is relatively easy to screen for and to resolve. And resolving any difficulty with visually handling a page of print can make it easier to develop other processes such as phonemic awareness or concept imagery."