Greetings Earthlings! 🙂
This week I’d like to talk about a condition that impacts approximately half of autists- Irlen syndrome.
So what exactly is Irlen syndrome?
First defined in the 1980’s, Irlen syndrome (also known as scotopic sensitivity syndrome (SSS) or Meares–Irlen syndrome) is described as a difficulty in the brain’s ability to process images/visual information. It is not exclusive to autists as it also impacts roughly 15% of the neurotypical population. As 70% of the information we process is visual, the inability to process this information can have a serious knock on effect on our brains ability to function effectively, causing issues with reading, coordination, sensory processing, spatial awareness, and ADHD– all co-morbid issues associated with autism.
But what causes it?
Irlen syndrome is caused by hypersensitivity to certain wave lengths of light which can cause the brain to process visual information incorrectly. The exact mechanism is poorly understood, but the brain seemingly becomes overactive in response to light causing dysfunction. Interestingly, Irlen syndrome is classified as a pseudo-medical diagnosis as there is skepticism over it’s existence as a stand alone condition with a distinct pathology. Experts are skeptical of Irlen syndrome as there is a lot of overlap in symptoms from other conditions and they may be lumped in under one convenient heading.
But is there anything we can do to manage symptoms?
The Irlen method is the main treatment approach for the condition. Pioneered by Helen Irlen, the Irlen method is a non-invasive approach using coloured lenses to filter light and to improve the brains ability to process visual information. The lenses can be either worn as glasses or in contact form.
You can see the impact that Irlen lenses have on the brain here:
However, the efficacy of this method has been difficult to prove. In particular there seems to be little evidence to support their use to improve reading issues and dyslexia. That being said, many people have found great relief from using Irlen lenses, such as actor Paddy Considine who has both Asperger’s syndrome and Irlen syndrome.
As with all pseudoscience/pseudomedicine, take everything with a pinch of salt, but if you think Irlen lenses may help your issues with light sensitivity it’s worth a try!
Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! 🙂
Have a lovely weekend!