Symptoms of Irlen Syndrome
My head hurts. I have been reading the same sentences several times and I still don't understand what I am reading. Why am I so tired after doing homework or working on a computer all day? These are just a few of the questions or comments that I have received from people I have tested for Irlen Syndrome.
First Finding Out
I first found out about Irlen Syndrome when I was working at my first teaching job. We were using colored strips to highlight a line of reading so a student could focus.
Then when I started working for Sylvan Learning Center I brought up Irlen Syndrome as a way to better help our students learn what we were teaching them.
Becoming a Screener
I realized the more I worked with students, the more they struggled to apply the strategies that I was giving them. So I decided to become an Irlen Screener myself. I went to Des Moines to be with the Irlen Diagnostician Bonnie Bartels.
I was there with 5 other people in various occupations such as psychology, preschool teacher, college employee, and tutor.
Two Trainees with Experience
Two of the other students already had some experience with Irlen Syndrome. One had a daughter who was diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome and it seemed to help her with reading a lot.
The other had a husband and children who diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome The husband was afraid to work outside of a job that made him work with his hands. Once he found out that his reading problem could be solved, he decided that he could teach at a technical college. Teaching is what he really wanted to do but didn't think he was smart enough to.
During the Training
During the training, Bonnie needed someone as an example to show what screening a client would be like. She picked me. Now I feel that I was a pretty good student getting As and Bs most of the time. I studied hard and worked hard to get where I am now.
But as I was being screened, I felt tired, my eyes hurt and itched, my body wanted to escaped and run out of the room, and I was frustrated. I didn't even realize what was happening at the time until Bonnie told me and the rest of the class what I was doing and why.
At one point, Bonnie asked me if I have ever gotten lost when driving. I said "All of the time. In fact I got lost coming here today. When I read the sign of the exit I was supposed to take I only saw part of it instead of the whole sign." (Later when I had a chance to look back at a time when I was no longer stressed, I noticed my mistake.)
One of the questions that Bonnie asked me was do I see sparkles on the page. I thought this was strange because I have always seen sparkles on top of whatever I was looking at no matter what. I thought that it was normal to see those sparkles.
After the Colored Overlays
She put colored overlays which are clear pieces of plastic of certain colors. When she found the right colors for me (turquoise and purple), I was able to read twice as fast as I have ever done and I didn't trip over my words as I was reading aloud. It was weird, because I usually had to practice several times before I could do that. One of the other trainees also said that the pitch of my voice changed as I read. A pitch that sounded confident instead of hesitant.
Second Day of Training
The second day of the training, we were supposed to practice screening each other. We partnered up and I was screened again but in different lighting. This time I actually got a headache during the screening. I have gotten headaches before, but this felt like more of a stress headache. The funny thing is I didn't have to take Excedrin like I normally do. Instead the screener put a colored overlay over the paper, and my headache went away.
Since the Training
Since March I have screened 17 different people ranging in age from 5-68. These are students, farmers, college students, public service, editors, and many more. I have helped those with Parkinson's, Spinal Bifida, Thyroid issues, concussions, and the general public. I have helped families from grandparents to grandchildren and those in between.
Just One of My Clients
One of tasks that clients receive test peripheral sight. Before we started the screening, this client really didn't want to be there. I had one client that we picked the first color right away. Then we tried several colors on top of the first color and found that one pretty quickly. However, the third color took some more time to find. The client was struggling with parts of the picture disappearing on him. Each color that we tried would move the part that was missing.
What Was Going Wrong
I was trying to filter out the colors that the client did not need in order to make reading easier. With each new color it would filter out the wrong color of light. That is, until we found the right color. At this point the client was very excited because he could read a lot faster than he ever had. He was talking about other people that should get screened because they could benefit just as much as he would.
Each time I screen someone I learn something new. My goal is too screen 1,000 people in the next year. The reason I want to screen a lot of people is because I want to help as many people as I can so they can be successful in life. The screenings are no more expensive than getting your eyes checked at an eye doctor.
My name is Stena Schmitt.
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