Changing the Environment

People with Irlen syndrome perceive and interpret their world differently, whether while reading or observing their environment. It is as if they are wired differently. Because they have no other point of reference, most children with this problem are unaware that they have it! As a result, they don't discuss it with their parents or teachers. In addition, they may take it for granted that they have associated physical symptoms. They think it is normal to get tired or have a headache or stomachache when reading or sitting under bright or fluorescent lights. They suffer in silence, wishing they could perform better and please the adults in their life.

Most individuals do not have Irlen syndrome and, therefore, are not bothered by fluorescent lights, textbooks printed on glossy white paper, white boards, and overheads. But for individuals with Irlen syndrome, the classroom is a very stressful environment. Many other environ-ments, such as the workplace, restaurants, shopping malls and supermarkets, are equally stressful for those with Irlen syndrome. There are several ways that you can remove these stressors from your environment.

In the classroom:

  • Use colored overlays over reading material.
  • Copy tests, handouts, and assignments on colored paper or recycled paper.
  • Do written work on colored notebook paper.
  • Place reading material on angle or use a bookstand to reduce glare.
  • Allow students to sit near a window or indirect lighting.
  • Modify/reduce the lighting. Remove or turn off sections of lights.
  • Let students wear a hat with a brim.
  • Allow students to use a finger or marker.
  • Use graph paper for math.
  • Write in columns on the board.
  • Use gray or brown erase boards and avoid white boards.
  • Use a colored overlay on the overhead projector.
  • Xerox tests on colored paper.

At home:

  • Let your child work in a dimly lit room.
  • Allow the child to do work near a window or indirect natural lighting.
  • Have the child wear a hat when outside or in stores.
  • Change the background color of the computer screen.
  • Use colored overlays for reading and the same colored paper for assignments.
  • Let the child watch TV in a dimly lit room.
  • Avoid using bright colors, stripes, and patterns on the walls, floors, or furniture.