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The Impact Of Undiagnosed Irlen On Learning

April 05, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 170

It's every teachers and parents nightmare. A seemingly bright child who, for some unknown and unexplained reason resists reading and writing. They like drawing and colouring, but writing? Nope, not having a bar of it. Ever. Period.

I meet these kids every day. Their exasperated and frustrated parent brings them to my tutoring centres in the hope that maybe, just maybe, we can help. Surprisingly, no one has ever asked these kids what if feels like to read.

Their answers are often an eye opener for their bewildered parents. It hurts, the words jump around, I lose my place all the time, it's blurry and I can't see it, it makes me feel sick, it gives me a headache, the words all dance or swirl or fade in and out... And often, the same is happening when they look at the interactive whiteboards, computer screens and TV screens so prevalent in our classrooms today...

For the child with Irlen, our word dense society is a physical and living nightmare. In schools we often have overhead fluorescent lighting that exasperates the problem. The harsh glare creates a stark contrast between the black ink on the white background. The white paper, or white board reflect every colour back into the eye - at full resolution. The brain struggles to make sense of the distorted images it is being bombarded with and fatigue, headaches and nausea (from the sensation that the words are moving) quickly raise their heads.

Often the parents say to the child - why didn't you tell me??? I didn't know! But what's to tell? This child believes that everyone sees what they do - and they can read and write with no problems. If you know no difference, how do you tell that what you are seeing isn't what everyone else sees?

It reminds me of the story of the three blind men who were lead to an elephant and allowed to only touch one part. One touched the trunk and described the object as he knew it, one a leg and one an ear. They all argued about the object they had touched, based on what they knew. They didn't know what the others had felt and so knew no different. To them the object had the characteristics they were familiar with. One said - it is long and thin and ropey, it moves with amazing dexterity. Another said: You're a fool, it is large and solid and rounded. The third said: You are both wrong, it is soft and leathery and large... Who was right? They all were.

For the child with undiagnosed Irlen, they believe that everyone sees the part of the elephant that they are familiar with - and it doesn't cause problems for anyone but them. How frustrating and demoralising.

Especially, when the teacher is becoming frustrated at their lack of progress as well. It is clear that this child can see - they can draw, catch balls, play on the playground, etc. Yet put a book or piece of writing in front of them and it seems as though they are being un-co-operative, disruptive, disobedient, contrary or stubborn.

Irlen Syndrome isn't the only time that the eye-brain connection fails to work correctly. Sometimes it is a tracking problem that is causing the image to be distorted. Or the minute muscles that hold our eyes in place and allow them to turn, contract and dilate aren't working correctly. Again, the images we see can be distorted and blurry causing resistance to reading and writing. Other times, one eye may be being lazy - placing undue strain on the other eye as it struggles to focus and process all of the information available to it.

So, what can we do to get the Eye-Brain Connection to work?The first, most important step is to identify the reason it isn't working in the first place. Is it Irlen Syndrome causing the problem? Or a limited eye? Or the functioning of the eye itself? Or a combination of any or all of these?

Once you know what is causing the break down, solutions are easily found. For Irlen Syndrome, coloured glasses, coloured paper and coloured overlays are the answer. For a limited eye, brain integration and stress management. For functioning of the eye - special glasses and/or eye training exercises can make a big difference.

Diana Vogel

Diana Vogel is a sought after speaker, specialist tutor, parent educator and author who is passionate about teaching parents and their dyslexic children the life skills that they need to maximise their chances of success. The mother of 2 wonderful boys, one of which is dyslexic, Diana has seen both the positive and negative sides of the dyslexia coin.

To learn more about Diana and the work that she does go to http://www.TheKidWhisperer.com.au

Source: EzineArticles
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