Tuesday, 22 November 2016 20:13


Dyslexia is associated with reading difficulties for no apparent reason. If you look at the literal meaning of dyslexia, it is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as follows:

"a developmental disorder which can cause learning difficulty in one or more of the areas of reading, writing, and numeracy" 

It has a Nontechnicalname "word blindness"

Unfortunately, people who have been told that they have dyslexia, often have Irlen Syndrome, AND THAT IS WHAT IS CAUSING THEIR DYSLEXIA!

The symptoms of dyslexia have been variously described as words moving, reversing words, inserting words, omitting words, missing lines when reading as well as other things that happen for some people when reading. These symptoms are also the symptoms of Irlen Syndrome, which is a visual processing dysfunction. Visual processing occurs when our brain processes the visual signals sent to the visual cortex from our eyes. It is not a problem with our eyesight. 

Published in Dr Joan Brien
Friday, 20 May 2016 17:35



While much of the early literature was unpublished and of poor scientific design, there are now numerous controlled studies which have reported positive results for the use of coloured lenses. These studies have all been reported in peer reviewed journals, using reviewers with expertise in this field, who are unlikely to recommend the publication of studies which are methodologically unsound. I have listed these studies below, with their full references attached. The largest number of controlled studies report improvement in reading when using coloured plastic overlays, coloured computer monitors, and one study which illuminates text with coloured light (Bouldoukian, Wilkins, & Evans, 2002; Chase, Ashourzadeh, Kelly, Monfette, & Kinsey, 2003; Croyle, 1998; Evans & Joseph, 2002; Jeanes, Busby, Martin, Lewis, Stevenson, Pointon et al., 1997; Kriss & Evans, 2005; Noble, Orton, Irlen, & Robinson, 2004; Northway, 2003; Ray, Fowler, & Stein, 2005; Scott, McWhinnie, Taylor, Stevenson, Irons, & Lewis, 2002; Singleton & Trotter, 2005; Solan, Brannan, Ficarra, & Byrne, 1997; Solan, Ficarra, Brannan, & Rucker, 1998; Tyrrell, Holland, Dennis, & Wilkins, 1995; Wilkins, Jeanes, Pumfrey, & Laskier, 1996; Wilkins & Lewis, 1999; Wilkins, Lewis, Smith, Rowland, & Tweedie, 2001; Williams, Le Cluyse, & Littell, 1996). There are also numerous studies which report improvements in eye strain, headaches and reading when using coloured lenses (Chronicle & Wilkins, 1991; Evans, Patel, & Wilkins, 2002; Good, Taylor, & Mortimer, 1991; Harris & MacRow-Hill, 1999; Lightstone, Lightstone, &  Wilkins, 1999; Robinson & Conway, 2000; Robinson & Foreman, 1999; Wilkins, 1993; Wilkins, Patel, Adjamian, & Evans, 2002). In particular, the paper by Chase et al. (2003), describes a series of four studies which found that the accuracy of oral reading was poorer when using red filters in comparison to blue and green filters. These results were used to support physiological evidence that red light suppresses functioning of the Magnocellular visual neural pathway, with reading being better when longer wavelengths of light (red) are removed from the light source by the use of blue filters. A number of these studies have used placebo controls (Bouldoukian et al., 2002; Evans & Joseph, 2002; Jeanes et al., 1997; Ray et al., 2005; Robinson & Foreman, 1999; Wilkins, Evans, Brown, Busby, Wingfield, Jeanes, & Bald, 1994; Wilkins & Lewis, 1999; Wilkins et al., 2002). Such placebo studies are possible because the effects of coloured filters can be assessed without subjects being aware of the precise chromacity of the colour which provides optimal results for them(Wilkins, Huang, & Cao, 2004). In addition, people who respond to the use of colour are also likely to have abnormalities in accommodation (Simmers, Gray, & Wilkins, 2001), significant changes in visual evoked potentials when using coloured filters (Huang, Cooper, Satana, Kaufman, & Cao, 2003; Riddell, Wilkins, Zemori, Gordon, & Hainline, 1998) as well as differences in biochemical profiles (Robinson, Roberts, McGregor, Dunstan, & Butt, 2001; Sparkes, Robinson, Dunstan, & Roberts, 2003; Sparkes, Robinson, Roberts, & Dunstan, 2006), all of which could not be attributed to placebo effects.



Bouldoukian, J., Wilkins, A. J., & Evans, B. J. W. (2002). Randomised controlled trial of the effect of coloured overlays on the rate of reading of people with specific learning difficulties. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 22, 55-60.

Chase, C., Ashourzadeh, A., Kelly, C., Monfette, S., & Kinsey, K. (2003). Can the magnocellular pathway read? Evidence from studies of colour. Vision Research, 43, 1211-1222. Chronicle, E. P. & Wilkins, A. J. (1991).

Colour and visual discomfort in migraineurs. The Lancet, 338, 890.

Croyle, L. (1998). Rate of reading, visual processing, colour and contrast. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 3(3), 13-20

Evans, B. J. W., & Joseph, F. (2002). The effect of coloured filters on the rate of reading in an adult study population. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 22, 525-535.

Evans, B. J. W., Patel, R., & Wilkins A. J. (2002). Optometric function in visually sensitive migraine before and after treatment with tinted spectacles. Ophthalmological and Physiological Optics, 22, 130-142.

Good, P. A., Taylor, R. H., & Mortimer, M. J. (1991). The use of tinted glasses in childhood migraine. Headache, September, 533-536.

Harris, D. & MacRow-Hill (1999). Application of Chroma-Gen haloscopic lenses to patients with dyslexia: A double-masked placebo-controlled trial. Journal of the Optometric Association, 70(1), 629-640.

Huang, J., Cooper, T. G., Satana, D. Kaufman, D. L., & Cao, Y. (2003). Visual distortion provoked by a stimulus in migraine associated with hyperneural activity. Headache, 43, 664-671.

Jeanes, R., Busby, A., Martin, J., Lewis, E., Stevenson, N., Pointon, D., & Wilkins, A. (1997). Prolonged use of coloured overlays for classroom reading. British Journal of Psychology, 88, 531-548.

Kriss, I., & Evans,  B. J. W. (2005). The relationship between dyslexia and Meares-Irlen Syndrome. Journal of Research in Reading, 28(3), 350-364.

Kyd, L. J. C., Sutherland, G. F. M., & McGettrick, P. M. (1992). A preliminary appraisal of the Irlen screening process for scotopic sensitivity syndrome and the effect of Irlen coloured overlays on reading. The British Orthoptic Journal, 49, 24-30.

Lightstone, A., Lightstone, T., & Wilkins, A. J. (1999). Both coloured overlays and coloured lenses can improve reading fluency, but their optimal chromacities differ. Ophthalmological and Physiological Optics, 19(4), 279-285.

Noble, J., Orton, M., Irlen, S., & Robinson, G. L. (2004). A field study of the use of coloured overlays on reading achievement. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 9(2), 14-26.

Northway, N. (2003). Predicting the continued use of overlays in school children: A comparison of the Development Eye Movement test and the Rate of Reading test. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 23(5), 457-463.

Ray, N. J., Fowler, S., & Stein, J. F. (2005). Yellow filters can improve magnocellular function: Motion sensitivity, convergence, accommodation and reading. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1039, 283-293.

Riddell, P. M., Wilkins, A. J., Zemori, V., Gordon, J., & Hainline, J. (1998). The effects of coloured lenses on visual evoked response in photophobic children. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (Abstract), 39 (Suppl.), pp. 181.

Robinson, G. L.,  & Conway, R. N. F. (1994). Irlen filters and reading strategies: Effects of coloured filters on reading achievement, specific reading strategies and perception of ability. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 79, 467-483.

Robinson, G. L., & Conway, R. N. F. (2000). Irlen lenses and adults: A small scale study of reading speed, accuracy, comprehension and self-image. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 5(1), 4-13.

Robinson, G. L., & Foreman, P. J. (1999). Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome and the use of coloured filters: A long-term placebo controlled and masked study of reading achievement and perception of ability. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 89, 83-113.

Robinson, G. L., McGregor, N. R., Roberts, T. K., Dunstan, R. H., & Butt, H. (2001). A biochemical analysis of people with chronic fatigue who have Irlen Syndrome: Speculation concerning immune system dysfunction. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 93, 486-504.

Scott, L., McWhinnie, H., Taylor, L., Stevenson, N., Irons, P., Lewis, E., Evans, B., & Wilkins, A. (2002). Coloured overlays in schools: Orthoptic and optometric findings. Ophthalmological and Physiological Optics, 22, 156-165.

Simmers, A. J., Gray, L. S., & Wilkins, A. J. (2001). The influence of tinted lenses upon ocular accommodation. Vision Research, 41, 1229-1238.

Singleton, C., & Trotter, S. (2005). Visual stress in adults with and without dyslexia. Journal of Research in Reading, 28(3), 365-379.

Solan, H. A., Brannan, J. R., Ficarra, A., & Byrne, R. (1997). Transient and sustained processing: Effects of varying luminance and wavelength on reading comprehension. Journal of the American Optometric Association, 68(8), 502-510.

Solan, H. A., Ficarra, A., Brannan, J. R., & Rucker, F. (1998). Eye movement effiency in normal and reading disabled elementary school children: Effects of varying luminance and wavelength. Journal of the American Optometric Association, 69(7), 455-464.

Sparkes, D. L., Robinson, G. L., Dunstan, H., & Roberts, T. K. (2003). Plasma cholesterol levels and Irlen Syndrome: Preliminary study of 10- to 17-year-old students. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 97, 743-758.

Sparkes, D. L., Robinson, G. L., Roberts, T. K., & Dunstan, H. (2006). General health and associated biochemistry in a visual-perceptual subtype of dyslexia. In F. Columbus (Ed.), Learning Disabilities: New Research. NY: Nova Science Publications.

Tyrrell, R., Holland, K., Dennis, D., & Wilkins, A. (1995). Coloured overlays, visual discomfort, visual search and classroom reading. Research in Reading, 18, 10-23.

Wilkins, A. J. (1993). Reading and visual discomfort. In D. M. Willows, R. S. Kruk, & E. Corcos (Eds.), Visual processes in reading and reading disabilities. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Wilkins, A. J., Evans, B. J. W., Brown, J. A., Busby, A. E., Wingfield, A. E., Jeanes, R. J., &  Bald, J. (1994). Double-masked placebo-controlled trial of precision spectral filters in children who use coloured overlays. Ophthalmological and Physiological Optics, 14, 365-370.

Wilkins, A. J., Jeanes, R. J., Pumfrey, P. D., & Laskier, M. (1996). Rate of reading test: Its reliability and its validity in the assessment of the effects of coloured overlays. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 16, 365-370.

Wilkins, A. J. & Lewis, E. (1999). Coloured overlays, text and texture. Perception, 28, 641-650.

Wilkins, A. J., Lewis, E., Smith, F., Rowland, F., & Tweedie, W. (2001). Coloured overlays and their benefits for reading. Journal of Research in Reading, 24(1), 41-64.

Wilkins, A. J., Patel, R., Adjamian, P., & Evans, B. J. W. (2002). Tinted spectacles and visually-sensitive migraine. Cephalagia, 22, 711-719.

Williams, M. C., Le Cluyse, K., & Littell, R. (1996). A wavelength specific intervention for reading disability. In R. P. Garzia & R. London (Eds.), Vision and Reading. St Louis: Mosby.

Compiled by the late Dr Greg Robinson. Associate Professor Special Education

The University of Newcastle NSW Australia



  1. A Functional neuroimaging case study of Meares-Irlen syndrome/visual stress (MISViS). Chouinard BD, Zhou CI, Hrybouski S, Kim ES, Cummine J.

            Brain Topogr. 2012 Jul;25(3):293-307.


  1. Screening for dyslexia, dyspraxia and Meares-Irlen syndrome in higher education. Nichols SA, McLeod JS, Holder RL, McLeod HS

    Dyslexia 2009 Feb;15(1):42-60.


  2. Meares-Irlen syndrome – a need for increasing awareness in the general public. Kapoor S.

    Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2008 May;28(3):291


  3. The effect of coloured filters on the rate of reading in an adult student population. Evans BJ, Joseph F.

            Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2002 Nov;22(6):535-45


  1. A preliminary investigation into the aetiology of Meares-Irlen syndrome.

    Evans BJ, Wilkins AJ, Brown J, Busby A, Wingfield A, Jeanes R, Bald J.

            Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 1996 Jul;16(4): 286-96


  1. Visual Perceptual Difficulties and the impact on children’s learning: Are teachers missing the page? Christopher Boyle, Divya Jindal-Snape

    British Journal of Support for Learning 2012 27(4) 166-171


  2. Colors, colored overlays, and reading skills. Arcangelo Uccula, Mauro Enna, Claudio Mulatti

    Front Psychol. 2014; 5:833


  3. A comparison of two-coloured filter systems for treating visual rading difficulties. Roger Hall, Micola Ray, Priscilla Harries, John Stein

    Disabil Rehabil 2013 Dec; 35(26): 2221-2226


  4. The Educational Challenge of Irlen Syndrome Siegfried Othmer, PhD

    EEG Info Newsletter – Articles and Discussion on Neurofeedback and Biofeedback


  5. Treating reading difficulties with colour. Lisa M Henderson, Robert H Taylor, Brendan Barrett, Philip G Griffiths.

    BMJ 2014; 349:g5160


  6. Coloured Filters Enhance the Visual Perception of Social Cues in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Amanda K Ludlow, Elaine Taylor-Whiffen, Arnold J Wilkins.

            ISRN Neurol. 2012; 2012:298098


  1. A placebo-controlled trial of tinted lenses in adolescents with good and poor academic performance: reading accuracy and speed. Genis Cardona, Rosa Boras, Elvira Peris, Marina Castane.

    J Optom. 2010;3(2):94-101


  2. Specific Visual Symptoms and Signs of Meares-Irlen Syndrome in Korean

    Minwook Chang, Seung-Hyun Kim, Joo-Young Kim, Yoonae A Cho

    Korean J Ophthalmol 2014; 28(2): 159-163


  3. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Findings in Meares-Irlen Syndrome: A Pilot Study. Ji Hyun Kim, Hye-Jin Seo, Suk-Gyu Ha, Seung-Hyun Kim

            Korean J Ophthalmol 2015; 29(2): 121-125


  1. Using coloured filters to reduce the symptoms of visual stress in children with reading delay. Harries P, Hall R, Ray N, Stein J.

    Scand J Occup Ther 2015 Mar;22(2): 153-60


  2. Levels of visual stress in Proficient Readers: Effects of Spectral Filtering of Fluorescent Lighting on Reading Discomfort.   Loew SJ, Rodriguez C, Marsh NV, Jones GL, Munez JC, Watson K.

    Span J Psychol 2015 Aug 10; 18:E58


  1. A Prospective Genetic Marker of the visual-perception disorder Meares-Irlen syndrome. Loew SJ, Watson K.

    Percept Mot Skills. 2012 Jun;114(3): 870-82


       1.  A girl with dyslexia suspected to have Irlen syndrome, completely relieved by wearing tinted lenses.

            No To Hattatsu. 2015 Nov;47(6):445-8















Published in Resources
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 17:57

Reading Difficulties Newcastle

7099720 s


Pencil grip..... Is it that important??

Have you even noticed how your child holds his/her pencil when writing? There are not many children that I see in the clinic that actually hold their pencil correctly. Most of them have no idea. It makes me wonder why this is not something that is considered important these days. Most parents probably don't think it is important either, especially when you consider all of the other demands that are on children and parents both in and out of school. A lot of students experience tired arms and hands when doing a lot of writing. If they hold their pencil or pen incorrectly, then they are actually using more muscles in their arms than they would be using if they held their pen correctly. If they wrap their thumb over their second and third finger, they lose the natural flexibility that we have in our second finger (index) and thumb. Try it yourself and see if you can feel the difference! Once I show the kids the difference, they agree that it feels strange, (because they have never done that before), but also that it improves their writing.



Published in Dr Joan Brien
Tuesday, 16 September 2014 16:17

Learning Difficulties Newcastle

Irlen Syndrome is Hereditary

Imagine being 6 year old and trying really hard to read from your school readers and also trying to show Mum and Dad that you can read (but in fact cannot achieve what is expected of you). I met such a child yesterday, and she was accompanied by her Dad who is a teacher. During our discussions, it became apparent that Dad also had problems with schoolwork and even now, only reads what he has to read! He does try from time to time to read a novel, but after only a short time, the words become unclear, and he has to work too hard to keep reading. He did not know that he had Irlen, but does now! His daughter was able to read much more fluently and accurately with the final overlay selected. She is now coming to get the Irlen lenses, so life should be easier for her at school from now on. Once again, it is so rewarding to be helping children (and adults) who have struggled to read efficiently. I love going to work!

Published in Dr Joan Brien
Monday, 18 August 2014 16:13

Reading Difficulties Newcastle

I saw a young girl today who is in Year 9 at school. She was screened about 3 years ago and was given an overlay. We recommended that she come back for the Irlen lenses, but for whatever reason, she was provided with tinted lenses from an optometrist that were the same as the overlay. She has also been using violet paper for handouts etc. Recently, one of her teachers noticed that when she was reading with these tinted lenses, she was reading better on blue paper than the violet paper, so she suggested that the girl come back to the clinic to check the colour. During the assessment, I pointed out that when wearing Irlen lenses, white paper looks white but softer, so that the lenses don't make it feel like you are in a green world, or pink world etc. She was surprised at this, as she said that when she wears the lenses from the optometrist, the page is changed to violet and she actually had commented to her mother that when she has them on and looks around, she feels like everything looks violet. There are some optometrists who have a machine called a Colourimeter and they use it to select coloured lenses for children and adults. It involves looking down at a page of text while they change the colour of the light shining on the paper. We recently saw another person who had lenses selected this way and they also said that the paper looks coloured when they are looking through them. I was also told about a little girl who had been given a yellow overlay at the screening appointment, and instead of bringing her back to the clinic for the correctly tinted lenses, her mum took her to an optometrist who gave her yellow lenses. She is constantly saying in class that they hurt her eyes and give her headaches, so the teacher has been telling her to tell her mum. She said that she has, but mum just says she has to get used to them because that's what the optometrist said. I want to stress how important it is for the tinted lenses to be selected by an Irlen Diagnostician, because the colour of the lenses is often different from the colour of the overlay. So if you know of any people who have done this, maybe you can pass this information onto them.

Published in Dr Joan Brien
Thursday, 21 August 2014 16:08

Learning Difficulties Newcastle

I saw a young man today, who has had to leave school because he is unable to do what is required of him at school. He gets very tired at school (and did so today, while sitting under fluorescent lights in the clinic). He has had special help at school over the years, has had tutoring but has just not been able to cope with his schoolwork. It got to the stage where it was just no use for him to attend school so he is now attending the local TAFE college doing English English and maths. He was found to have severe symptoms of Irlen Syndrome and is particularly light sensitive. He selected a coloured overlay that helped him to see the words more clearly and also made his eyes feel more relaxed. He was able to read more fluently with the overlay and is looking forward to coming along to select the correctly tinted Irlen lenses. He obviously saw the difference that colour made so I am hoping that this is the first day of the rest of his life, where he can achieve his full potential. Without being diagnosed with Irlen, he would have continued to struggle and as we know, some of the young people who don't achieve, despite trying really hard go "off the rails", so I feel that he may have been saved from this potential outcome. His Mum was concerned about how he would react as she felt that he wasn't really wanting to come along, but once he could see the difference, he was "hooked". Another great story from the Irlen Diagnostic Clinic... and it is not over yet, as he is yet to get his lenses, which are going to make an even greater difference for him than what the overlay has done. So please pass on this good news story, particularly if you know of young people who think it's not "cool" to wear coloured lenses.

Published in Dr Joan Brien
Tuesday, 22 July 2014 16:02

Learning Difficulties Newcastle

I spent the day at Singleton today, and screened four young children who were really struggling at school and they had been referred to lots of specialists in an effort to find out why they were having trouble reading. All of them had Irlen Syndrome, and were able to read much more fluently with the selected overlay than without it. One little boy could not bear to look at the white page for longer than about 5 seconds before his eyes started to hurt. Another one gets headaches every day. He said that he got a headache yesterday evening and when asked what he was doing at the time, he said "nothing" but Mum said "playing with his WI". This is a part of Irlen that is not always recognised. When playing with electronic games, children often don't wear their lenses because the games are colourful, and don't require a lot of reading. However, they emit a lot of glare so children can get sore eyes, headaches or tired eyes but don't realise that it is the result of the glare from the games. So if your child has Irlen lenses and doesn't wear them when playing electronic games, try to explain to them, that the glare is making their brains work harder than they should be.

Published in Dr Joan Brien

Children try really hard, but when it gets too hard, they give up!

A little girl came to the clinic today to be screened for Irlen Syndrome. She is in Year 5 and was really struggling at school. The result of the screening indicated that she did have Irlen, but as well as words not looking very good for her, she also did not see the clinic room as a "square". In other words, she sees the world as almost 2-D so that the corners of the room just looked like a small indentation in a flat surface. After selecting the overlay that helped her, she looked through it and noticed this difference in how the room looked. Prior to this, her parents did not know that was how she saw the world, because she had not mentioned it to them. But why would she? As far as she knew, how she saw the world was how everyone saw the world.

That is why I feel so strongly about screening all children for Irlen in the school situation, because they don't self- report because they don't know that what they see is different from others and the only way we can know this, is if we screen them.

Published in Dr Joan Brien
Monday, 25 August 2014 10:35

Learning Difficulties Newcastle

Did you know that some people with Irlen Syndrome suffer from anxiety and/or depression. I even see some "little people" who have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. That is sad. Whether this is a direct result from their Irlen syndrome or a combination of this along with other experiences, I cannot say. I know that some of the "littlies" who come along to the clinic, are actually phobic about reading. I have had some who cry when it comes time to read, and often it is because they have been in trouble (at least in their eyes) for making mistakes when reading. Some get anxious when they have to read to the teacher, and this can cause them to make more mistakes than they might otherwise make. I wish I could make the teachers see the effect that they have on some of these kids, and help them to understand why they have trouble reading, and that it is not that they are incapable of reading, it is just that they cannot "see" the words clearly and without distortions. Of course, the kids don't tell anyone about what the words look like, because they think that everyone "sees" the words as they do. So if your child is seeming to make silly mistakes when reading to you, or if you tell them a word on one page and then they don't recognise it when they see it on the next page, consider Irlen Syndrome and get them assessed instead of "bashing your head against a brick wall" and getting frustrated continually, and causing your child to experience stress, which can be expressed as anger or frustration or even refusal to read.

Published in Dr Joan Brien
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 10:32

Learning Difficulties Newcastle

A little girl came to see me last week, along with her brother, Mother and Father. Dad has just found out that he has Irlen Syndrome (while his daughter was being assessed) and both children have it as well. The little girl sees words floating, lines look crooked and she sees sparkling when she looks at the page, and sometimes she sees coloured dots when she wakes up in the morning. She said that it takes a while before the dots disappear. Dad also said that he experiences sparkling in his vision, but he just accepted that as normal for him. The boy gets headaches and gets very sore and tired eyes after reading for a short time. He is really light sensitive, even more than his sister. A common observation of children who are light sensitive is the dark rings under the eyes. There are probably other reasons for them, but I believe that it is a certain "give-away" that they are light sensitive, and as a result, usually have Irlen Syndrome. So, if you know of someone who is light sensitive (blinks a lot in the light, can't keep their eyes open for too long when looking towards a light source, prefers to sit in a darker part of the room, shades their eyes with their hands when looking at a page in a bright room or gets headaches each school day, but not necessarily on the weekends) then you should consider that they may have Irlen Syndrome and have them assessed. We have clinics in Coffs Harbour and Taree, and I go to Singleton once a month, and our main clinic is in Wallsend.

Published in Dr Joan Brien
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