Irlen Lenses


In 1980 Olive Meares, a teacher in New Zealand, reported that some dyslexic individuals experience difficulty with glare from the page when reading . A few years later the term Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome was coined by Helen Irlen, an American educational psychologist. It refers to the visual distortions individuals with learning difficulties experience in the way they perceive their environment. The Syndrome is also known as Meares-Irlen syndrome or Irlen Syndrome.

Irlen's theory is based on the assumption that some children with learning difficulties are sensory hypersensitive. Like sound, light can overload the brain by bombarding it with information, which will affect the central nervous system. According to Irlen, individualised tinted lenses or tinted overlays made of sheets of transparent coloured plastic and placed over the page while reading can filter out light frequencies to which these children are sensitive and alleviate the symptoms of inadequate visual processing.

Symptoms of Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome

  • Poor reading: words or lines are skipped, they appear blurry, they are re-read over and over.
  • Poor comprehension.
  • Sensitivity to high contrasts: bright light, glare, sunlight or light at night.
  • Difficulty in judging distances.
  • Eyestrain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headaches.
  • Poor attention span.
  • Poor listening.
  • Hyperactivity.

Children who suffer from SSS must constantly adapt themselves and compensate which drains their energy.

Diagnosis of the Irlen syndrome

There are usually two assessments.

  • The Symptom Assessment to identify whether individuals have the Irlen syndrome and if so, which symptoms they have.
  • The Tinting Assessment indicates which tint combination removes these symptoms.

The Irlen Centres listed in the Resources section offer assessment and advice.

Conditions that may respond to the Irlen lenses

The lenses may help individuals who suffer from the following disorders providing they have the Irlen Syndrome:

Learning difficulties
Photosensitive epilepsy

Helen Irlen states that the Irlen therapy is not a cure for these conditions but it can improve posture, co-ordination, eye contact and motor activities.


Research suggests that Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome may be a genetically-based deficit in visual processing . The cause of the syndrome and why colours help is not well understood and generally it is not widely recognised by the scientific community. Several studies have been conducted since the eighties but whilst findings of a study by Evans and Patel suggest that children with specific learning difficulties, including binocular instability, low amplitude of accommodation, and Meares-Irlen Syndrome, benefited form the uses of tinted lenses other studies were inconclusive:

Scientific studies on the Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome and Irlen lenses can be viewed on the internet at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi


There are several therapy centres in the UK:

Irlen Centre London
137 Bishop's Mansions
Stevenage Road
Tel: 020 7736 5752

Irlen Centre Kent
17 Ashford Drive
ME17 3PA
Tel:0781 717 2650 

Email: irlenkent@live.co.uk

Irlen Centre East

4 Park Farm Business Centre
Fornham St Genevieve
Bury St. Edmunds
Suffolk IP28 6TS
Tel: 01284 724301

Irlen South West 

56 Windsor St
GL52 2DE
Tel: 07817 799268 

Central England 

Brenda Sharp
Unit 8
Visitors Centre
Heart of the National Forest
Bath Lane
DE12 6BD
Tel: 07460 449146

Email: ames@irlencentralengland.co.uk  

Irlen North West
Beacon Lodge
Macclesfield Road
Over Alderley
SK10 4UB
Tel: 01625 583841

Irlen North East
97 Silverdale Ave
LS20 8BG
Tel: 01943 871189

The Institute of Optometry
56-62 Newington Causeway

The Irlen Institute
5380 Village Road
Long Beach CA
Tel: (001) 562 496 2550

The Light and Sound Therapy Centre
80 Queen Elizabeth Walk
London N16 5UQ
Tel: 0208 809 9070


These are some of the references that have been passed to us. We have not necessarily read the books, and cannot say how easy it will be to get them.

- Irlen H. (1991) Reading by the colours: overcoming dyslexia and other reading disabilities through the Irlen method. Avery Press. ISBN: 0-89529-476-1
- Wilkins A. (1995) Visual Stress Oxford Publications. ISBN: 0-19-852174-X

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