Friday, February 15, 2013

Education Friday - A Look at Irlen Lenses

I have a friend who is a user of and strong believer in Irlen lenses. 
Since my knowledge of them is nil, I've been net-surfing.
Here's an excerpt of an article from scholastic about the
experiences of one teacher whose students used the overlays.

Colored Overlays — Rose-Colored Glasses of the Reading World?
by Angela Bunyi

"Less than two percent?" That was my response when my supervisor, Dr. Brooks, quoted the statistics that show how many students benefit from using colored overlays while reading. Considering that she holds a reading disabilities doctorate from Vanderbilt University, I trusted her completely. Then, like clockwork, students started to magically bring in the overlays — on their own. “Where did you get this?” I’d ask. “Oh, Mom got it for me at the parent/teacher store. I need it. Bad,” they’d respond. I knew it was time to do a little research and put my question to rest. Do colored overlays really help struggling readers, or is this an attempt to look at the world through rose-colored glasses? Read on to see what I found out.

Irlen Syndrome: Where That Two Percent Number Comes Into Play
A quick Internet search led me to find the stats that show that overlays are geared for children with Irlen syndrome. How many of your students have been identified with this? Probably not any, I am guessing. If you are not familiar with Irlen syndrome, I'll give you a brief summary. It is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. In terms of reading, for children with Irlen syndrome, print looks different. This means that they read more slowly and less efficiently and have poor comprehension. Symptoms may also include poor depth perception, eye strain, fatigue, headaches, and low self-esteem. Attention to lighting is also important for these students. Fluorescent and bright lights are not their friends. You can read more about this syndrome on the Irlen Method Web site

Putting Overlays to the Test
Much of the population I work with has some of the symptoms described on the Irlen Method site. With nearly 70 students under my care, I could only think of two students that truly seemed to benefit from colored overlays. One was diagnosed with complex visual problems, and the other student is in the middle of testing for dyslexia and potential visual eye tracking issues, among other things. 
But the tipping point came when an ENTIRE grade level of students came in with colored overlays. I carefully shared the news that maybe they didn’t need the overlays. The crowd response of, “Oh yes, we do,” came quickly and strongly. Then one boy dared — I mean, asked — me to put the overlays to the test. He reminded me that I have to complete weekly progress monitoring and could compare past results to current ones, in which the overlays were used. Genius!


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