What is Irlen Syndrome?

Firstly, what is Irlen syndrome? Like most of you, I had never heard of this condition and its effects. Surprisingly, Irlen syndrome is more common than we realise.

Irlen syndrome is a condition which is often referred to as a visual stress disorder, it constantly affects the way the brain processes certain information especially what our brains see. So how does this condition work? Simply, Irlen syndrome affects the sufferer’s brain and prevents them from being able to process a certain wavelength of light. In order to visualise specific information, the brain processes wavelengths which consist of different colours of the spectrum. Essentially, sufferers of this condition can not process one or more of these colours and therefore, this can change the way we view certain objects such as: the positioning, shape or size.

How can this affect me whilst driving?

Now that we know what Irlen syndrome is, you may be wondering how does this affect me in everyday life like driving a car? It can affect learners more than you may realise, as this condition can change the brains perception of an object, this can cause learners to have difficulty keeping the correct positioning whilst driving. For example; they may move closer to or further away from a kerb or they may have difficulty keeping the correct stopping distance between themselves and other drivers around them as they perceive them to be closer than they really are.

You may believe that sufferers would most likely only have problems with the practical side of driving. However, this is often not the case and they also have issues with the theory side of driving. Most people who have this condition find it difficult reading information provided by their instructors or identifying correct road signs. This is a result of them being unable to see grouped words correctly on the printed page.

Furthermore, sufferers of Irlen syndrome can also have problems with verbal instructions given by their instructor whilst still being able to execute these effectively at the same time. This is because the brain processes audio information in the same area as any visual information provided. Therefore, they can struggle to focus on more than one thing at a time and can be easily distracted by other noises around them such as traffic noise particularly when the window is open.

As a result of this, most people who have Irlen syndrome can also experience other effects including headaches, fatigue, stress and anxiety whilst learning to drive. This can result in pupils developing frequent headaches, becoming restless and tired during or after lessons. Most pupils will need to take breaks often during a lesson to try and combat these effects, many instructors may find that their progress is slow or may stall over time.

How can this be diagnosed?

As Irlen syndrome is a not a visual problem but rather a brain processing disorder, this can not be diagnosed via standardised tests by either your doctor or optician. If these symptoms sound familiar to you, please contact Irlen screener, Michelle Wakenell, who will be able to provide more information. Michelle can be contacted on 07504294970 or at her Facebook page “Irlen Screener London and Essex”.