A: Meares – Irlen Syndrome is a form of visual stress that will have been present throughout life which manifests as difficulties with fine vision tasks such as reading. This eye condition was identified in 1980 by an American psychologist and although the condition is not yet fully understood, it is known to affect reading ability.The degree of symptoms can also vary from person to person with more marked symptoms creating barriers to successful reading.
The condition affects about 50% of dyslexics, as well as epileptics, migraine sufferers, people with ME and MS, and others. Like dyslexia, it is not curable but can be treated, and significant improvements can be made. For dyslexics, Meares – Irlen can often be the cause of reading difficulty.
Q: What is Visual Stress?
A: Visual Stress is the scientific name for Meares-Irlen Syndrome. Visual Stress better explains the cause of the symptoms, believed to be over-stimulation or over-sensitivity of the visual cortex – the area at the back of the brain to visual patterns and types of light. The most common cause being pattern glare caused by lines of black text on white paper.
Q: What are the signs and symptoms of Meares-Irlen Syndrome?
A: Symptoms of Meares-Irlen Syndrome include:
- Blurring of print
- Letters and words appearing as if they are moving. Discomfort when reading
- Glare from a white page
- Patterns in the print
In some cases headaches and migraines
Signs of Meares-Irlen Syndrome include:
- Skipping words or lines
- Re-reading the same line frequently
- Moving the book around the desk
- Moving closer or further away from the book
- Poor comprehension of reading content
Meares-Irlen Syndrome can be a major part of the problem with adults and children with reading and comprehension difficulties even with those who are diagnosed 'dyslexic'. Although there is no ‘cure’ for Dyslexia or If visual stress, it can be identified and treated, any remaining issues can be easier to manage.
Q: How do you treat Meares-Irlen Syndrome?
A: The first thing we would recommend is a full eye examination and the completion of a pre-examination questionnaire. It may be that if there any other underlying issues, a more thorough examination will be required. The examination we carry out pays particular attention to the tracking of the eyes and how they work together. Up to 50% of people with Dyslexia and associated Meares-
If symptoms continue after appropriate spectacles or further vision training exercises that improve hand-eye co-ordination, motor skills and balance can recommended.
In addition to this we would carry out an overlay assessment – this includes a rate of reading test and colour sensitivity assessment. This involves the individual viewing text through various coloured overlay sheets. The response to each colour is recorded and the best colour or colour combination is determined. If this works well and provides a positive outcome that improves concentration, rate of reading and visual processing we then recommend a diagnostic colorimetry assessment. This measures the individuals response to text that is viewed under different highly controlled coloured light conditions. The appropriate optimised coloured tint can be diagnosed from over 120 000 colour combinations. The results found are put in to a special computer programme that determines the optimal prescription tinted spectacles ordered.
The cost for the coloured overlay and rate of reading assessments is £35 – a pair of appropriate overlays is £20 the colorimetry assessment is £35. The cost of precision Cerium tinted lenses starts around £180.
The assessment can take around an hour excluding the eye examination that takes a further 30 minutes
Q: Is the treatment of Meares-Irlen Syndrome covered by the NHS?
A: Unfortunately the cost of the coloured overlay and colorimetry assessment are not covered by the NHS. However for children under 16 or Full Time students under 19,, some NHS is available that we can arrange in most cases and this would contribute towards the eye test and also towards the he costs of Precision-tinted glasses for Meares-Irlen Syndrome.
For students at university help and support is provided via the DSA the Disability Students Allowance – each university has trained assessors that can help with obtaining this allowance following a confirmed diagnosis of a learning difficulty such as Dyslexia or Dyspraxia.
Q: Tell us about the http://helpwithreading.co.uk/
A: The help with reading gives more information about Visual Stress and Meares-Irlen Syndrome and the 7 steps that can help the signs and symptoms of Mears Irlene Syndrome.
Q: What is the prevalence of Meares-Irlen Syndrome?
A: Research from the University of Hull shows that up to 30% of the population suffers from Meares-Irlen Syndrome. That means in a classroom of 30 children at least 1 individual will be suffering from this condition. Teachers are in a great position to recognise and refer these children for an appropriate eye exam and visual stress assessment from a suitability qualified behavioural optometrist.
Q: Who is qualified to offer help for Meares-Irlen Syndrome?
A: Without doubt due to the complexity of the condition and the many factors that cause the problems in Meares-Irlen Syndrome. A behavioural optometrist, that uses an intuitive colorimeter, that specialises in binocular vision disorders and also is a member of the Society of coloured Lens Prescribers and can order Cerium precision-tinted lenses and is a Cerium lens specialist would be recommended.
Visual Answers Optometrists are award-winning behavioural optometrists based in Loughborough in Leicestershire. Mohammed has lectured on and Meares-Irlen Syndrome & Visual Stress at schools, colleges and universities. His practice is registered as a Cerium Lens Specialist and he is a Member of the Society of Coloured Lens Prescribers
Visual Answers Optometrists Loughborough
Visual Answers Optometrists Loughborough