Autism / Asperger Syndrome & the Irlen Method
“Sensory processing problems can cause real pain; even non-verbal individuals with autism can have a problem with sensory overload. Some people are really helped by Irlen Colored Lenses.”
- Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
“I know of several children and adults (with Asperger's Syndrome) who have reported a considerable reduction in visual sensitivity and sensory overload when wearing Irlen lenses."
- Tony Attwood, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome.
Seventy percent of the information an individual receives enters through the eyes and must be correctly interpreted by the brain. Any problem in the way the brain processes visual information can cause difficulties in the general ability to function. Sensory overload causes problems processing, interpreting, and interacting with the environment. The Irlen Method helps individuals with Autism and Asperger Syndrome who have perceptual problems, light sensitivity, and sensory overload by filtering the frequencies of light to which the individual is sensitive. This allows the brain to process visual information normally.
Types of Problems
“I looked in quick glances, understood by piercing fragments. I saw cracked children, cracked steps, print, and writing. Since having Irlen Tinted Lenses, I have the sight and hearing I very much wanted.”- Richard Attfield
The Irlen Method is not a cure for Autism or Asperger Syndrome. Not every individual with Autism and Asperger Syndrome suffers with perceptual problems, light sensitivity, and sensory overload. The Irlen Method is a piece of the puzzle for some individuals. Typical problems that can be helped by the Irlen Method are:
(1) Sensory Overload caused by bright lights, fluorescent lights, and sunlight. Lighting is stressful; and this results in behaviors to filter out the light, poor eye contact, and physical symptoms such as anxiety or headaches.
(2) Environmental Distortions where the individual sees the world in a distorted fashion. Objects are blurry, moving, changing, and can disappear. People may look frightening, stairs may look like a slide without steps, and walls and floors may swing and sway. Misperceptions can cause difficulties with sustained attention, eye contact, gross and small motor coordination, ability to interpret facial expressions, and poor social skills.
(3) Print Distortions make learning or reading difficult. The individual may have good or even advanced reading skills but has trouble with reading comprehension or experiences strain and fatigue when reading or doing other activities. Tracking or building breaks into reading may be a problem.
Often, children cannot report how they feel or what they see. Some behaviors which may alert you that they are having problems that can be helped by Irlen Spectral Filters are:
- Looking in a series of short glances
- Looking away from visual targets
- Squinting or looking down
- Finger flicking
- Sideway glances
- Poor eye contact
- Rubbing or pushing on eyes
- Mesmerized by colors, patterns, or light
- Behavior changes in bright lights or sunlight
- Poor spatial or body awareness
- Light sensitivity
- Difficulties with stairs, escalators, or catching balls
- Poor small or gross motor coordination
The Autism Questionnaire, which can be downloaded here, helps you determine whether a child with Autism is a candidate for Irlen Spectral Filters.
Color Light Activity: In addition to completing the Autism Questionnaire, children six years and younger or children with limited language skills should try the Color Light Activity. This activity can be done at home using different colored light bulbs. The Color Light Activity survey can also be downloaded here.
The completed Autism Questionnaire and/or Colored Light Activity can be sent to the Irlen Institute, 5380 Village Road, Long Beach, CA 90808. For a fee of $28, a report will be sent indicating whether the child or adult with Autism is a candidate for Irlen Spectral Filters.
The patented Irlen Method filters out the wave lengths of light to which the individual is sensitive to allow the brain to process visual information normally. The ability to determine and filter just those wave lengths of light which are creating the problem is the key to the success of the Irlen Method. The appropriate colors are worn as glasses. Therefore, only those children who can tolerate wearing glasses or goggles should be tested.
The ability to determine the correct color is not dependent upon the ability to communicate. Therefore, children who are unable to talk, have difficulty understanding what you ask, or have problems expressing how they feel can still be tested. We monitor changes in behavior to determine which color is helpful. The testing does not require the child to follow directions or answer questions. Children as young as five years of age can be tested.
Each person needs a different color, and this can only be determined on an individual basis. The technique is noninvasive. It sounds simple, but choosing the right color is critical. The wrong color can make symptoms worse, causing more stress and increased perceptual difficulties.
Need more information about Autism and the Irlen Method? Read our Frequently Asked Questions about Autism and Asperger Syndrome >>
Copyright © 1998 Perceptual Development Corp/Helen Irlen. All rights reserved.