The 12th Irlen International Conference has just come to a close, and boy, did we learn a lot!
Helen Irlen kicked off the five day event in Houston, Texas with two days of master training for Irlen Diagnosticians from around the world. Updating them on the latest diagnostic protocols and testing techniques, Irlen revealed what makes the Irlen Method unique and successful – tailored procedures for different populations of sufferers, from severe clients to head injury patients to non-verbal autistic children. Day 3 of the conference opened up to Irlen Screeners, as well as the general public and started with a general address by Helen Irlen, followed by a keynote speech by Ricardo Guimaraes, MD, PhD, from Brazil. Dr. Guimaraes is a board certified ophthalmologist and founder and Director of the Hospital de Olhos in Minas Garais Brazil, the largest individual private eye clinics in Brazil. Dr. Guimaraes is also Assistant Professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (Brazil) and Director of the International Club of Surgery. He educated an audience of nearly 200 about the visual pathway and explained the difference between sight and vision.
“Vision is a dynamic process that involves how your brain interprets visual signals. It takes into account what you see, when you see it, and where you see it.”
– Ricardo Guimaraes, MD, PhD
In contrast, sight is only about visual acuity and is what your optometrist checks (i.e., can you see this letter?). From his perspective as an opthalmologist, Dr. Guimaraes was able to explain to attendees why most eyecare professionals have a difficult time understanding Irlen – because it involves a brain process and part of the visual pathway that eyecare professionals are not trained to evaluate.
Neuroscientist, Jeffrey Lewine PhD, Professor of Translational Neuroscience and Director of Business Development at the Mind Research Network was up next. Dr. Lewine shared the research he has conducted on individuals with Irlen Syndrome, using MEG brain imaging technology to uncover abnormal brain function in the visual cortex that is successfully normalized with the use of Irlen Spectral Filters. While only a small part of his overall presentation, this finding is crucial in taking us one step closer to understanding what is causing the variety of symptoms that manifest in individuals with Irlen Syndrome. Dr. Lewine said that his findings have led him to a hypothesis that the key dysfunction in the brains of individuals with Irlen Syndrome is actually in how the two visual systems, the Magnocellular and Parvocellular, work together, and not actually anything wrong with either system independently.
The third keynote speaker, Marcia Reis Guimaraes, MD, PhD, is an ophthalmologist and eye pathologist with an educational background in molecular biology and basic sciences. She is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Embryology and Pathology at the Universidade de Sao Paulo and Universidade Pitagoras and invited professor of several universities throughout Brazil. Dr. Guimaraes shared how her team of researchers has been using objective medical tests, looking at eye saccades and fixation, to differentiate between Irlen Syndrome and co-existing neurovisual factors. The results of her research offer concrete evidence that symptoms of Irlen Syndrome are not simply unresolved binoccular and accommodative anomalies, and offer strong support for the success at Irlen Spectral Filters to alleviate these symptoms, as measured by objective medical tests.
Wrapping up the full day of keynote speakers, were Helen L. Irlen, MA, BCPC, LMFT and Sandra I. Tosta, PhD who discussed the acquisition of Irlen symptoms after brain injury and concussion. The pair shared the research they have been doing on United States military TBI suffers experiencing medically resistant headaches, migraines and photophobia. This research revealed that, among other things, migraine frequency was reduced from an average of 22 migraines per month to less than one migraine per month with the use of Irlen Spectral Filters. This research reveals Irlen Spectral Filters as an extremely promising intervention for some of the lingering symptoms of brain injury and concussion.
The following two days of the conference were filled with presentations of new and cutting-edge research from all over the world. Researchers in Japan discussed the connection between Irlen Syndrome and quality of life. Israel produced promise of a differential diagnosis for Irlen and ADHD, to successfully determine whether medication or Irlen Spectral Filters are the proper intervention. There was research from Ecuador confirming the incidence of severe Irlen Syndrome as being 25% in that country. A team of psychologists explained how Irlen Syndrome can lead to misdiagnosis of anxiety, and how by calming the brain and the visual world with Irlen Spectral Filters, symptoms of anxiety can be improved. Educators explained the impact of Irlen Syndrome on math education, and introduced preliminary results from an ongoing school district study in Mississippi where the implementation of Irlen Screening and the use of Irlen Colored Overlays has already resulted in reading performance growth that is double for students using overlays vs. those who didn’t. We learned about Brain Gym exercises and standardized ways to discuss symptoms and observations of Irlen Syndrome that allow for successful exchanges with professionals from other disciplines. And, there was an entire presentation on Apps with useful applications for individuals with Irlen syndrome.
Above all else, the conference offered an opportunity for Irlen professionals from around the world to come together and share best practices. The conference was attended by individuals from a variety of countries, including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and of course, the United States. It was inspirational, motivational, invigorating, and educational, and we all look forward to the next Irlen International Conference to be held in 2018!