The Irlen Method and the efficacy of colored overlays and colored lenses has been the subject of over 200 research studies encompassing the disciplines of education, psychology, and medicine. To date, more than 100 of these studies supporting the use of colored overlays and lenses to treat the perceptual processing difficulties associated with Irlen Syndrome are published in peer-reviewed academic and scientific journals, including the Journal of Learning Disabilities, Australian Journal of Special Education, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology, Journal of Research in Reading, and Behavioral Optometry among others.
This research has established a hereditary component of the disorder (Loew & Watson, 2012; Robinson, Foreman, & Dear, 2000; Robinson, Foreman, Dear & Sparkes, 2004), a number of biochemical markers for problems associated with Irlen Syndrome (Robinson, Roberts, McGregor, Dunstan, & Butt, 1999; Robinson, McGregor, Roberts, Dunstan & Butt, 2001; Sparkes, Robinson, Dunstan, & Roberts, 2003), and differences between both the anatomy and functioning of brains of individuals with Irlen Syndrome (Chouinard, Zhou, Hrybousky, Kim, & Commine, 2012; Huang, Zong, Wilkins, Jenkins, Bozoki, & Cao, 2011; Lewine, Davis, Provencal, Edgar, & Orrison, 1997; Riddell, Wilkins, & Hainline, 2006; Yellen & Schweller, 2009). The research has repeatedly documented efficacy of both colored overlays and spectral filters, as measured by improvements in a variety of reading skills (Bouldoukian, Wilkins, & Evans, 2002; Nobel, Orton, Irlen & Robinson, 2004; Park, Kim, Cho, Joo, 2012; Robinson & Foreman, 1999; Tyrrell, Holland, Dennis, & Wilkins, 1995; Williams, LeCluyse, & Rock Faucheux, 1992; Wilkins, Evans, Brown, Busby, Wingfield, Jeanes & Bald, 1994), reduction in physical symptoms that include headaches, migraines, eye strain, fatigue, and light sensitivity (Barbolini, Lazzerini, Pini, Steiner, Del Cecchio, Migaldi, & Cavallini, 2009; Bulmer, 1994; Chronicle & Wilkins, 1991; Huang et al., 2011; Wilkins & Wilkinson, 1991), and improved functioning and success in both academia and the workplace (Bulmer, 1994; Irlen & Robinson, 1996; Robinson & Conway, 1994; Robinson & Conway, 2000; Whiting & Robinson, 1988; Whiting, Robinson, & Parrot, 1994).
Independent research projects are ongoing at various universities in the United States, England, Australia, Switzerland, Italy, and New Zealand.
Colored overlays are considered an approved accommodation for standardized tests by many states including California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oklahoma.
Incidence of Irlen Syndrome in the Population
Incidence studies suggest that 46% of those with identified with reading problems, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, or learning difficulties suffer from Irlen Syndrome and can be helped by the Irlen Method. Sometimes the Irlen Method is the only solution needed, but more often, the Irlen Syndrome is just one layer of the individual’s problems, and the Irlen Method can be one piece of the solution puzzle. This method does not replace the need for instruction, remediation, or medical intervention.
The Irlen Method in the Education System and Government Support
There are presently over 7,000 educators trained as Irlen screeners, many of whom work within school districts in the United States and over seas. Over 100,000 adults and children wear Irlen Filters and millions of individuals are using Irlen Colored Overlays. Massachusetts and Oregon have bills pending to require screening for Irlen Syndrome in all schools in these states. Alabama has recognized Irlen Syndrome/Scotopic Sensitivity as a learning disability and all recommendations including the use of Colored Filters must be allowed. The Medical Research Council at Cambridge University, Visual Perception Unit of Essex University in England, University Laboratory of Physiology at Oxford University, and Newcastle University in Australia have extensively researched and published studies on colored overlays and Colored Filters.
Brain research at the cellular level has provided new information regarding the operation of the visual pathways in dyslexics as opposed to normal readers and provides a plausible explanation for the demonstrated effectiveness of Irlen Filters and colored overlays. Brain studies conducted at the Amen Clinic and the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, show that color helps to balance brain functioning and that the Irlen effect is real.
Agencies Officially Recognizing the Irlen Method
The following are a sampling of agencies which have officially recognized the Irlen Method: Recording for the Blind, SAT, ACT, LSAT, Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services, Indiana Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Michigan Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Texas Commission for the Blind, Nevada Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Wisconsin Vocational Rehabilitation.
In Australia, the following are a sampling of agencies which have officially recognized the Irlen Method: Department of Employment, Education & Training, Departments of Army, Navy and Air Force, Board of Studies-NSW, Board of Secondary Education-WA, Department of Children’s Services-WA, Commonwealth Employment Service (CES), Department of Rehabilitation, and Technical and Further Education (TAFE).
Headaches and Migraine Research and the Irlen Method
Research has just begun to show the connection between headaches and migraines and the Irlen Method. For individuals whose headaches or migraines are caused by light sensitivity, the Irlen Method can make a big difference.
Traumatic Head Injuries
This research highlights two things. First, the use of color to treat light-based sensitivities, physical discomfort, and perceptual difficulties in the environment and on the printed page is not restricted to those who have inherited difficulties. This technique is also effective for those whose difficulties are acquired through TBI.