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The Reason My Wickedly Smart Girl Couldn’t Remember Sight Words

This guest blog post is written mom, physician, and philanthropist, Dr. Elizabeth Turner. Dr. Turner has two Irlen children whose lives were changed by Irlen Spectral Filters and who have created a way to help others by paying it forward with their new charity, KidScholly. This is their story…

I am the lucky mom of two amazing kids who have had their share of challenges and have come to the other side, in large part due to Irlen filters.

In 2nd grade, my daughter was reading on the kindergarten level and had learned to avoid reading by giving what I thought were excuses like headaches, upset stomach, and tired eyes. My once sweet, outgoing toddler had become an anxious gradeschooler, biting her fingernails bloody, and crying on the way to the bus stop every morning.  She was clearly internalizing her school failures and quickly losing self-confidence.  As a parent of a really neat kid, it was painful to see her spirit die in little pieces every day and not to be able to figure out the issue.  Yes, she was dyslexic, but there was something more going on that numerous experts and thousands of dollars hadn’t figured out.

At a party for a friends’ birthday, I was lamenting our battle with the school district and commiserating with another mother who had been through it all with her dyslexic child years before.  Then came the moment that changed our lives.

The woman asked if my daughter had been screened for Irlen Syndrome. Never in my four years in medical school, pediatrics rotations, ophthalmology rotations, and in 10 years of medical practice had I ever heard those words.

I was at the point of wanting to try anything that would help give my child back to me from the very lonely and frustrated place she had sequestered herself, so I got online that night, and called for an appointment the next day.

Our evaluation day was an unforgettable day.   During the evaluation, I swear I saw her change back to the daughter we knew before she realized that she was behind everyone else in reading.  She giggled, and smiled, and was wiggling in her seat with joy to be able to see the page clearly without words and numbers doubling and moving.  She stopped rubbing her eyes. She wanted to read more.  In the initial evaluation, she was given a math problem without the filters, and read it aloud as “3,3,6,6,9,9.”  After putting on the filters, she said, “Oh!  3+6=9!”    She hadn’t seen the + or = sign at all without the filters.  Not only was her vision immediately clear, so was our understanding of why our wickedly smart girl previously couldn’t do simple math or remember sight words.

The first night she had her filters, she asked to read at bedtime, and of course we were thrilled to let her stay up late.  That night she read and understood an entire chapter book.  She volunteered to read aloud to her class a book about her “magic glasses” so they would understand the peach colored lenses she was wearing.  Let me repeat that…She volunteered to read to her class.  After two months, her reading level improved to the third grade level, and she was still in second grade.  She was happy, smiling, confident, and relaxed for the first time in three years, and we were immensely relieved and grateful.

The following year, our first grade son complained that the words on his page were sinking into the page and disappearing, and we knew what to do.  He was reading on the early kindergarten level, but after getting his filters, he won the reading award for his class at the end of the year graduation ceremony.  Our son is a tough, sporty, and very athletic 3rd grader, but he refuses to go to school without his Irlen glasses for fear of headaches and embarrassment about his lack of reading fluency when not wearing them.

About six months ago, my husband and I gave $150 to each of the kids for their baptism and asked them to find a way to grow the money and to give it back to someone who needed it more than they did.  After a few nights of discussion and brainstorming, the kids decided they wanted to make sure that every child who needed Irlen filters had the opportunity to be screened and fitted for them.  Since the amount we gave them wouldn’t begin to accomplish that feat, we built a website and filed papers to start a non-profit called KidScholly.  Now, we give scholarships to kids K-12 for arts, academics, and athletics that they otherwise would not be able to afford.  Applicants earn their scholarships through community service work, and they feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride in the process.  KidScholly partners with vendors and agencies to bring more affordable opportunities to the applicants, and we are incredibly lucky to have developed such a relationship with the Irlen Institute.  KidScholly has relied entirely on the generosity of donors for our initial funding.  After only three months, we have been able to fund 25 scholarships worth more than $10,000, and the applications keep coming in.  Three of our scholarship recipients initially applied for after school tutoring, but we asked them first to take the quiz on the Irlen website.  All three screened very strongly for Irlen Syndrome and are now being fitted with filters.  From our personal experience, we know that this is a much better use of KidScholly’s funds than more sure to be futile tutoring .

A fitting ending to this story is to share a poignant letter that I received from the parents of two of our scholarship recipients who each completed 25 hours of volunteerism to earn their Irlen filters.   You can’t even imagine how thrilled my kids were to know and really, truly understand how huge of a gift they have been able to give this family, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership with the Irlen Institute.

Liz Turner, MD
KidScholly President


From KidScholly scholarship awardee parents, Monica and Stark Jones:

“What a privilege to feel REJUVENATED.  Joseph Campbell, a mythologist, states, “The privilege of a life time is to be who you are.” Thanks to KidScholly and Irlen Institute our kids can be who they are and gone are the days of:  1) 1500 hours of reading in front of a bathroom mirror, 2)  500 computer hours logged using various reading software, 3)  reading over 150 books, 4)  2 hour study sessions Monday – Friday, 5)  reviewing spelling words 5 and 6 times per week,  6)  101 lectures on work ethic, 7)   attending summer school since 2nd grade, 8)  cross town weekly trips to reading specialist, 9)  changing to Private School, 10)  ADHD medication, 11)  telling teachers to give extra homework, 12)  removing TV from your room, 13)  planning your weekend to do extra reading, 14)  not letting you go over your friends house, 15)  missing recreation football and basketball seasons, 16) missed vacations to save money, 17)   not believing your symptoms like headaches, fatigue, stress…,  18)  raising our voice to make you concentrate, and 19)  making you cry.

As your parents, we now understand your frustration with reading and understand your voyage to read has been different from others.  We finally “get it” after four long years of hard work and determination.  Your Individual Education Plan (IEP) of repetition coupled with long reading hours was beginning to take a toll on us and especially you.  Thank God for the Irlen Institute for developing this visual processing technology.   The Irlen Diagnostic Specialist showed us in over two hours what our kids were seeing when they read.  Difficulties with visual processing affected how visual information is interpreted or processed by the brain focusing on the ability to read fluently with comprehension.

After applying the Irlen filters it was very rejuvenating to see our children speed read letters, words, and comprehend stories.  These filters are a magical mystery.  I could not believe our children’s eyes did not turn red, they did not complain of headaches, or have reading fatigue.  They continued to read paragraph after paragraph and page after page.  This was our greatest solace watching our children read with confidence, fluency, and understanding.

My wife and I deeply appreciate KidScholly for assisting us financially and the Irlen Institute for rejuvenating us and helping our children be who they are through the power of a lens.”