Signs and Symptoms of Irlen Syndrome / SSS

girl strugglingThe signs of Irlen Syndrome / SSS can include: delayed learning, reading and spelling difficulties, print distortions, concentration issues, behaviour problems and work avoidance. The symptoms include: sensitivity to light and glare, eye strain, headaches, migraines, fatigue, depth perception difficulties, anxiety and low self esteem.

Light Sensitivity

  • Find fluorescent light / bright light / sunlight / glare from snow and hazy days distracting and uncomfortable
  • May like to wear sunglasses often, even on cloudy days
  • Headlights and/or street lights may appear to have halos
  • Some individuals experience physical symptoms when in bright or fluorescent light. They may experience headaches, mood changes, restlessness or have difficulty staying focused. They can become sleepy, fatigued, anxious, irritable or feel dizzy.

Reading Difficulties 

  • trouble readingRead slowly, hesitantly, word by word or inaccurately
  • Skip words or lines, repeat lines, lose their position
  • Not notice the punctuation
  • Have difficulty tracking from line to line
  • Misread words, change words, not recognise common words or sight words
  • Need to reread for understanding
  • Poor comprehension
  • Prefer to read in dull light
  • Become easily distracted
  • Avoid reading

Print Distortions 

  • Words can lack clarity and/or stability
  • Words may blur, move, look three dimensional, double, squash together, swap position, fade or disappear.

Eye Strain, Headaches, Migraines, Fatigue 

  • headache2When reading, in bright light, looking at computer screens and/or white boards their eyes may strain, burn, itch, feel dry or sleepy, watery, look red
  • Rub their eyes when reading
  • Fatigue when reading, using a computer or working under bright or fluorescent light
  • Suffer with headaches, migraines, nausea, dizziness
  • Fatigue after school / work

Spelling Difficulty 

  • Forget common words
  • Inconsistent spelling
  • Use the correct letters but in the wrong position
  • May reverse letters and/or small words

Attention, Concentration, Behaviour Problems 

  • Difficulty with concentration when reading and completing academic tasks
  • Become fidgety or restless when reading, completing paperwork, looking at a computer screen
  • Easily distracted, lack of motivation, frustration, poor attitude to learning
  • Can occur in people with ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)
  • Some may be prescribed medication unnecessarily

Writing Difficulties 

  • Letter can be of unequal size, words can have unequal spacing between and within words
  • Difficulty writing on the line, words may have a wavy baseline
  • Words may have an inconsistent slope.
  • Difficulty copying

Depth Perception Issues 

  • Clumsiness - knock into objects, trip on stairs, veer into people when walking beside them
  • Difficulty catching balls and playing ball sports
  • Difficulty judging distances
  • Additional caution necessary while driving
  • Difficulty parking the car

Other Characteristics 

  • Low self esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty reading music
  • Ineffective use of study time
  • Grades do not reflect the amount of effort
  • Misaligned numbers in maths columns, careless maths errors
  • Difficulty looking at stripes, patterns and certain colours


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