Nurturing Whole Health
I first learned about Irlen Syndrome when working as an Occupational Therapy Assistant with developmentally disabled students. A handful of school occupational therapists were trained, "Irlen Diagnosticians". Their focus was on students diagnosed with Dyslexia. Wikipedia defines dyslexia as: "A reading disorder- is a learning disability characterized by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. Different people are affected to varying degrees. Problems may include difficulties spelling words, reading quickly writing words, "sounding out" words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what one reads. Often these difficulties are first noticed at school. The difficulties are involuntary and people with this disorder have normal desire to learn" The main thing I remembered about Irlen was their use of colored lenses to treat visual-perceptual issues.
When I developed a combination of adrenal fatigue and a serious sensitivity to light triggering migraines and vertigo, I thought of Helen Irlen and did a web search. Along with adrenal fatigue, I'd had a severe whiplash a couple years earlier. According to The Irlen Institute, "Irlen Syndrome (also referred to at times as Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, and Visual Stress) is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. This problem tends to run in families and is not currently identified by other standardized educational or medical tests. This largely unknown and undiagnosed disorder affects approximately 15% of the general population, 50% of individuals with reading and learning difficulties, 30% of individuals with ADHD and autism, and a significant portion of individuals with brain injury, chronic headaches, and migraines." Basically, Irlen Syndrome is a constellation of symptoms which can manifest related to hereditary factors as well as from conditions such as head injury, whiplash (neck injury).
Light sensitivity is also a symptom of adrenal exhaustion and head injury.
I noticed before a vertigo attack, a painful feeling in my eyes which related to the light intensity. When under fluorescent lights or extremely bright sunlight or glare, I would develop eye pain and a headache accompanied by vertigo. In search of relief, I contacted The Irlen Institute. After reading about the connection between Irlen Syndrome, whiplash and migraine, I decided to get a screening.
The screening involved some simple reading and visual-perceptual tests which included text in various fonts, sizes and placement. There were hundreds of lenses in every shade imaginable which I placed on my eyes while looking at a fixed point and reading text. We quickly narrowed down the color spectrum and from there chose different hues within that range. Once we were in the range of colors that felt therapeutic, more layers of color were added to the initial color base. I was able to direct the process through my physical response to various colors. As much as I wanted to wear rose colored glasses, any colors in red, orange or yellow hues caused stabbing pain to my eyes. Blues and grays were incredibly soothing. My astrologer later told me that blue, especially blue-gray is a "Saturn" color which can be very calming.
My first set of Irlen Spectral Filters, as they are called, was very dark and consisted of several blue and gray hues. The original pair was a wrap around sun glass frame to block outside light to my eyes. With The Irlen Method, it is essential to wear the lenses at all times in order to calm and prevent brain neurons from over-firing.
In the dark of December, when many in The Pacific Northwest are sitting next to their light boxes to lift their mood, I was wearing dark, soothing Iren lenses in all my waking hours. I soon noticed that the vertigo had lessened and I could actually walk into the glaring light of stores and safely make it through a shopping trip, still standing. Wearing dark glasses in the middle of winter was quite a test for me. I thrive on communication; deep connection and eye contact with others. Aware that people could not see my eyes when we spoke, initially caused me great distress. It was a big test for me to let go of what others thought and simply take care of me.
My Irlen diagnostician told me that many people need to wear the lenses for life, but some, who work with various healing modalities to treat the underlying problems, are able to slowly transition to lighter and lighter colors. My path has always been to find the healing I need through the healers and modalities that call to me. Besides wearing the lenses, I was being treated by a Functional Medicine doctor for the adrenal exhaustion. This is something that can take many months. I had the time- in my condition, I wasn't going any place. By March I had found a N.U.C.C.A., upper cervical chiropractor. Through x-rays, he determined the atlas in my neck was so subluxated that my head was way out of alignment with my neck. My cranial nerves were being compressed, affecting my whole nervous system. After one month of N.U.C.C.A. treatments, my lenses felt too dark and at my follow-up Irlen screening, I tested with a need for much lighter colored lenses( grey, lavender, rose), that could be worn in a smaller traditional frame. And, people could see my eyes again. We also made the lenses in the wrap-around frame a lighter hue, but still dark enough to be worn outside as sun protection. I had a re-check last month when I noticed my lighter lenses seemed too dark for reading. This time my brain desired a very pale blue- the Irlen "True Blue" tint,with no other colors in the mix. I received them two days ago and my eyes are fully and joyfully visible. Even though the color is light, it is extremely soothing to my sensitive eyes.
My diagnostician explained that the progress I've made transitioning from dark to very light lenses is rare. She said most people do not search for alternative healing methods to treat their underlying condition. One of her other client's, also using alternative treatment, has rapidly progressed to lighter lenses- a sign that healing is happening. I believe if more people became strong advocates for their health and had the resources and support to educate themselves, there could be much more potential for healing with sensory disorders.. Between the Irlen Spectral Filters, the adrenal gland therapy and the N.U.C.C.A. neck treatments, I'm gratefully moving toward the light.