“When you read a page in a book, do the words wiggle like a wave?”
“Do you have to stop often when you read and do you lose your place?”
“And do you wonder how the kid next to you can read that book so quickly?”
These were the opening lines, of a school speech written by nine year-old Waiuku Primary School student, Charli Gardiner-Hall.
Charli has Irlen Syndrome, or Irlens as it’s commonly known.
Irlens is a perceptual processing disorder. Put simply, the messages don’t reach the brain in the correct way, a bit like a cable between your eye and your brain, which has a gap.
Charli’s parents had no idea she had Irlens. However, trying to do homework, especially reading, was a complete nightmare.
“We would sit down to do homework and within two minutes of starting a book, Charli would be in tears. She’d be wriggling around and could never keep her place in a book. We’d persevere through the tears and tantrums, but it took so long to just get through one page,” recalls Charli’s dad, Paul Gardiner.
It wasn’t until they heard a discussion on talk back radio, that they became aware of Irlens.
“A specialist was talking on the radio. They listed some of the symptoms of Irlens, and it was like tick, tick, tick!” adds Paul.
Those symptoms include; sensitivity to light, reading problems, unexplainable tiredness, fidgeting, problems concentrating, clumsiness, problems with writing, and grades not reflecting effort.
Irlens experts note that often people with Irlens, appear to have other conditions, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, which can lead to children receiving medication that may not be necessary.
Charli met with an Irlens screener, and it was identified that she was showing clear signs of Irlens.
To help correct Irlens issues, coloured filters are used to improve the brain’s ability to process visual information. Charli received an aqua blue coloured overlay, to place over anything she was trying to read. The colour needed for one child, may be completely different for another.
“That meeting left us with really mixed feelings. We felt sad as parents, that our girl had been experiencing such real difficulties. But we were so happy that there was a reason, and that something could be done to help Charli,” said Paul.
The next day Charli took her coloured sheet with her to her keyboard lesson. The teacher was amazed at the difference.
An appointment with an optometrist specilaising in Irlens followed, and Charli now wears Irlens specific glasses. It’s hoped that as she gets older, the processing issue will correct itself and she may not need her glasses in the future.
I’m proud to say that Charli is my daughter. She is one of the hardest “trying” kids I know.
She loves reading. It’s still a challenge for her, but the glasses have made a world of difference. We had no idea that words wiggled when she read them, and can only imagine how horrible that would feel.
I’m sharing our family story with readers, in the hope that other struggling kids can get the help they need.
For more information and to find an Irlens screener, visit www.irlen.com