While at the Mountain Plains Adult Education Association Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was introduced to a debilitating condition that affects 90% of those tested. It is called Visual Stress Syndrome. Fortunately, it seems to be easily corrected but cannot be cured.
Visual Stress Syndrome (VSS), also known as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, Asfedia, Irlen Syndrome, is a sensitivity to bright lights, white paper, etc. If individuals are affected by VSS it could result in learning issues and be misdiagnosed as a learning disorder. Basically, the brain is over sensitive to the stimulation cause by brightness. The brain then short-circuits causing undesired effects such as:
- Sensitivity to light
- Easily tired when reading
- Print is blurry
- Letters change shape and size or move on the page
- Read slowly and without fluency
Here are a couple of videos on VSS:
As the presenters noted, individuals can be suffering from VSS since primary school and consider the condition to be normal. Because many people are not aware of VSS, it is not tested for, thus learners are misdiagnosed.
Basically, the presenters recommend changing the environment and training learners to control their environment. This can be done in many ways:
- Wearing a ballcap to shade eyes from bright light
- Using colored paper instead of bright white paper
- Changing the type of lightbulbs
- Using natural sunlight
- Using colored filters as an overlay
- Using filtered glasses
During the presentation, we used Irlen filters to overlay on documents printed on white paper. While the filters came in many colors, I was immediately more comfortable reading the text with a yellow filter. For me, it was preferable to the other color filters or no filters at all. It was interesting to note that shooting glasses also come in different colors, and many prefer yellow or amber glasses.
I was very impressed with what these research found and shared. This could make a huge difference in a lot of individual’s lives. Here is more information on VSS: http://www.readingandlight.com/