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Irlen Syndrome

From time to time Disability Practitioners may come across students seeking reasonable adjustments for Irlen Syndrome (also referred to as Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome or Visual Stress).

Irlen Syndrome is not recognised by the medical community in Australia. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) does not support Irlen Syndrome and states there is no documented evidence that treatment with Irlen lenses or filters works.

The RANZCO states that:

  • the use of Irlen lenses in the treatment of reading difficulties is controversial
  • there is no scientific evidence that Irlen Syndrome exists or that treatment of reading difficulties with Irlen lenses work
  • Irlen syndrome is not recognised by the medical community or the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • there is no documented evidence that Irlen lenses are harmful, but may divert time and resources away from proven strategies which help with reading e.g. explicit phonic instruction.

You can view the RANZCO statement on their website.

Students who might have been 'diagnosed' with this syndrome on its own may wish to utilise the recommendations for this condition such as lenses or coloured filters but it would not be considered a disability for support on its own. Students may have other learning disabilities such as dyslexia or vision issues and reasonable adjustments for these conditions would be appropriate (with recommendations from recognised practitioners as required).

There are Irlen Syndrome practitioners in Australia and overseas but education providers should consider carefully how to manage students with an Irlen Syndrome diagnosis (either within Australia or from overseas) as a stand-alone diagnosis.