LAKE CHALRES, LA (KPLC) – Bright fluorescent lights can aggravate Irlen Syndrome, a color filtering malfunction of the eyes, causing painful headaches, watery eyes and reading comprehension problems.
Makayla Rector struggled to read because of dyslexia, but also because the words seemed to move on the page for her. Her mother, Melissa Rector, said she would come home from school with debilitating headaches and nausea.
Karen Barmore screened Makayla for Irlen Syndrome using bright lights and asking her to read a script from a white sheet of paper. Makayla's eyes watered and her headache worsened as the test went on. Barmore then placed a blue colored sheet over the script. Makayla's eyes do not see the color blue, but rather a plain sheet of paper.
After her diagnosis, she now wears Irlen overlays, tinted glasses, that help her have better depth perception and read without words moving on the page. "We put an overlay over [the paper] and they are able to see the print on the page and they are able to read better. They read at a faster speed. Actually their grades go up. Some are on the honor roll and some are testing out of special education," explained Barmore.
"A lot of children go misdiagnosed for years the parents assume that its dyslexia or attention problems. It is a struggle for the whole family. You're always putting pieces of the puzzle together. You want your children to succeed," said Melissa Rector.
Screening for Irlen Syndrome is not mandatory or free in Louisiana. "It is in Texas and in 4,000 school districts. My goal is to get it in Louisiana schools help regular and special education kids to have more confidence," explained Barmore.
Barmore said fluorescent lights in classrooms can make the syndrome worse and she wants them out of all schools. "At least experiment with just the regular light bulbs and natural lighting coming through the window and see if there is a difference," said Barmore.
Irlen Syndrome is hereditary and Barmore recommends parents get tested with their children.