Episode 42 | December 13, 2016

Live Brighter and Better Through the Science of Color with Dr. Helen L. Irlen

A Personal Note from Orion

Did you know that a pair of special glasses can cure issues such as reading problems, headaches, light sensitivity, ADHD, autism, even brain injuries, much of what traditional medicine just won’t cure?  You may have heard the expression “seeing the world through rose-colored glasses”, and today’s episode takes that statement on a literal level.

You’re about to discover some super valuable, life-changing, yet little-known information that can change the way you live your life, free from anxiety, PTSD, and poor concentration. Dr. Helen Irlen and I discuss just how much your perception affects your brain and your experience of life. Once you hear what she has to say, you too might realize that what you thought was “normal” actually isn’t, and the way you view the world, through special colored lenses depending on your affliction, changes everything. Through years of experience and a keen ability to listen to people, she developed her groundbreaking method that has been known to cure a lifetime of challenges and issues in an instant.



In this Episode

  • [05:12] – Helen talks about herself and her mission in the world. To give us some insight into who she is, she tells us a few stories about her life.
  • [08:43] – Why was Helen interested in the psych ward, and what was the driving force that motivated her to pursue her research?
  • [11:29] – Helen goes into more detail about what the Irlen Syndrome is. She also describes the experience of working one-on-one with adults.
  • [17:06] – How do you become a good listener? Helen says to avoid imposing your own issues on someone else, so you’re a blank slate and can really hear what people are saying.
  • [18:51] – The Irlen Syndrome is a visual processing deficit that you can inherit or acquire (or both). It leads to difficulties in areas such as reading, academic skills, attention and concentration, depth perception, and more.
  • [19:34] – The symptoms of Irlen Syndrome can vary, Helen explains. She also talks about the percents of people who have the syndrome. We hear about how flourescent light can be an issue for many people.
  • [23:36] – Orion volunteers to be Helen’s guinea pig, which allows listeners to hear several minutes of Helen’s questioning process for beginning to assess whether someone might have Irlen Syndrome.
  • [28:15] – Helen describes the issues that can be triggered for certain people by sunlight, bright lights, fluorescent lights, and so on.
  • [29:50] – How does Helen help the people who come to her? She suggests starting with the tests on her website.
  • [32:20] – Helen talks about what colored filters and lenses can do to help our brains.
  • [34:01] – We hear about how Helen’s research and methods can help people who have been in the military with various problems and symptoms. She also discusses its uses for people on the autism spectrum, as well as high-functioning professional adults who want peak performance.
  • [39:21] – Helen speaks emotionally about the impact that her method has had on veterans and marines.
  • [42:07] – Helen offers two funny stories of the effects that Irlen filters have had on users.
  • [43:18] – You can inherit Irlen Syndrome, which doesn’t always show up in childhood and may present in college or later.
  • [47:02] – What would Helen like her legacy to be? In her answer, she explains why she isn’t interested in retiring: because she can’t think of anything more rewarding than what she’s already doing every day.
  • [50:29] – Helen shares her three top tips for living a stellar life: 1. Understand that your brain is uniquely different from anyone else’s brain. 2. Don’t buy into what other people have said to you about yourself. 3. Give yourself a hug everyday and tell yourself how wonderful you are.

About Today’s Show

‏‏Hello, Helen! Welcome to Stellar Life. How are you today?

‏‏I am very excited to be here and have the opportunity to talk with you and educate your listeners.

‏‏I’m so excited about this episode because, I know I say it sometimes, “This episode’s gonna change your life forever,” but honestly, this episode can change your life forever!

‏‏I hear that a lot from the clients that we’ve helped, who write back and say, “You’ve changed my life.” I think that’s pretty appropriate.

‏‏That’s because it’s very little known information. Nobody knows that something as simple as colored glasses can heal tons of symptoms. People spend so much money and so much time suffering in therapy, and there’s actually this tool that you came up with that can help them solve everything in an instant – in an instant! Before we start, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself. How are you? Who are you? What’s your mission in the world?

‏‏That’s a nice start. First of all, let me just say that I am a risk taker, somebody who thinks outside the box. I like to challenge the establishment. What’s led me to where I am today is that I like to think about the fact that there’s new ways to help individuals who are not getting help. That’s just kinda my philosophy in life. In terms of my background, I hold not just the title of Executive Director of the Irlen Institute, I am also a school psychologist, educational therapist, adult learning disability specialist, board-certified clinician, board-certified PTSD counselor, and a licensed therapist. In some ways, that just indicates that I’ve been around for a long time. Just to kind of give you a sense of who I am and what I’m like, the summer before I started college, I went to Bellevue Hospital and told them I wanted to work in the children’s locked psychiatric ward. I got hired for the whole summer to handle the whole locked ward with these children. At the end of the summer, when I left for college, they hired two individuals to replace me, both of which already have master’s degrees and licenses. I do things kind of out of sequence. Same way at Cornell. When I was at Cornell, my sophomore year, I decided I wanted to do research, so I approached one of my professors, and she said, “Fine. Let’s write a research grant.” It was accepted by the National Institute of Health, and so I was doing my own research for the National Institute of Health for three years at Cornell. I also ended up graduating early, which was much to my surprise. I had free time, so I took some extra courses, and I got a notification from Cornell around Christmas time, telling me that I had graduated. I was like, “What am I supposed to do for the next half of the year?” So I went to the head of the Psychology department and told him. He said, “Well, give me a call when you get back from Christmas vacation.” I did. He said, “All right. You are now hired to do research as a grad assistant.” Now understand that I am not a graduate assistant, but I was working with E.J. and J. Gibson who are the lead researchers in perception at that time. I also got to be a TA Assistant – upper level Psych classes. I do things kind of at my own rate and my own pace, the way I wanna do things. I went on then to become a school psychologist for about 15 years and to start, after that, the program for adults. It was actually the first program for adults with learning disabilities at a four-year university. Also in my mid-twenties, I became a licensed therapist. I think that all came together to create what we’re gonna talk about today.

‏‏Why were you interested in the psych ward? What was your driving force to do your research?

‏‏My interest has always been psychology and picking the hardest place to work, and that’s Bellevue Hospital in the locked wards with children. But I switched from that into school psychology. My driving force was being able to follow up on the children that I had tested over a 15-year period, which most school psychologists don’t have the opportunity to do. What I found out is that a lot of the children who I tested – I couldn’t identify as having any type of a problem, so they weren’t able to get any type of special help. But yet, the teachers would drag me in and say, “Okay, now you sit down and watch what happens to this child in the classroom because this child is having difficulty performing, and you tell me what I need to do.” There was a whole population that the present test were not identifying as having a problem, but were obviously struggling. Then there was a population that I tested, and we placed them in special education or resource. The concept of the programs when they were initially established was that we would put these children in the programs, give them the extra support that they needed, and then they’d be able to move back into regular classes. What I saw over a 15-year period was that they didn’t go back into regular classes. Many of them stayed in special ed, and that also concerned me. It was like, “What are we missing? What questions aren’t we asking? What are we not doing?” Here I come into – I do things in a different way. It was a sense of “I don’t think the testing that we’re doing is all-inclusive.” I really felt that we were missing questions, and therefore those people then spent the rest of their lives struggling because nobody could identify what was going on and then take the next step and try to figure out a way to help them.

‏‏That is so sad that so many kids and adults are being diagnosed with all those symptoms and all those conditions, and they live their lives suffering. They live their life being labeled, and there is actually a different solution that you came up with. How did you find out about the Irlen Syndrome, and what is it exactly?

‏‏That takes me to my next step, and that was being asked to start the first program at a four-year university for adults with learning disabilities. This was a wonderful population for me to look at because nobody could say their problems were related to maturation because they were all older than 18 years of age. Nobody could say that their problems were related to motivation because they worked two to three times harder to be able to get to the point that they got into a four-year university. Many of them were struggling to stay in the four-year university because they couldn’t keep up with the work load. They couldn’t keep up with the reading tasks that they had to do, but they had made it there. That was the population I wanted to look at, and how perfect to work with the adults. I used a different model than we happened to use in education. In education, we test people and tell them what’s wrong with them. We never go back to them and say, “Does this sound right to you? Is this really what’s affecting you?” We never do that. We just ask questions. We have them take tests. The medical model’s different than the education model. The medical model – once you’re able to get through the front desk where they ask you for your information, then you get to see the medical doctor. His first question to you is basically, “Tell me what’s wrong. Tell me your symptoms.” Then he proceeds from there. That’s the approach that I took with the adults – to say to them, “Let’s talk about why you’re struggling, what it’s like for you.” In working one-on-one with these adults, I got better and better at asking questions. It really depends on how you ask your questions what kind of information you’re going to get back. I learned from them, and I listened. I think, luckily, I am not on the continuum at all. I do not have Irlen. If I had Irlen, I probably would have listened to some of their symptoms and said, “Well, that’s natural. Everybody gets headaches if they read long enough. Everybody falls asleep if they read. Nobody likes to read.” I would have dismissed their symptoms, but I read for hours and hours and hours on end and nothing happens. Nothing changes, and it stays totally comfortable for me. I believe them. I listen to them. That’s what started me on the road to creating and identifying a visual processing problem related to how the brain processes visual information. That has now changed millions of lives.

It really depends on how you ask your questions what kind of information you’re going to get back. Click To Tweet

‏‏Wow, that’s amazing, but there are so many doctors that were probably good listeners and probably talk to their patients, but no one linked it to the idea that this is a visual thing rather than a psychological thing.

‏‏I think it’s how you ask your questions – the answers that you get. I had an ophthalmologist tell me at the very beginning, years ago when I first started – he said, “I don’t understand the symptoms you’re talking about. I’ve seen people for years, and nobody told me that they had any of the symptoms that you’re talking about.” I said to him, “Have you ever asked them?” It’s just as simple as that. There’s another issue that Dave Asprey and I did a podcast about, and that’s the fact that you take your own experiences of how things are, how you feel, how you’re performing, and assume that that’s what it’s like for everybody. Therefore, you don’t know that it could be any better, that it could be any easier, that you could do it with less effort and be more productive because nobody talks about the kind of symptoms that I’m dealing with. I’ll give you another example. It’s always a fun one for me. During my intake, I asked both the children and the adults if they ever get headaches, and when I asked a number of children as we go through and the child says, “Yes. I get headaches.” I go, “When do you get headaches?” “I get headaches at school mostly.” Mom says, “You never told me you had headaches.” And the child goes back to Mom, “You never asked me.”


‏‏The other response was some of the children when they report that they have headaches, a mom says, “Well, you didn’t tell me.” The child says, “Yes, I did. I told you. What you said back to me is, ‘I get headaches. Everybody gets headaches.’ So I just thought that’s the way it’s supposed to be and I should just kind of live with my headaches and try as hard as I can.”

‏‏This is profound. Before we keep going and talk about the Irlen Syndrome and what it is exactly, what makes a good listener? How do you become such a good listener?

‏‏How do you become such a good listener? What an interesting question. I think it goes into my therapeutic background. I think it’s not taking your own issues and imposing them on someone else so that you’re totally a blank slate, and you listen to what they say. You process it, and you believe in what they’re telling you.

‏‏How do you do it?

‏‏In terms of?

‏‏In terms of the idea of putting your issues aside and then just look at them as a blank slate. The idea, the concept…

‏‏You’re a blank slate.

‏‏Yes, mine. Sorry.

‏‏That’s okay, but you become the blank slate, so you’re not judging what they’re telling you. You’re listening carefully to what they’re telling you and then asking questions if you need to – I call it probing – for the depth until you fully understand what it is that they’re trying to tell you.

You’re listening carefully to what they’re telling you and then asking questions if you need to – I call it probing – for the depth until you fully understand what it is that they’re trying to tell you.

‏‏Yeah. You are aware of your own judgment while you’re listening to them and give them full attention.

‏‏Not imposing your own judgment, like the mom who said, “Well, of course, you have headaches. I have headaches.” That shut the child down from explaining more about when they get their headaches, how bad their headaches are, and what’s happening to them when they have a headache.

‏‏If people would listen to each other a little more with no judgment, the world is gonna be a better place.

‏‏Nicely phrased, I agree.

‏‏What is the Irlen Syndrome?

‏‏The Irlen Syndrome is a visual processing deficit that you can inherit or  acquire through head injuries, concussions, whiplash, certain visual and medical conditions. You can inherit it or acquire it or both. That leads to difficulties in a variety of areas such as reading, other academic skills, in terms of performance, sustained attention, concentration, even depth perception can be affected, your performance and ability to function, and your health and wellbeing.

‏‏What are the symptoms?

‏‏The symptoms vary depending on the person and depending on the population because we work with a variety of different populations. Should I give you an example of that?

‏‏Please, cause I met you at Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Conference, and I took your whole questionnaire. It was like, “Check! Check! I am this. I have this. I have that. I have that.” And then you told me I think it was one in three that have this syndrome?

‏‏Here I go again. Everything really depends. In terms of the general population, about 16% are – without realizing it, they’re working harder than they need to, and they’re able to reach peak performance. When we’re looking at people who have already been identified as having learning disability, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia – about 46% of those are being misidentified and actually have Irlen instead. It’s pretty high in the autistic population, and I’m not sure about our percents in terms of those with head injuries and concussions and whiplash. I don’t know. So it really can vary. The majority of the population though does not have Irlen, and I’ll tell you why – because Irlen Syndrome is a difficulty in modulating your environment, meaning that there are certain environmental factors that are going to create problems for your ability to perform. Because the majority of the population isn’t triggered by these environmental factors, they’ve created their least stressful environment, whether it’s a classroom environment or the workplace environment. It just happens to be the most stressful for those who have Irlen. Let me give you some examples.


‏‏Did you ever think about why classrooms and why we have fluorescent lights? Because there’s a lot of people who complain about fluorescent lights. That’s my population. Under fluorescent lighting, they may get tired. They may get antsy. They may get fidgety. They may sit in class and start daydreaming. They may get physical symptoms of just being tired or sleepy or fidgety or brain fog or headaches, migraines, nauseous, dizzy – this whole variety of symptoms, but because the majority of the population isn’t bothered by fluorescent lights, we’re not gonna change that. We’re not going to go back to incandescent lighting or indirect natural lighting, which is wonderful. We have children in classrooms, we have adults working in the workplace that are under fluorescent lighting, and it’s affecting how they feel, putting them under stress in their ability to perform. Then we add some of my other factors such as high contrast. Now when we put black print on a white background, it wasn’t supposed to become an optical illusion, meaning that things weren’t supposed to be happening or changing, but for my population, black print on a white background creates (we call) distortions. They’re more like optical illusions. Things may be happening. Things may be changing. The longer you do it, the harder it gets, so it’s kinda like diminishing returns until you get to that point, where you’re going, “What’s the point that I’m continuing to read because I’m not understanding anything I read.” You stop reading.

‏‏Yes. Let me be your guinea pig and see if I have some of those symptoms.

‏‏Okay. Here we go. I want you to think about reading, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re reading on a computer screen or reading a textbook. I want you not to think about what it’s like when you’re reading for information when you start, but think about what it’s like when you get to that point where you wanna look up, look away, or take a break. At that point, how do your eyes feel?

‏‏They feel tired, and I feel pressure between my eyebrows.

‏‏How does your head feel?


‏‏How do you feel?


‏‏At that point that your eyes are tired, you’re sleepy, you feel that pressure, how does the page look?


‏‏Did you think everybody experiences that at some point?

‏‏No, I actually thought that there is something wrong because I thought maybe I have problems with concentration. Maybe I have ADD or ADHD.

‏‏I’m saying to you that the symptoms you just reported are typical of Irlen syndrome, that there is a majority of the population that can read for long periods of time and never get eye strain or pain, eyes heavy, tired, or sleepy, and the page just stays in focus, doesn’t move, and doesn’t change. That makes a difference in terms of comprehension. When you have your first symptom, what happens first? Is it your eyes are heavy? Are you blinking, squinting? What’s the first thing that happens?

There is a majority of the population that can read for long periods of time and never get eye strain or pain, eyes heavy, tired, or sleepy, and the page just stays in focus, doesn’t move, and doesn’t change. Click To Tweet

‏‏I think my eyes get a little dry, and I start to blink a little bit.

‏‏When do you first notice that your eyes get dry and you’re starting to blink – after you’ve read a word, a few sentences, a paragraph, a page, a few pages, 10-15 minutes, an hour? When do you first notice it?

‏‏For me, it’s about 10-15 minutes.

‏‏The minute your first symptom starts, it just goes downhill from that point on. You’re working harder, and you’re not gaining as much because you can’t work at perceiving and comprehend at the same time. You basically have about 10-15 minutes of access, in terms of your reading.


‏‏You’re right. You fall on the continuum, and if you’re on the continuum, your problems can be slight, moderate or severe. Anywhere from your first symptoms starting from one word to 20 minutes put you in the severe range. Are you paying a price?

‏‏Uh-huh. For sure.

‏‏Yeah, and you’re working harder than other people. Other people who come in, children and adults, and their first symptoms starts after a word or a line or a few sentences – they barely have access to the printed material.

‏‏Wow. I did Lasik when I was younger. When I was a kid, I could read for hours and hours. I was a bookworm. I used to read for hours. And now as an adult, it’s hard for me to read. I manage to finish books, but it’s an effort.

‏‏Yeah. I’m sure it is.

‏‏Also when I drive at night, they are like, “Oh my god!” I bought glasses for driving that have some kind of a filter but still I get such bad glare from the cars. I think I have some kind of a depth perception or maybe it’s just because I’m a new driver. It’s hard…

‏‏You could have depth perception – I’ll ask you my depth perception questions. One thing that people don’t know about is the fact that it’s not – there are two concepts here. One is it’s not the eye that has to read and process visual information; it’s the brain. Seventy percent (70%) of the information we receive is visual information. That’s why we have a visual cortex. That visual cortex interprets visual information exactly in the same way. Here’s the one-on-one correlation. Do you wear sunglasses outside?

‏‏All the time.

‏‏If you stay outside too long without sunglasses, what happens? What are your symptoms?

‏‏I just can’t. I have to find shade. It’s like it’s impossible. I can’t. It’s too much. I do, because Dave Asprey talked about sunlight and how it’s good for your retina. It’s good to expose your eyes for sunlight for a duration of time, so I tried to do it but it’s difficult.

‏‏Okay. Two things. You have no idea. There is a one-on-one correlation between the physical symptoms for the people who are triggered by sunlight, who can’t handle sunlight, that it causes their eyes to be dry or heavy or sleepy, they’re blinking or squinting – whatever their physical symptoms are. Those physical symptoms are going to occur with sunlight, bright lights, fluorescent lights, headlights at night, glare, computer screens (cause you’re staring into backlit), iPads and tablets, reading, and doing any visually intensive activity. It’s being triggered across the board, and therefore one technology that can change how your brain is processing that information and eliminate the symptoms across the board for all the activities and all of the environmental triggers that are a problem for you. I’ll also tell you if it’s too painful to do what Dave Asprey is suggesting, that you have white sensors in your skin and in your eyes –  that if you just go outside and close your eyes, you’re going to be getting enough information in that way.

There is a one-on-one correlation between the physical symptoms for the people who are triggered by sunlight, who can’t handle sunlight, that it causes their eyes to be dry or heavy or sleepy, they’re blinking or squinting – whatever their physical symptoms are.

‏‏That’s great. Thank you. That’s amazing. How do you help people? Somebody like me comes to you, and I will, for sure, and they give you all their symptoms. Then, what? What do you do with it?

‏‏First thing is the fact that we have various self-tests on my website irlen.com. They’re different. They’re for people who have headaches, migraines, light sensitivity – those who have learning and reading problems. They’re all separate from those who are on the autistic spectrum. They’re different self-tests. Many people get online and take the self-test, which you got to take when you’re at the Bulletproof Conference. It gives you a really good idea of how many “yes” answers and in what areas, whether you’re a candidate, and how many of these areas are being affected. Let me give you an example. You asked about depth perception. I’m going to ask you – when you’re driving, do you hesitate turning left in front of oncoming traffic?

‏‏I don’t hesitate turning left, but if it’s a narrow street, I get nervous.

‏‏What about changing lanes? Uncertain when you change lanes?


‏‏Any problems getting on and off escalators?


‏‏You kinda may or may be not.

‏‏Maybe not. Maybe I just need to drive more.

‏‏But there’s a whole bunch of questions in the area of depth perception. Many people aren’t aware that they have depth perception issues or that tracking is difficult for them – that they’re not seeing things in 3D. They didn’t realize that until we changed that, and they go, “Wow! All those trees aren’t mushed together! There’s actually spaces between them. Oh, that car is moving so much slower. Oh, I now know where to put my foot every time I go upstairs. I trip on stairs or on curbs because I’m either underestimating or overestimating where they are.” It was a whole bunch of areas that can be affecting depth perception that we can change and normalize and stop it from being a problem.

‏‏Yeah, and that is being solved by you prescribing colorful glasses, and through the color filter, the brain processes the information in a different way that can help with ADD, that can help with depth perception, that can help with post-traumatic stress, that can help with some cases of autism. Can you talk a little bit about what do those lenses and filters do to our brain?

‏‏If your eyes are open, your brain is receiving visual information, and if you just take light and put it through a prism, it breaks out into all the colors of the rainbow, traveling at different speeds. There are certain of those colors or wavelengths of light that the timing is off, and by the time it then reaches your brain to process, it’s like static for your brain, creating the physical symptoms and the optical illusions and the difficulties that you’re having. Now everybody’s brain is uniquely different. Every snowflake is different, so think of your brain as being a snowflake. What we do is figure out and customize something for your brain. We figure out which of those colors or wavelengths of light that timing is off and only filter those and nothing else. For each of those colors or wavelengths of light that we need to filter, we have to independently figure out how much we need to filter it. It’s very customized for your brain, and that’s why we get the immediate change from a very hot brain, hyperactive brain that’s not processing things well to a very calm, relaxed brain that can now function easily and not be stressed 100% of the time.

‏‏Wow. Can you share some case studies about how these glasses help people with, let’s say, post-traumatic stress for example?

‏‏Let’s talk about the military then because we have now worked with 500 marines who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan and have experienced multiple concussive head injuries related to blasts. When we see them, they’re living with headaches every minute of every day. They vary in intensity that trigger to migraines twice a day to twice a week. They’re on multiple medications to control that. They’re doing a whole bunch of other types of interventions, but nothing is helping the headaches and migraines. When you have headaches and migraines all the time like that, it also triggers anger, irritability, anxiety – a whole array of other physical symptoms. We have been able to totally eliminate their headaches and migraines, and with the brain being calm or relaxed, to calm down the anxiety or debilitating fidgeting. We do pre-imposed testing, and I was following up with one of the marines. His wife happened to be next to him when I was asking about his anger and his explosiveness. She said, “I need to talk to Helen. Give me the phone.” She said to me, “I used to have to take the children and hide in the closet.”


‏‏“I no longer have to do that. Thank you.”

‏‏Wow, I have goosebumps right now.

‏‏That’s just one example. I’ll do quick examples in different areas. I see, as I mentioned, people who are on the autistic spectrum, and those who are considered more high-functioning – we used to say they had Asperger Syndrome. Many times they would come in, and they type their responses and press a button, and it voice activates. Their environment is so distorted and so challenging and so assaulting for them that it’s either they close down totally or they can’t pull their thoughts together enough to communicate living in this assaultive environment for them. Then when we get them in the right filters, they come back, and they just sit down across from me and talk to me. It’s really nice. I’m not going to be eliminating their basic issues in terms of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, but we’re gonna give them a better life and quality of functioning. In terms of adults, I’ll take my Bulletproof group, which always surprises me. They’re usually very high-functioning adults who are in the workplace, whatever area that they’re in, and they come because they want peak performance so they want the best brain possible. I’m always surprised at how severe they are and how much extra effort they have been putting out in order to get where they are and stay where they are and how nice it is for them when they don’t have to do that and how easy it is now to be productive and how much more productive they can be. For children, what’s very typical is – I was talking to a parent and the child – both came in for their follow-up. I said, “Tell me the difference that the Irlen filters have made.” She said, “Well, in terms of math, the math teacher just said to me, ‘I don’t understand why he’s not in gifted math.’” So I went and looked back at his scores last year before he had Irlen filters, and he was not doing well. “We’re gonna retest him. He should be in advanced math.” He never read before, and now he’s sitting down and reading all the time and loving to read. We see children who have acquired the reading skills, but because things are moving or distorted like blurry or going in and out of focus, or the page is flickering or flashing at them they can’t utilize their skills to gain comprehension or for any length of time. Once we stopped that, their grades shot up, where they come in and they say, “Well, I was reading only at fourth grade, and I’m at sixth grade reading level, so I have to get everything on tape.” All of a sudden, we get rid of all those problems that are stopping it, and they already have the skills so now they’re reading at sixth grade. Some of them are reading above grade level.


‏‏They couldn’t utilize the skills that they had been taught. I always say to teachers, “You get so frustrated with some of the children because they don’t seem like they’re making progress, and they’re not learning. You take it personally and think it’s your fault. It’s not. It’s that you haven’t identified that underlying layer that’s holding them back. If that layer is Irlen, we can just eliminate it and take it away, and you can see that they have learned and that you have been a good teacher.”

‏‏Wow. I never had a guest that put me almost in tears. This is so beautiful. I need to breathe.

‏‏That’s okay. I have these big, military marines who look at me and they burst into tears cause for the first time in 13 years they get the right color and they put them on. And they immediately are pain-free – the first time in 13 years plus, and they just burst into tears – these big, tough marines. Then at the end, when I explain to them what’s happening, they just look at me and they go, “I have to hug you.” I get lots of hugs from many different populations for helping them and changing their lives and giving them the chance to be who they wanna be. That’s just wonderful for me.

‏‏It’s wonderful, and I can see the ripple effect on their families and on their lives in general. That’s really, really life-changing. If you are listening and you are experiencing some of these symptoms and you think that maybe there is something wrong with you or you can’t control your emotions or when things are too overwhelming, please talk to Helen and have her help you. It’s a simple solution that can, like I said, change your life forever.

‏‏And the change is immediate. There’s a lot of information online on the website, irlen.com, as well as a lot of self-tests, which will educate them, again, in terms of, “Gee! Wow! That’s what’s happening to me. Oh! I didn’t realize the fact that people aren’t supposed to get tired.” I talk to large audiences – used to be, you didn’t do podcast. You actually went out and talked to large audiences. I would say, “How many of you think that reading was created to put you to sleep?” You have some hands go up, and then they look around the audience cause not everybody is raising their hands. Then I say, “How many of you think that everyone gets a headache if they just read long enough?” Again, some hands go up – those who get headaches – and they look around. The majority do not have their hands up. We have two populations out there, and neither of them talk to each other. We’re not educating people about these symptoms, so they don’t know enough to know, “Hey! I’m working too hard. I don’t need to be. I can be more successful. I don’t have to live with the sense that people have told me that I’m dumb or stupid or lazy or I’m not trying hard enough.” I’ll tell you two funny stories, when you asked about changing. We do in-service training for teachers and teach them how to identify children who need this. One of the teachers, like you, identified herself and went ahead and got tested and got her glasses. She made two comments to me after she got her glasses. She said, “My husband’s driving improved so much.” That was the first comment. The second comment was, “We used to have this very sympathetic way of working together. I get into bed at night. I love to read, but it puts me to sleep. I have my book, and within five minutes, I’d be asleep. My husband would take the book, turn out the lights, and it was wonderful. Now with my Irlen filters, it’s a different story. We get into bed, and I start reading. In half an hour, my husband says, ‘Can we turn out the lights now?’ I go, ‘No, no, no! I just wanna read some more.’ In 45 minutes, ‘Now?’ ‘No, no, no! Let me read some more.’”

‏‏That is so cool. I just wanted to ask you a question. That syndrome – is it something you are born with or something you develop throughout your life?

‏‏You can inherit the syndrome, and it may not appear immediately in terms of school, depending on your specific distortions, so I’ve had individuals who – I’ll give you two examples. One is – I had this girl come in, and she was getting C’s in college. She got tinted, and her grades went up to A. She talked to her brother and said, “You really need to go see Helen. He can help you.” He said, “Me? I’m in law school. I don’t have a problem.” He took the bar and failed it once. He failed it twice. In he walks with his sister on one side and his father on the other side, and when I’m asking him about reading and what it’s like. He says, “I get tired after a page or two, and I start drinking coffee. About three pages, I’m drinking coffee nonstop. In five pages, I hold my eyelids open to read.”

‏‏No way.

‏‏For him, this was normal. The nice part of it is he got his tints, and he passed the bar exam.

‏‏That’s crazy. I mean, crazy good.

‏‏There’s so many stories like that. Some of them are kinda sad. One was the students, especially girls who can get by in the K through high school system, doing what I call a minimum amount of reading. You just skip reading. You read beginnings. You read endings. If it’s important, you read what’s in between, but that doesn’t work when you get to college. All of a sudden, she was an A student, K through high school. She goes to college, and within the first semester, she’s failing. She can’t keep up. She has to leave college. She’s now been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression and put on medication. Luckily, the parents brought her to me, and she just had Irlen.

‏‏What happened?

‏‏Obviously, then we were able to get her so she could read, go back to school, get off her medication, and understand that this is what was holding her back and causing a problem. The other really – it could have been very sad – was the child who started having headaches in elementary school that became migraines by middle school. By her second year of high school, she just wanted to get rid of the migraines and the headaches all the time. The only time she didn’t have them was when she was in her own room, and she could dim the lighting down, but you can’t do that in school. You’re in a class with fluorescent lights. She overdosed and realized immediately she really didn’t want to die, she just wanted to get rid of the pain. They took her to emergency, gave her a 50-50 chance. They pumped her stomach, and she survived. Again, now she’s been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression and a couple of other things, and she went to the school counselor who happened to be an Irlen screener, who asked her questions like, “When do you get headaches? Do you find you get headaches if you’re under fluorescent lights? Do you get headaches if you read for any length of time?” Then sent her to us. We were able to obviously, totally eliminate her headaches and migraines.

‏‏Your glasses help with reading problems, headaches, light sensitivity, ADHD, autism, brain injury. It helps post-traumatic stress. It helps people who are feeling like they’re underachievers. What would you like your legacy to be?

‏‏What do I want my legacy to be? That I helped change lives for those that nobody else was able to do that for. Is that a nice legacy?

‏‏That’s amazing. I mean, you’re already doing it.

‏‏We’re in 54 countries. I have 156 clinics worldwide, and people who learn and are trained to do the screenings and they’re certified Irlen screeners and diagnosticians – some of them had been with me for 20-30 years because the joy of seeing that immediate change in helping somebody so immediately is so rewarding that they say, “There’s nothing else out there that is more rewarding than this.” People ask me, “At some point, are you ever gonna retire?” and I look at them like…


‏‏Right? Why?


‏‏Is there anything out there that would be more rewarding than what I do every day?

‏‏Maybe playing golf?

‏‏No way!

‏‏Maybe going on some card games. That would be really, really fun.

‏‏Absolutely not! It is so rewarding to make a difference in somebody’s life and to be able to give them a future. We’ve worked with prisoners. I had one prisoner who came to me, and he had tattoos from his wrist up to his neck and had just gotten out of prison for the third time. History wise,  he had tried to kill somebody while he was in prison. I thought, “Oh, dear. Do I stay in here with him alone?” So I tell my staff, “I’m gonna keep the door open.” Turned out to be the nicest, sweetest guy in the world. But starting in kindergarten, he started running away from school. Under the lighting, he would get headaches, nauseous, dizzy, stomachaches. He couldn’t handle it. By middle school, he couldn’t do anything but put his head down on the desk. By high school, as soon as he could get out of school, he got out of school because it was very bright. He started dealing drugs, but he kept getting caught. Everytime he got sent back to prison, he would ask them what the lighting was like in the prison that they were gonna send him to because if you think about prisons, they’re under fluorescent lights 24/7.

It is so rewarding to make a difference in somebody’s life and to be able to give them a future. Click To Tweet

‏‏Oh my god.

‏‏Right. With the bars that are glary, and then if they get out in the yard, they have no protection, no tree, and no shade, and no sunglasses, so he did whatever he needed to do to get into solitary. If that meant trying to kill a guard or another prisoner, he did that. He was in such pain.

‏‏Oh, wow. That’s incredible.

‏‏He taught himself to read underneath his bunk in solitary in the dark.


‏‏We saw him recently. It’s been now 15 years. He has not been back in prison. He is not dealing drugs. He is married, and he has a child.

‏‏Beautiful. Before we finish this really helpful interview, will you please share with our listeners your three top tips to living a stellar life?

‏‏Oh, I love everyone to be able to live a stellar life. One is just as each snowflake is uniquely different, I need everyone to understand that their brain is uniquely different from anyone else’s brain. Your brain is the most important organ you have. It controls your ability to think. It controls how you feel, act, perform as an ability to function, and even your health and wellbeing. Be good to your brain and take care of your brain. Protect your brain from such things as head injuries, concussions, or whiplash. Irlen takes care of your brain, and one size and one color doesn’t fit everyone. I want people to not buy into what other people have said to them about themselves. Don’t hold onto old messages, maybe you’re not dumb or stupid or lazy or unmotivated. Maybe you don’t have ADD and ADHD or dyslexia or learning disabilities. They could have been wrong, so find out for yourself. Here’s one that I always explain to children. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to achieve your goals. Nobody knows when you started. I always tell the kids, “You don’t have a sweatshirt that says, ‘I didn’t learn to read until I was in fourth grade.’ Once you’ve learned to read, you learn to read. Once you’ve learned to ride a bike, you learn to ride a bike. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for you to get there.” If I can do one more?

‏‏Yeah, please.

‏‏Give yourself a hug.

‏‏I love that.

‏‏Everyday. Tell yourself how wonderful you are, because you are wonderful.

‏‏Thank you so much. People can go and take a free assessment on your website, correct?

‏‏Yes. irlen.com. I didn’t mention, but I have written three books Reading by the ColorsThe Irlen Revolution, and my latest books Sports Concussions and Getting Back in the Game of Life.

‏‏Beautiful. Thank you so much, Helen. I loved our interview. It was so inspiring and empowering. I am sure that at least 40% of our listeners should call you.

‏‏Yeah, maybe they can make life easier and better and their performance – they can achieve what we call peak performance. All you have to do is take a self-test on irlen.com and find out if you can make things easier or better. Yes, it is hereditary, so I love to say to the children, “Guess what?” when we test and we find out this is what they have, “You get to blame Mom or Dad.”


‏‏Yay! Cause everybody’s been blaming them. You can inherit it and realize that – I wonder if you did inherit it because sometimes Lasik surgery makes you much more light-sensitive.


‏‏You can inherit it and not acquire it in many different ways as well. Then I have those that inherit it and acquire it, and they’re over the top severe.

‏‏Oh my god. Thank you so much, Helen. I appreciate you.

‏‏I’m sure we’ll be talking more.


‏‏Thank you.

‏‏Thank you. And thank you so much, listeners. I love you. I hope this information was very, very helpful to make you understand that sometimes it is not your fault and it is just as simple as looking at the world through a different color glasses; through different lens, metaphorically and physically. Contact Helen if you need it. If you have those symptoms, go online. Do the assessment. I wish you a happy, healthy, and joyful rest of your day! Of course, have a stellar life!

Your Checklist Actions to Take

✓ Practice becoming a better listener. Do your best to set your own issues and thoughts aside to become a blank slate and listen to what the person you’re talking to is actually saying.

✓ Think about how you feel after you’ve been focused on reading for a while. If you experience physical symptoms, you may fall on the Irlen Syndrome continuum.

✓ Take the “Long Self-Test for Irlen Syndrome.” This test will help you determine whether you’re one of the many people unknowingly suffering from Irlen Syndrome.

✓ Take any of the other tests on Helen’s website that apply to you. Doing so will give you more of an understanding of where you fall on the Irlen Syndrome continuum (if at all).

✓ If you have a child who has difficulty with reading skills, guide him or her through taking Helen’s short reading test. Irlen Syndrome may be the cause of these problems.

✓ Find an Irlen testing center if you are starting to believe you may have Irlen Syndrome. The specialists there will be able to determine whether this is the cause of your problems.

✓ Work toward accepting that your brain is different from anyone else’s. Have conversations with a few friends about how their brains work so you can understand the differences.

✓ Think back on negative things people have said to you (“lazy,” “dumb,” “unmotivated,” and
so on). Give yourself permission to release these thoughts and no longer be defined
by them.

✓ Every day for the next week, give yourself a hug (in whatever form that may take for you and tell yourself how wonderful if you are. If this feels good, keep doing it and let it become a habit!

✓ Read Helen’s book The Irlen Revolution: A Guide to Changing Your Perception and Your Life to gain a deeper understanding of Helen’s research.

Links and Resources

About Dr. Helen L. Irlen

Helen L. Irlen is an internationally recognized educator, researcher, therapist, scholar, and expert in the area of visual-perceptual problems. She is a graduate of Cornell University. Ms. Irlen has been in the field of education for over 40 years. Her background includes 15 years as a School Psychologist, 30 years as a Child and Family Therapist, Educational Therapist, founder and Director of the Adult Learning Disabilities Program and Assistant Professor of Adult Learning Disabilities at California State University/Long Beach, instructor in psychology at Cornell University, and research assistant at Cornell. She has been recognized for her dedication to working with children and adults and is listed in Who’s Who in California, Who’s Who in Asia and the Pacific Nations, International Woman of the Year (1999-2000), International Who’s Who of Professionals, Kingston’s National Registry of Who’s Who, and the Dictionary of International Biography.

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