A ‘light allergy’ diagnosis of her vision caught this writer off balance; One in five of us share some of the symptoms

Blue glasses came unexpectedly  into Cindy’s life when she took son, Clint, to a Irlen screener. Wearing the glasses, she can at last walk in a straight line down the centre of the sidewalk.

No longer clumsy on her feet or discombobulated by computers, Cindy found a new self-confidence when she put on her blue glasses.
No longer clumsy on her feet or discombobulated by computers, Cindy found a new self-confidence when she put on her blue glasses.

By Cindy McKay

“Why are your glasses blue?” or “Hey, I really like your sunglasses!” are frequent comments I hear from the people I meet.

While they are quite funky with the blue lenses, and create a fashion faux pas when they clash with my clothing, these glasses have become invaluable to both my confidence and comfort level every day.

Without my glasses, I squint in bright light and have trouble focusing on a computer screen; my eyes are tired all the time and feel like daggers are piercing them. My balance and depth perception are way off and I am very clumsy. Night driving is difficult as the oncoming headlights and glare from the street lights hurt my eyes.

I can see relatively well (for my old age) and have always been able to read without vision problems, but ask me to walk a straight line or walk in the dark and I need a hand. I learned to always walk close to the walls of buildings, trying not to veer off the straight path too much; otherwise people assume I have been into the sauce and am a bit tipsy. I thought that this was normal for me and it was an accepted part of who I am.

This all changed for me once I discovered a book called Reading by the Colours by Dr. Helen Irlen. Scotopic sensitivity syndrome(SSS) is generally diagnosed when reading difficulties are noticed, as with my son, Clint. There are a whole host of symptoms that accompany this unique syndrome and as I flipped through the first pages of the book, the simple 12-question self-test applied to my son. In Grade one, he was having trouble reading and recognizing the same simple three or four letter words from line to line. His perception of the way black print looked on the white page distorted the letters making consistent word recognition impossible.

It wasn’t until we had taken him to be screened that I learned that my eyes, like Clint’s, were “allergic” to light. Not in the same sense, as reading was no problem, but it became clear that this was the reason for the clumsiness and light sensitivity.

Our daughter, Amy, suffered from daily headaches and preferred low light as well. When she started driving and had trouble with depth perception we had her eyes tested. When she got her glasses she was thrilled with two amazing discoveries. First of all, she could throw a ball up in the air and catch it! She had never been able to participate in sports as her hand-eye co-ordination was way off. The second discovery was that she had been seeing numbers all wrong! She was finally able to improve her math mark in Grade 10.

And those daily headaches vanished. She graduated as an animal health technologist from Lakeland Community College in Vermilion, Alta. in June of last year and is working at the vet clinic in Gimli.

These glasses have changed our lives. I can comfortably work in front of a computer all day. Amy, 22, has no problems seeing critical information or numbers and does her job effectively. Clint, 19, only needs his glasses for reading. He has developed a love of books and recently completed the driving handbooks for truckers to get his Class 1 beginners licence.

For me, the best part is that I now walk confidently down the middle of the sidewalk, in a straight line! I can live my life walking on the edge and am not afraid of narrow pathways.

SSS affects one in every five people and I invite you to learn more by visiting http://www.irlen.ca. This site has an extensive self-test that is easy to follow. It could change the confidence level for you or someone you love. It will change your life.

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