We have found a common problem with the Dyslexics we assess and tutor. They often have an issue with black text on a white background. The text is not stable so they have difficulties looking at and reading anything that is written on white. This includes white paper, computer screens & “white” white boards. The name of this condition is Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome or Irlen’s Syndrome. Below is a quote from an Irlen’s site http://www.readingandwriting.ab.ca/irlen.htm#Irlen
What is the Cause of Irlen Syndrome, and Why do Colors Help?
“Although the exact cause of Irlen Syndrome has yet to be established, it has been shown to be a visual-perceptual problem, most likely originating either in the retina of the eye or in visual cortex in the brain. The following is a hypothetical explanation, based on current research into this syndrome.
In the visual system, there are two separate visual processing pathways, the Magnocellular, or Fast, and the Parvocellular, or Slow. The Fast pathway does not see colours, and is responsible for discerning movement, depth, and high contrast images. The Slow pathway determines colour, fine details and resolves low contrast images. The Fast pathway is also responsible for inhibiting the slow pathway when the eyes are moved, so that the image of what was previously being looked at does not persist. It appears that in people with Irlen Syndrome, the Fast pathway is disabled to some extent. This seems to affect the ability of the Fast pathway to inhibit the Slow pathway, which in turn results in images persisting when the eyes are moved. As a result, the brain perceives overlapping images. In severe cases, when the brain tries to interpret these images, it perceives images that aren’t there. The individual may “see” letters moving on the page, blurring, or forming strange patterns. In less severe cases, the misperceptions do not occur or may be suppressed, but the brain expends more energy in processing the images than is required by most people, resulting in headaches, eyestrain, and/or fatigue. These problems generally get worse the longer a person tries to read, or do other visually intensive activities.
Bright lights, fluorescent lights, or glossy paper will often make the problems worse, as the extreme contrast will increase the problem of persistent images. Irlen Syndrome manifests itself most strongly when reading words or music, because of the repetitive patterns on the page. When the eyes scan across the page, the patterns of words on the page and persistent images will jumble in a manner that is difficult for the brain to interpret properly. In the Irlen Method, the individual is assesed with a wide array of colour filters, singly and in combination, to find the most suitable colour. The colour filters appear to act by blocking some of the light which would normally activate the Slow visual pathway, in effect taking over the inhibitory role of the Fast pathway, and thus appear to reduce or eliminate the persistent images. The filters stop the confusing signals from being sent to the brain, and the individual will see the page more normally and easily. This treatment may also be helpful to individuals who experience other related problems, such as faulty depth perception or night driving difficulties.”
“White” white boards are often very difficult for Dyslexic students. The boards are a great tool for mind mapping, drawing out explanations of new concepts for them, brain storming and more visual/kinesthetic teaching methods which are ideal for Dyslexics. The whiteness of the board however for Dyslexics experiencing Irlen Syndrome can be very difficult for them to see writing on.
We have been looking for products to make non-white boards for home, classrooms, and personal use. We have found a chalkboard paint in many different colours and a sealer that goes over paint and creates an erasable marker board. Perfect for creating a background surface that is the student’s Irlen colour.
Check out their websites and ideas. We found all kinds of possibilities on their sites and googling images for chalkboard or white board projects.
Also I found a recipe to make your own chalkboard paint in any colour your want on Martha Stewart’s blog.
Custom Colors How-To
Start with flat-finish latex paint in any shade. For small areas, such as a door panel, mix 1 cup at a time.
1. Pour 1 cup of paint into a container. Add 2 tablespoons of unsanded tile grout. Mix with a paint stirrer, carefully breaking up clumps.
2. Apply paint with a roller or a sponge paintbrush to a primed or painted surface. Work in small sections, going over the same spot several times to ensure full, even coverage. Let dry.
3. Smooth area with 150-grit sandpaper, and wipe off dust.
4. To condition: Rub the side of a piece of chalk over entire surface. Wipe away residue with a barely damp sponge.
So we are going to start making small chalk and erasable boards for our Dyslexic Irlen sufferers, 24″ x 30″ non-white erasable or chalk boards or as big as needed, paint entire walls to really great creative. Dyslexics are extremely inventive so they will probably love a project like this and a great background to work on schoolwork!
Cheers! Happy Holidays!!
Karey Hope deGraaf
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online