Scotopic Sensitivity (Irlen Syndrome) Computer Screen Overlays to Help with Distortion Issues

Scotopic Sensitivity (Irlen Syndrome) Computer Screen Overlays to Help with Distortion Issues

Scotopic Sensitivity OverlayDyslexics can be prone to experiencing degrees of Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome also referred to as Irlen Syndrome. Irlen Syndrome causes visual distortions with text and other written materials on a white background such as white boards, white paper and computer screens. calculates around 44% of dyslexics experience this syndrome from slight to severe. There are however many accommodations to minimize this issue.

In this blog I would like to focus on one Irlen Syndrome issue that causes great distress for many sufferers –  the difficulty of staring at a computer screen resulting in headaches, sore eyes, and mental/physical exhaustion.  And how to use SS overlay programs to alleviate discomfort and exhaustion. First I will explain a little about Irlen Syndrome and its affects.

“Irlen Syndrome (also referred to at times as Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, and Visual Stress) is a perceptual processing disorder. It is not an optical problem. It is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. This problem tends to run in families and is not currently identified by other standardized educational or medical tests.”

I became aware of this issue back in the 80’s when my dyslexic daughter was telling me letters seemed to be water falling off the page and wouldn’t stay still to read them. I didn’t know what to make of this and at the time I was just beginning to learn what dyslexia was. We did find out she had convergence and tracking issues and after a year of vision training her reading fluency improved but she continued to see “weird things” when she read.

Over the years after learning how to manage dyslexia with my daughter and her two brothers, who were also dyslexic, I started to help other parents with their dyslexic children. One thing that came up over and over was the student telling me they saw “weird stuff” on the page when they read. With research I found out about Irlen Syndrome and how it caused distortions when reading on a white background and certain physical ailments when the sufferer was under fluorescent lights, bright sunlight, street lamps and car headlights at night . I decided to become a screener in hopes the accommodations Irlen supports would help the people I work with. Long story short, I have had great success with the Irlen system.

So back to SS overlay programs. There are many free programs available now to help change your computer monitor to a color that is soothing for the Irlen sufferer. Each person will have a color or colors they respond to well. I love this type of a feature because I have Irlen issues and a purple background  makes a huge difference for me.

Scotopic Sensitivity OverlayThe link below is for a pdf  link to get the free program called “SS Overlay”. Didn’t find any viruses. This overlay is over the whole screen and you only have a specific number of colors. I like this for my purposes because I can click on links with the color overlay in place where other programs need to move the bar of color aside to click on links. Also you can make the color as dense as you want.

When they talk about “Right-click the SSOverlay icon in the system tray and choose “Settings” ” they mean the yellow arrow in the bar at the bottom of your screen. In my screen capture below the arrow is on the far left so you know what it looks like.   ss overlay in tray

Another program is a T-bar set up where you have a color ruler or rulers of varying widths and heights. The only downside for me is you have to move the t-bar out of the way to type or click a link. For straight reading with a colored ruler type of effect that helps keep your eyes in place, it can be very useful. This one has a color wheel so there is a huge variety colors available. Also you can adjust the density of the color. The link seems to be free of viruses and unwanted websites.


“This is where we would like to introduce T-Bar to you. T-Bar is a coloured bar which you can either drag around the screen or lock to your mouse. It can have ruled lines or not, depending on your preference. The colour can be chosen from pre-defined options, then tweaked by altering the red, green or blue sliders to get the perfect colour, the transparency level can be adjusted, again to suit the individual. All the settings are saved between sessions, so there is no need to readjust the next time you use it.”

You can always change your background colors on your computer and internet browser but I find those limiting. There are many other color overlay programs available. If you find a good one, please share. These are very handy tools and can make staring at a computer screen so much more tolerable.

Comedian Gallagher sees School and the English Language like Dyslexics do

Comedian Gallagher gets Dyslexics frustration with the English language

Comedian Gallagher gets Dyslexic’s frustration with the English language

“Why should I be serious about the language if the language is not serious enough to make sense” –             Gallagher –


The comedian, Gallagher has been around a long time and like George Carlin has been a keen observer of the silliness of our world. In particular, they have had a lot of fun with the English language and its peculiarities. With the language influences of so many groups of peoples who moved in and out of the British Isles over the centuries, the language has become at the very least confusing to a total nightmare for those trying to learn it.

This doesn’t include words and expressions that are constantly being added due to new concepts and new stuff we keep creating or discovering. Much of it not conforming to phonics (sounding out a word) or the rules of the English language.

One of the qualities of those with a Dyslexic nature is our love of humor. So rather than continue to rant about the English language’s contribution to making a Dyslexic’s school experience hell why don’t you watch Gallagher’s video.  He expresses it beautifully.

Karey Hope deGraaf
Dyslexia Victoria Online

Dyslexia Victoria Online

Phone Etiquette for Dyslexics

phone ettiquete for Dyslexics
As a Dyslexic I have issues with different aspects of verbal and written language.  One of my pet peeves is people leaving phone messages. Callers have a tendency to start their message by saying their name quickly, launch into their message which can go on and on and then finish by saying their phone number so fast, it’s practically unintelligible.

I believe there are people who can catch these numbers but as a Dyslexic I am challenged trying to write numbers down in the correct order, especially phone numbers. I will usually get the first two and a couple more somewhere in the sequence of numbers and always reverse the two middle numbers in the last set of numbers. So for example:    1-800-346-0925 becomes –    1-8??-3??-?296

This means I now have to go back and play the message several times to get the name and phone number and some of the message. This drives me crazy. I often don’t get the number right anyway.

Here are some suggestions for people leaving messages because you never know if the person writing the message down is numbers and word challenged.

  • When you begin say your name slowly and clearly, who you are with if applicable and your phone number.
  • Say the phone number slowly and clearly and then repeat it.
  • Keep your message short and clear
  • End your message with your name and phone number said slowly and clearly

Now the person writing the message will be able to write your information down the first or second time and have a better chance at getting it right.

One benefit of this approach is the person writing the information down won’t give up on you and not bother taking your message down because they are tired of replaying your message.

If you are talking to someone on the phone giving them information, slow down. Spelling your name out loud slowly is also helpful. Finish by asking if they need anything repeated. People who have difficulty writing things down tend to be embarrassed asking to have it said again.

I personally believe most people would appreciate phone messages slowed down.
Thank you for listening on behalf of Dyslexics everywhere.
Karen Hope
Dyslexia Victoria Online

Dyslexic Communication in “Pearls before Swine” Cartoon

“Pearls before Swine” is one of my favourite cartoons. I saw this one and I was really tickled about what a truly Dyslexic moment this is for communication. I have had many conversations with my husband like this. As a Dyslexic I am talking about my mental “big picture” that I am thinking at any given moment. The words I verbalize can get confused because I am picking things in the middle, side, or maybe the many extra images that get added to the first one. That can bring me to a completely different topic while I am in the middle of talking about the first one. Hard to talk about two things at once or maybe three!

So my husband will ask me will I be ready to leave by a certain time and I will respond with I have to dress, make a phone call, clean the bathroom…  you know – the big picture and he will interrupt and say “I don’t care how you will get ready but will you?”

This can be a common problem for women in general when talking to  left brain dominant men as we process  information from the right brain more easily than men do. A wonderful book to read about this difference between men and women is: The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image (Compass) by Leonard Shlain.

You can watch a group of women talk this way and they all understand and follow each other without additional explanation. However, if a woman is also Dyslexic this can really compound right brain communication issues. For a boy or man who is Dyslexic which means his right hemisphere is more dominant and his brain is wired a little differently, it must be painful talking to his friends who are lefties. I have often noticed Dyslexic boys will be able to talk to women more easily and relate to male or female teachers who are more right brain oriented in their teaching style. I would suggest you read my “How Teachers can Accommodate the Dyslexic Student” for ideas on how to teach Dyslexics their way.

Have a great day! – it’s the only one you have at this moment.

Karey Hope deGraaf
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

How Dyslexics Keep Track of their “Stuff”

I was talking to a friend recently who is Dyslexic like me and shares many of the same behaviors and traits common to many Dyslexics. We chatted about needing a “box” that held current projects, work from the office, “to do”  lists, bills to pay, books to read, pictures, cards to mail for special occasions, letters to write, warranties to mail, personal journals, drawings, events to go to and the box often substitutes for a daily planner. There are limitless versions of the “box”,  each designed to fit the owner’s needs and interests. The box can be portable so it can be carried everywhere and even on trips. Some people prefer a larger place to put their stuff and it will stay in one location.  Moveable boxes needs to be sturdy, a good size and light – my friend and I favor banker boxes. Perfect size, weight and has a lid!

When I worked for our family business my box came home with me every night and back to the office every morning.  Sometimes I would work on what was in the box or not.  I have often taken the contents of my box and spread it through my luggage on the off chance I might need to do something with it. My ex-husband found my attachment to my box odd and sometimes insisted I leave it at work. I would feel uncomfortable all night concerned I might need it and maybe even drive out secretly to get it.

Okay, so it is a little weird but all people are a bit weird in one way or another. My box keeps my mind calm. My friend says that she and her husband were painting the house and he put her box out in the shed temporarily along with other stuff in the rooms of their house. She had to know its location so she could at least visualize where it was so she could be calm and feel safe.

What I have learned over the years is that many of the Dyslexic children and adults I have met have the their own “box”. What is in the box varies widely but the main similarity is their need to keep their currently important stuff with them or somewhere they think is safe. They generally know all the contents and where it is located in their box. They can also tell if someone has been through the box.

So the question is why do some Dyslexics have a box that holds so much importance for them? We are visual people that think in images – whole pictures of everything. What  currently is of concern to us can cause us worry because we have to keep those pictures of our responsibilities together somewhere. Dyslexics have a tendency to lose things or forget about them and obligations, deadlines, events, important dates, things to pay or file can create a nightmare for them to keep under control.  We are not great at remembering or seeing the details of our pictures of our daily, monthly and god forbid, yearly responsibilities so we fret about keeping them somewhere we can find them easily and sift through regularly.

Daily planners are so frustrating because we plan to write in them or use a computer diary but after a day or so we never look at them again. Dyslexics are right brain dominant thinkers and the right hemisphere focuses on the present and the left hemisphere keeps track of the past and future. We can think about the past and the future but tend to be living in the present so keeping track of what we are supposed to be doing in a diary is quickly forgotten and is not that important until we have to do it. Also daily planners are about being sequential and many Dyslexics have a terrible time with a sequence of any description. So we get a box to hold it all!

A  silly personal example was trying to remember my wedding anniversary with my ex-husband. We are both Dyslexic and terrible at keeping track of special dates. We were married for twenty-six years and almost never remembered our anniversary. Days or a month later one of us would suddenly realize it had passed again. One year my sister tried to help. She called me in the morning to remind me – I thanked her because I had forgotten and then told my ex-husband. We planned to go out to dinner and then forgot to go!! We even made a reservation. My sister phoned me the next day to ask how the dinner went and I said, “What dinner?”.

When we are working with Dyslexic spouses and children we often talk about how many Dyslexics have a box for their stuff. They love to say, “See, I am not being lazy!” to their family members who have been annoyed with their “box” and forgetfulness. We suggest tolerance, understanding and a sense of humor from the family.

What I would love to see is other people’s version of the “Box”. If you would like to email us pictures of yours we will post them in a later blog. As I said before, the box can take many shapes and sizes. Doesn’t have to be portable. Maybe it’s a filing cabinet, closet, cupboard, plastic tote, whatever. Tell us your story about your “box” so we can share with others. Maybe your idea of a box will appeal to other Dyslexics looking for ideas to contain their stuff.

Karey Hope deGraaf
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

“Readability” is a Great way to Archive Information and Articles


We spend a lot of time researching and constantly trying to archive the information. We have found a great website – “” for archiving. You can take most information posted on the internet, turn it into an easy to read and print format and then save the articles to “Readability”. They also give a snippet of what you have saved so you can more easily recognize the material.

One of the reasons I love this website is this keeps my information off my computer so I don’t have to worry about my computer crashing and losing the information. Also they make saving an article really easy. The buttons for saving information is located on the left side of your address bar and all you do is click them to save the article or read in a more readable format now rather than having ads, other links and clutter that makes reading more difficult on the computer screen. ImageCheck it out!  It’s also free!

Karey Hope
Dyslexia Victoria Online


Recently I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a workshop with educator, Rich Lavoie. He is an inspiring speaker who uses anecdotes, warm humour and moving stories of the many learning disabled children and their parents he has worked with and known over thirty years in education.

I first learned of Mr. Lavoie a few years ago when my husband, Howie and I were attending a series of workshops put on by a literacy organization for teaching adults how to read. During one of these workshops they showed us a DVD of his F.A.T. City workshop from the 1980’s. The clothes and hair styles may be dated but his forward thinking and innovative approach to working with learning disabled students and understanding what they experience in school is as relevant and fresh today as it was in the 80’s.

Mr. Lavoie employs an interesting tactic in this workshop to help adults understand the world of these kids by taking a classroom full of teachers, parents and school administrators and treating them like learning disabled children are treated on a daily basis. He gives them exercises that are difficult to interpret for most people much like school material that is hard for a learning disabled child to understand. Then he confuses them and is impatient much like some teachers are with these students.

After forty-five minutes of this treatment the adults in his classroom are embarrassed, flustered and definitely not able to “learn” anything with the way he is presenting information. His point is this is how special needs children feel everyday in many classrooms.

I was in tears. I had experienced this treatment and misunderstanding in school with my three Dyslexic children when they were growing up and similar stories from Dyslexics and their parents we have worked with over the years. This is not to say teachers are bad and Mr. Lavoie was quick to point this out. Teachers are overworked and very stressed in many of our schools today and most have not been trained to understand the needs of Dyslexic students or how to teach them.

My husband, Howie and I feel that every teacher graduating from university should be required to watch this workshop. Here is a link to Amazon – F.A.T. City

The new workshop I attended recently was focused on two of his new books out: “The Motivation Breakthrough –
6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child”
and “It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend- Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success”.

This was an inspirational workshop and gave a different perspective on what motivates children in a classroom I haven’t heard before. He talks about “Motivation Myths” that I found surprising and enlightening. We would recommend you check his speaking schedule and attend. You won’t be disappointed!

Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

“WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?” Dyslexia Victoria Online is introducing videos on Dyslexia Awareness, Teaching, Accommodations & Resources

We are introducing a series of videos about Dyslexia awareness, teaching and learning strategies, accommodations, computer programs and resources for children and adults. If you are interested please email us at:”.

We are also planning to have some webinars and involve people in the discussion portions of the webcast.
We welcome you to join us!

Cheers! Happy New Year!
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

A Little Help with Dyslexics Writing or Reading “d” and ” b” Backwards and Other Equally Annoying Letters

When we have workshops we always ask the question, “What do you think Dyslexia is?”  The answers always start with, “backwards letters like “b” and “d”. Often this  is all people are aware of.

Most children reverse and turn letters upside down until about grade three. This is a directionality issue. “Directionality”  for a person is the understanding and awareness of where left, right, up, down, above, below, etc. are in relation to where they are standing or sitting at a given point in time.  Many Dyslexics have difficulty with their awareness of direction and often experience it their whole lives.

“Directionality” is also understanding directions for writing tasks such as “write your name in the top right-hand corner,” “draw a line under the word ______,” “draw a picture of yourself in the middle of the paper”. This confusion also extends to letters like b and d, n and u, p and q, m and w, any numbers with two or more numbers like 21 and 12. Some also write backward, from right to left and/or the letters appearing like ordinary writing seen in a mirror.

There is a little trick that often helps the Dyslexic student figure out which way their troublesome letters such as “b” and “d” go.

The letters are normally written in black text. This makes letters that are the same shape such as b, d, p, q hard to differentiate from each other. The children we work with often ask why these four letters are all the same shape.

The solution we use is colour. Dyslexics respond well to colour and by colouring the letters specific colours or making them out of coloured Play Doh or modelling clay they can differentiate them from each other more easily.

By making them out of Play Doh or other modelling mediums you help the child to kinesthetically “feel” the letters which helps them internalize the directions and shapes of the letters.

Also provide a cheat sheet for them to look at with the letters coloured. We suggest laminating a copy for their school desks and at home.

With these teaching methods and aids they will soon have the direction of the letters right. These kids are very visual and will generally commit these coloured images easily to memory.

Note: Make sure you use the same colour for each letter all the time. Otherwise they can get confused.

Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

A Typical Confusing Day in the Life of a Dyslexic

I was recently sent a “funny” email. The author  was poking fun at attention issues that older people can experience. What I found so fascinating about this piece is that it describes my life as a Dyslexic as far back as I can remember.

Robert Burns’ poem, “Ode to a Mouse” has a line in it –

‘The best laid schemes of mice and men
Oft go awry,’

Okay, the poem is about other things but taken out of context of the poem, I think it really applies well here.

I always have to write lists and keeping looking at them and marking off those I have actually finished.  And hopefully I don’t get side-tracked making my list look pretty, more efficient, divided up into different types of tasks, on different coloured paper, using many different coloured felt pens to make things stand out, a fancy book to put them, a system to decide when to do the tasks and what order……. sigh…

For example, I took way too long looking for clipart to express visually what I think the theme of this blog entry is. I am always told I can’t just keep it simple. Oh well, this is my life and I love to play with pictures and words.  As do many Dyslexics!

The other problem is I often lose my lists and then I have to make a new one….sigh again…

Anyway here is the email. Let me know, if you are Dyslexic or think you are, do you recognize yourself?

Thank goodness there’s a name for this disorder. Somehow I feel better, even though I have it!!
Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. –
Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.
This is how it manifests itself:

I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.
As I head towards the garage, I notice post on the porch table that I picked up from the postman earlier.
I decide to go through it before I wash the car.
I put my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the recycling box under the table, and notice that the recycling box is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the recycling
But then I think, since I’m going to be near the postbox when I take out the recycling paper anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my cheque book off the table and notice that there is only one cheque left.
My extra cheques are in the desk in my study, so I go into the house to my desk where I find the cup of coffee I’d been drinking.
I’m going to look for my cheques but first I need to push the coffee aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over.
The coffee is getting cold, and I decide to make another cup..
As I head toward the kitchen with the cold coffee, a vase of flowers on the worktop catches my eye – the flowers need water.
I put the coffee on the worktop and discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers..
I put the glasses back down on the worktop, fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote control. Someone left it on the kitchen table.
I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV,I’ll be looking for the
remote, but I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.
So, I put the remote back on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.
Then, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.
At the end of the day:
The car isn’t washed
The bills aren’t paid
There is a cold cup of coffee sitting on the kitchen work-surface
The flowers don’t have enough water,
There is still only 1 cheque in my cheque book,
I can’t find the remote,
I can’t find my glasses,
And I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I’m really
baffled because I know I was busy all bloody day and I’m really tired.
I realize this is a serious problem, and I’ll try to get some help for it,
but first I’ll check my e-mail…..
Do me a favour. Forward this message to everyone you know, Because I can’t remember who the hell I’ve sent it to.
Don’t laugh – if this isn’t you yet, your day is coming!!

Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online