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.