Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS) is also known as Irlen-Meares Syndrome or just Irlen Syndrome after Helen Irlen (Psychologist) who discovered the condition.

SSS is a condition relating to the interaction of the central nervous system and the eyes at a physiological level with light. It is essentially a sensitivity to the white light spectrum. Although the effects of SSS are most noticeable during activities associated with reading an individual with the condition may notice the condition’s effects in a wide range of other activities. The exact cause of SSS is currently under debate within the scientific community. In addition, the scientific community has not reached a consensus on the most efficient method for treating the condition. However, in a joint statement, The American Academy of Ophthalmology, The American Academy of Paediatrics, The American Association for Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus and The American Association of Certified Orthoptists firmly repudiated the use of lenses for treating SSS, stating that there was no scientific evidence supporting their use.

What Literacy Care thinks about SSS

SSS is a legitimate condition but it is not the neurodevelopmental condition known as Dyslexia and does not share any of the neurological traits associated with Learning Disability. Clinically speaking (that is, students who present for formal assessment relative to Learning Disability) only about 2-3% of students who struggle with reading suffer from SSS. In addition to this, most of these also show either phonological and or orthographic deficits as well as SSS which means that SSS is seldom, if ever, the single cause of reading failure.

It is also the experience of Literacy Care that coloured lenses and coloured overlays can make a difference to how ‘comfortable’ a child feels when they read.  This in turn can prolong attention and enhance reading accuracy but coloured lenses and coloured overlays do not correct errors that are essentially caused by neurological factors.  It also appears that children who commence using coloured lenses and coloured overlays seem to only use them for a short period before choosing to discontinue use and they often make this decision by themselves.  However, testing for SSS should always form part of the assessment process and if it is believed a child has this condition then appropriate action should be taken as part of an overall response to the child’s needs.

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