Irlen Syndrome?: The Politics of Helping a Special Needs Student

I was a guest teacher in a special needs resource room recently. One of the students was a sweet boy who came in and sat with me as we tried to transfer the information that there on his paperwork (there were four dots on the page) into the numeral four – “4” – underneath the picture. He worked hard and failed to finish the sheet after twenty minutes, and I had to help him a great deal. He went to the next class with three out of six problems incomplete.

I told my personal trainer about this the next day – my trainer’s name is Dave.

Dave said that as a elementary school student, he was pulled out of class daily for resource lessons around reading. He had had similar difficulties to this student and was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia and scotopic sensitivity syndrome, also known as Irlen syndrome. The writing or print on the page would move or not show up. Special glasses and filters helped him immensely.

“Wow! The other teacher I was co-teaching with yesterday said that they’ve been doing the same worksheets with this student for a year and half! What if it’s visual processing and not an intellectual disability?”

I emailed the classroom teacher and heard back that the testing was too expensive, not covered by the district and that the student was financially not well-off and that, furthermore, the parents were school-averse. The teacher was so grateful I had written and wanted to know if there was more information available, and I passed on the website about the syndrome.

The website, it turns out, had filters that could be used for all students who needed them that would only cost 20 dollars.

“Why not just buy these and use them and see if they help without getting a diagnosis? I don’t know if he had it, it was just a thought and maybe it will help others in the future,” I wrote.

The next day, I actually met an adult resource teacher with Irlen Syndrome who had done just that, had bought the filters, but he said that he had had to do it secretly lest the district politics got involved. Politics. And kids at the intersection. Underpaid teachers buying resources out of their own pockets to help students that the district couldn’t test because the process is privatized in the US.

I hope they don’t give up trying.

Dave said, “They just haven’t figured out how the kid learns, yet.”

Published by Seahurst Wellness and Education Center

I’m a skill-building, proficiency-obsessed tutor and consultant who puts relationships first. I am also a certificated teacher with over a decade of classroom experience. Everything I do is geared to facilitate students’ familial and scholarly wellness and their sense of meaningful contribution to society..

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