Irlen Syndrome – Is There an App for That??

Colored overlays pic

Irlen Colored Overlay

Irlen Syndrome – Is There an App for That???

Recently I had the opportunity to be trained as an Irlen Screener by Irlen Diagnostician, Judy Palapala of the Irlen Clinic of the Twin Cities. Having worked with both students and adults who have symptoms of the Irlen Syndrome, also known as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS), I wanted to be able to better assess their needs and provide them other options to help them with reading as well as vocational tasks.

So what is Irlen Syndrome? A visual perceptual syndrome that can include any or all of these symptoms:

  • Light sensitivity
  • Inefficient reading
  • Slow reading rate
  • Attention deficit
  • Strain or fatigue when reading
  • Poor depth perception

Individuals with Irlen Syndrome often don’t recognize that their symptoms if they have had them since birth. Since they have always seen things in a different manner, whether distorted or experienced fatigue when reading they often don’t recognize that reading could be improvied. Applying color filters for those with Irlen Syndrome can normalize light perceived and reduce the symptoms of discomfort, inefficiency, fatigue or inattentiveness to mention a few. Like the symptoms for each individual, the effect of colored filters can differ. Irlen Method of intervention is a researched based intervention ¹ that can help some with the perceptual disorder.

What is the incidence of the disorder and who does it help?

  • Prevalence is 14-16 % of the general population
  • Estimation that 46% of those with reading problems, dyslexia, ADD or LD have some level of Irlen Syndrome
  • Other diagnoses as TBI, CP, ASD or Light Induce Epilepsy can have Irlen Syndrome¹

How do you know if you have Irlen Syndrome?

So, is there an app that supports Irlen Syndrome?

No app currently is available specifically for Irlen Syndrome, however there are apps and methods to apply the concepts of using colored filters once a color is identified that improved reading or helps with light sensitivities that for some individuals with Irlen Syndrome.

Here are some methods to help apply the color filter solutions and apps for those that are found to benefit from use of color filters:

  1. Applying Irlen color filters over the top of an iPad, iPad Mini or even an iPhone can be done without affecting the touch capabilities of a capacitive screen. This provides the chosen color applied to all environments on the iOS device. Here are a couple of trials that worked using specific cases with iOS devices:
    • A color filter neatly cut to the size of the screen of an iPhone using an incase® iPhone 5 protective case worked well. Below a purple colored  filter cut to size was applied.

Color filter iphone

    • Cutting a colored filter to fit under a case, such as the Otterbox® protective case also provided the color filter effects on an iPad. (Note: I trialed inexpensive colored, transparent plastic dividers which produced some minor distortions when directly on the screen – not recommended.)

Color filter iPad red

Note: The above screens with color filters may not appear to work for you but what might work for one person is not correct for another!

2. Specific iOS reading apps provide back ground color options which can customize the background by chosing a color from the full color spectrum palate.

Color customize on apps pic

Apps that provide customizable, full color palate choices (as in above image) that can be matched to the specific Irlen filter color determined after screening for students or clients:

Other apps that provide some color background choices but not customization:

  1. Read2Go app
  2. ZoomReader app (contrast colors only)

Other solutions that can be applied to an iOS device to help with light sensitivities can include:

  • The iOS Invert Color setting provides one color change to reduce the contrast which can be helpful but is not customizable.
  • Dimming the screen or brightness on an iOS using the Settings>Brightness & Wallpaper can allow customization of the brightness on an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad screen.
  • Applying a glare reducing screen or privacy screen (typically gray) can also help for those who need a dimmer screen.

If you are interested in more information about Irlen Syndrome, visit the website or for other colored filter solutions you can contact me at: , or through .

More for your OT m Tool Kit and low tech solutions for your students or clients!


1 “National and International Research Studies.” Irlen Institute, Colored Lenses, Colored Overlays, Diagnosticians, Screeners., n.d. Web. 21 July 2013. <;.

Carol Leynse Harpold, MS AdEd, OTR/L, ATP, Certified Irlen Screener

About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
This entry was posted in Apps for OT's, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Irlen Syndrome, Reading, Uncategorized, Visual Perception and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Irlen Syndrome – Is There an App for That??

  1. Sue Drouin says:

    My son was evaluated at age 7 and got Irlen lens. The difference for him was amazing, so much so that he never complained about the glasses and wore them for years.

    • Sue,
      Thank you for your comment and visit. When color works it is amazing. I have had some adults cry, realizing what they were seeing was difficult for them and could have been better when learning to read.

      Thank you so much for your comment. I am amazed at how many are unfamiliar with the Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.


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