Tag Archives: adaptations

My children and I have a condition that makes words move on the page – #100days100stories

Sinéad and her children have Irlen syndrome, a condition that affects the way the brain processes visual information. It’s a common condition – many people don’t realise they have it.  Sinéad has shared her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign

My two children and I have a condition that makes words move on the page. When I sit in front of a computer the screen seems to shakSinead, with dark hair and glassese in front of me. My son says the whole world is like a plate of wobbly jelly.

The most common name for this condition is Irlen syndrome but it also goes by Meares-Irlen syndrome, visual stress and scotopic sensitivity. It can exist as a condition by itself or alongside dyslexia.

Common difficulties include problems with reading and writing, over-sensitivity to light, problems differentiating between background and foreground in the environment, and a range of different physical effects caused by dealing with this, such as headaches, nausea, exhaustion.

Our experience of Irlen syndrome

My two children and myself all have Irlen symptoms. They affect us to different extents and in different ways.

My 10-year-old daughter finds the contrast between text and page the most difficult to manage.When she started using a coloured plastic sheet over the pages of her books, she went up three reading levels at school within a term. She also has coloured workbooks provided by the school, which she uses for her schoolwork.

Things that help upload

My eight-year-old son reads very well but likes to use a coloured sheet when there are harsh lighting conditions. He also finds writing on coloured workbooks much more comfortable.

The children respond differently to environmental conditions as well. My son says he has no problems with the class smartboard (a large interactive ‘board’ projected onto the wall of the classroom). However, he howls with pain if the general lighting conditions are too bright.

My daughter doesn’t seem to be too bothered by light, but he needs the background of the board changed so it isn’t white. This is easily done, and most of the children prefer the jollier colour.

I have terrible handwriting; not many people know this. I experience environmental symptoms the most – sensitivity to light, and movement in my vision between the foreground and background.

This means that for me, my tinted Irlen glasses provide the best relief. However, the lenses are a dark turquoise colour and I don’t like to use them too much in the office as my colleagues cannot see my eyes.glasses

On most occasions I actually use a green computer filter over my screen. This reduces headaches and makes it much easier for me to concentrate.

What can be done to help?

There are lots of adaptations that can be made, and many of them are free or readily available. For example:

  • Changing the background colour of the interactive whiteboard in the classroom
  • Using the minimum amount of artificial light in the classroom or workplace
  • Using computers and social media  to communicate instead of handwriting
  • Coloured or tinted exercise books, overlays, reading rulers and tinted wipe-boards

None of these adaptations are that expensive – many could be implemented in every school in the UK tomorrow at no additional cost.

Changing the background of the interactive whiteboard is as simple as changing the colour of a Word document. If budget allowed, they could even have a stack of coloured paper for the children who chose to use it.

I would ask every teacher parent, school governor, MP and councillor reading this article to go into your local school tomorrow and ask them to do at least two of these three things.

It’s likely to improve academic performance – and it could just save the school life of many undiagnosed children sitting and suffering in silence.

Have you experienced any of these symptoms yourself? Are there any other ideas you would recommend? Talk about it on Scope’s online community.

Find out more about 100 days, 100 stories, and read the rest of the stories so far. 

“It’s simple solutions that make all the difference”: Marie’s story

At three foot six and with brittle bone disease, Marie is constantly adapting to looking after her growing baby Mark. And Marie and her husband Dan are finding often it’s the simplest adaptations that make the biggest difference to family life.

Mark is nine months old now and we simply do not know where the time is going. Every day is magical and he brings us so much happiness. Mark has recently started feeding himself finger food and is really enjoying meal and snack times. He will walk over to me when he is in his walker to high five me, a new trick! It won’t be long before he is walking independently and we have already started moving things up, which is where the seat riser in my wheelchair comes in handy.

We recently had some building work done to improve our bungalow. When we bought our place four years ago we were refused any help with adaptations and alterations from the Disabled Facilities Grant.

Marie in a wheelchair, holding Mark, on their outside decking
Marie and Mark on their new outdoor decking

So we have had to save up for this work – and now the back end of our home is completely wheelchair friendly. I can now drive my chair out from our lounge straight onto the decking and then down into the garden, as we now have full level access. To keep costs down we used standard building materials, standard French windows and lots of inventiveness to make it all work. This now means Dan, Mark and I can make the most of the rest of the summer and start planning garden toys and sandpits and things for Mark next year as a toddler!

Also our local Remap charity (who are awesome) made me some ‘steps’ from plywood covered with soft foam and fabric, suitably sized to push up against our sofa. This very simple contraption now means I can climb from my wheelchair onto the sofa and then from the sofa independently get onto the floor to play with Mark. The ‘steps’ are then moved out of the way so Mark can’t climb up and down them, the cheeky little monkey that he is! Being able to get on and off the floor has been really good and Mark enjoys having mummy play on the floor too. Such a simple and elegant solution to one of life’s problems when you’re 3 foot 6 and can’t stand!

Marie sitting on a soft step next to a lounge
Marie on her new soft lounge steps

We’ve always found that it’s simple solutions like this that make all the difference. It just takes a bit of determination and lateral thinking and you can overcome most of life’s obstacles – that’s something having Mark is making me realise more and more.

Marie is blogging about being a disabled mum for Scope, and has been raising awareness by talking to Sunday People, That’s Life! magazine and Disability Horizons.

For simple tips on adapting your home, check out the new tips feature on our online community.