I thought since my Irlens has come up on radio interviews, on videos and more recently at a production course I was on, that I might write a bit about it here. I was only screened for Irlens 2 or 3 years ago. It came about after a friend watched me walk into door frames, frequently miss the desk with my elbow at work and finally, when I talked about seeing numbers and music as colours. She suggested I get screened. At my screening I discovered for the first time that for most people, words do not move on the page as you tried to read them.
It had never occurred to me that what I see when I look at writing on a page is different from other people. I have always had to chase the words around, try to track them onto the following line, watch them fall into a kind of whirlpool and try to read them as they disappear. I thought this was perfectly acceptable type-face behaviour. Apparently not, but why would you question this as a child when everybody else is reading quite happily and they don't seem to panic at reading comprehension.
I was diagnosed after I had completed my Degree with the Open University and worked for 5 years reading text books and writing essays, whilst working full time. I scored as having quite severe Irlens, I have four colours in my glasses and they are rather dark. I recently came off stage wearing my Irlens glasses and someone said to me "you play pretty well for a blind person". Well firstly, a person with a vision impairment can play music well, but secondly, why would anybody say that?
I get looks and comments about my glasses every now and again. I got less looks when they were a lilac purple colour, but now I get that look that says "you diva, why are you wearing sunglasses inside?" I wore my Irlens glasses on stage for my album launch and hated the photos as a result - vain, vain, vain! I don't wear my glasses very often now and take the view, well I didn't have them for most of my life, what difference does it make now?
The truth for me is that the glasses actually make a huge difference. I can study longer and without straining my eyes so much. The lenses slow the words down on the page and cut out the 'glare' that makes me squint. I react really badly to blue lights. This is now the most fashionable lighting to put in venues - it leads me to forget my lyrics, chords, song order and generally flusters me! For my album launch I requested that there be no blue lights in the rig. I however, forgot to mention that I would be wearing a green dress. The lighting guys took out all of the blue lights and replaced them with green - I looked like an alien!
I understand that the earlier children are screened for Irlens, the more likely it is that their lenses can correct the way their brains react to light. I think its a bit late for me - especially since I do not religiously wear my glasses. But every now and then I have a revelation. I think to myself - 'Oh, so that's why I do that!' I'm not sure if my seeing music has any link to me having Irlens. The two things might be entirely unrelated, but I wrote 'dancing around' about how I see the world and about the big void that I sometimes feel when I realise how different this is to everyone else. The song was used by Irlen East last year as part of Irlens awareness week. I also got interviewed about my experiences of Irlens.
The truth is, I'm not a very good role model for people with Irlens as I am not very sympathetic with myself and definitely make things harder for myself. But maybe someone will read this and think, 'maybe I should get screened?' Maybe their whole perspective will change, and maybe, that's something that I can do.