Reading disorder: “Rivers” or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome or Irlen Syndrome

Animation of Rivers effect, from site http://www.irleneast.com/simulations.htm

This was reading for me! They’ve made it into an animation! This is the rivers effect of the white spaces on the page. The rivers were moving and I couldn’t focus on the text to read. From website: http://www.irleneast.com/simulations.htm

Wikipedia says: “Scotopic sensitivity syndrome (SSS), also known as Visual Stress, Irlen Syndrome, and Asfedia”

Wikipedia gives the symptoms as following. I have bolded and blue-colored the ones that were most related to myself:

“Symptoms

One or more of these symptoms may be related to the condition:[citation needed]

  • Eye-strain
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Migraines [I used to get a lot of visual migraines]

[11][12]

  • Nausea, including visually related motion sickness
  • Problems with depth perception (catching balls, judging distance, etc.)
  • Restricted field of view and span of recognition
  • Discomfort in presence of fluorescent lighting
  • Discomfort with busy patterns, particularly stripes (“visual stress” and “pattern glare”)[11]
  • Discomfort with extreme conditions of bright/dark contrast (i.e. backlighting)
  • Discomfort or difficulty reading (reading involves busy patterns, particularly stripes. People with strong symptoms of the syndrome find it very difficult to read black text on white paper, particularly when the paper is slightly shiny.)
  • Text that appears to move (rise, fall, swirl, shake, etc.)
  • Losing text content and only seeing rivers of white through the text
  • Words moving together becoming one unrecognizable word
  • Attention and concentration difficulties
  • Seeing the part and losing the whole
  • Epileptic seizure related to strobing or pattern glare”
Simulation of wavy text from www.irleneast.com

Simulation of wavy text from: http://www.irleneast.com. They are advertising the lenses which can apparently help some people to be able to see the text without movement.

My biggest problem was that I could not read text on a page because the white spaces kept jumping out at me and moving around. Also, the words often seemed stuck together or split in the wrong spot, so I would read “phone number” as “pho nenumber” or something like that, and spend a while wondering what the word meant), and the lines of text were wavy and moving. Did I tell anybody? Of course not. I didn’t find out this was a “thing” until a decade later.

Rivers example from site www.lexdis.org.uk

Another Rivers example, from http://www.lexdis.org.uk Although, rivers can cut straight through words, too.

MY WORK-AROUNDS: So somewhere around 7th or 8th grade, I learned to keep 2 sheets of paper with me during class: 1 sheet to lay above the line of text and the other sheet to lay beneath the line of text. That way, only 1 line of text was visible at a time for all of my in-class reading, and reading was then more do-able. Sometimes even having the whole line visible was too much, and I could narrow the margins, too, as I read.

After my Asperger diagnosis I spoke with someone there about it, and they told me that there are also tinted lenses now available for students who have that kind of issue, and can be very useful for some people.

On computer screens, I keep the scroll of the page so that there is a bar beneath or above the line I am reading. I also scroll with my computer mouse just beneath each word that I am reading. When necessary, I click and use my mouse to highlight one line at a time as I am reading. Sometimes it helps to have the line of text itself highlighted, and sometimes I highlight the whole page and then UN-highlight each line as I read it, so that the highlight is actually all the stuff beneath the line I am reading (often revealing just one word at a time, if I’m still distracted with just one line at a time). (This has driven many a person crazy, when they are trying to also read something over my shoulder.)