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What Does ISAW Mean? I See With My Brain.

Irlen Syndrome Awareness Week, affectionately known as ISAW, begins on October 19, 2015. This worldwide awareness effort hopes to bring global attention to the current lack of proper identification of this easily addressed condition. When successfully identified, Irlen Syndrome is easily addressed and corrected through available interventions; however, only a fraction of individuals who suffer from this condition are properly assessed. Instead, the majority are either misdiagnosed with other conditions, such as ADHD and dyslexia, or simply continue to suffer in silence throughout their lifetime.

ISAW 2015 is a grassroots effort. It requires the involvement by every person affected by Irlen Syndrome, every family, every friend. It asks every educator and every allied health professional to be willing to know the symptoms and to keep an eye out for children and adults who might be at risk. Irlen Syndrome is still in the closet. People have never heard of it, don’t think they know anyone who suffers from it, and aren’t aware there is a way to address it.

The acronym, ISAW, has several very relevant and distinct meanings:

  • It stands for Irlen Syndrome Awareness Week
  • It alludes to the fact that Irlen Syndrome can affect what people see on the printed page and in the environment
  • It encourages people to be aware of the symptoms, to acknowledge the prevalence of the condition in their communities, and to see Irlen Syndrome around them

In a purposeful display of irony, ISAW also tries to bring to light the difference between vision and sight. Most people know that if there is a problem with the eyes, it can affect visual acuity, or how clearly you can see. But what many people forget is that the brain, not just the eyes, have a hand in what we see as well. This is vision. The brain is at the end of the visual pathway, and it is the place where signals from visual stimuli are interpreted. What we ultimately “see” is up to our brain, not our eyes. Our eyes are the initial receptor for visual information, but our brain is the final melting pot for that information. If the brain isn’t functioning correctly, we won’t see things accurately. So, the mantra of the individual with Irlen Syndrome should be “I SAW with my brain, not with my eyes.”

ISAW 2015 will be full of outreach efforts around the world that celebrate this message, and with it they will draw attention to key symptoms of Irlen Syndrome and its prevalence within different populations.  Everyone can make a difference in this awareness effort. All you have to do is know the symptoms and tell a friend.