ISF SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
In this post, we catch up with some of our past scholarship recipients to see how receiving Irlen Spectral Filters has changed their lives.
It’s been a busy and rewarding year for the Irlen Syndrome Foundation! We’ve awarded more than 30 scholarships, but we are receiving more requests for aid than we are able to support. We recently launched the Individual Aid Scholarship Campaign, to raise $10,000 to fulfill these requests and double the number of people we can help this year. We’re excited to share the following updates on six of our recent scholarship recipients. See how your gift can change the life of someone with Irlen Syndrome.
Traumatic brain injury can cause some of the most severe symptoms of Irlen Syndrome. Here’s Mikayla’s story…
Mikayla “Mac” has suffered from multiple TBIs incurred over the 10 years she worked as a law enforcement officer, both on the job and during recreational activities. She has suffered with light sensitivity, migraines, vertigo, and seizures triggered from flashing lights. These symptoms were so severe, that she was unable to drive and confined herself to dim light indoors so as to mitigate the symptoms. Fortunately, she was able to get assessed and fitted for customized Irlen Spectral Filters with an Irlen Foundation Individual Aid Scholarship. After only a few weeks, she reported that her comfort and functioning level had immediately improved. She reported less fatigue and exhaustion, and is elated that she is finally able to leave her house and spend more time outdoors. All of her frustration and tenseness that resulted from being cooped up all day indoors has disappeared; so much so that her physical therapist noticed a difference right away. As of May 2017, she said that she still wears them all the time and couldn’t imagine life without them. She is now referring people for Irlen Spectral Filters who are in similar situations. She sends her thanks from Clark, Oregon to all of those who have donated to the Irlen Individual Aid Scholarship program as well as those who continue to help the Irlen Syndrome Foundation spread awareness of Irlen Syndrome!
Research has shown 80% of incarcerated adults suffer from severe Irlen Syndrome. By helping youth in the juvenile justice system, we’re making sure they don’t enter the adult prison population. Here’s an update from the Marion County Juvenile Justice Department in Oregon…
The following story of one juvenile justice department scholarship recipient reflects the significant challenges that Irlen Syndrome can pose to future success, if left unaddressed. Due to strict confidentiality required by the juvenile justice system, any personally identifying information for this youth has been removed from the testimonial excerpts below, provided by both the scholarship recipient, as well as her educational advocate in the juvenile justice system.
Recipient A is a 17 year old female in the Juvenile Justice System. She lives with her mother and a sibling, and they are on public assistance. She is the only one in the family that works, holding two jobs that equate to 40 hours per week. She participates in a multitude of appointments and has voluntarily engaged in a rigorous program, which will expunge her record, if it is completed successfully. Her goal is to graduate from high school, enter the military, and pursue a career in engineering. However, her difficulties with reading and physical symptoms caused by bright lighting are really holding her back. Her primary symptoms of discomfort included experiencing headaches and a strong sensitivity to fluorescent and bright lighting. As a result, she reported having frequent headaches. When reading, she loses her place, becomes distracted, uses a marker, and has poor comprehension; however, she still earned grades high enough to qualify for honor level coursework. Unfortunately, she failed a reading entrance exam for a particular school program. Prior to discovering her symptoms, her educational advocate was perplexed as to why she earned good grades yet had failed her reading entrance exam. It didn’t make sense, that is, until she reported the severity of her symptoms resulting from Irlen Syndrome. She was provided a peach colored overlay, which she used daily for reading, both with books and with a computer screen. She earned an “A” in a grade-level English literature course. Her educational advocate, seeing the massive improvement in her reading ability, spoke with her and her guardian about Irlen testing and Irlen Spectral Filters. Both were supportive and enthusiastic, as she reported that the use of the overlay has a huge impact in terms of alleviating her reading discomfort and difficulties.
After receiving her Irlen Spectral Filters, Recipient A provided the following update on her progress, “Since I have been wearing my glasses, I don’t get headaches. My eyes don’t hurt. They have helped me feel more comfortable when I am outside or around fluorescent lights. Before I got my glasses, I would have to reread lines. I would also lose my place. Now I don’t have those problems.”
It is important that our veterans return home with full functionality so that they can make the most of the freedoms and opportunities they fought to preserve. Some return home suffering from Irlen-related symptoms as a result of traumatic brain injuries…
Justin, a disabled military veteran, suffered from anxiety and experienced Irlen Syndrome symptoms when he tried to read or was in a bright environment. He was recommended for the Individual Aid Scholarship by his local diagnostician, and, after receiving it, was amazed by the results.
Justin: “I am feeling calmer, more focused, lights don’t bother me in stores, I can read faster, process faster, balance is good, symptoms come back instantly without filters, can now use a cell phone and computer – was unable to for years because the screen bothers me.”
Justin now wants to go back to school at a technical college!
Classroom environments that contain bright fluorescent lights can exacerbate Irlen Syndrome Symptoms, and make school unbearable…
Moises suffered from extreme light sensitivity and migraines that caused him to miss 95 days of school over the course of 2 years. He constantly struggled in the classroom and was unable to concentrate for long periods of time without breaks. As a result, he fell behind and wasn’t reading at his own grade level. He would regularly take 30-45 minutes breaks when trying to complete school work, in an effort get his symptoms to go away. What should have taken him 1 hour to finish ended up taking him about double the time to complete. Whenever he was asked a question in class, he would walk out of the classroom frustrated and anxious. After being awarded an ISF Scholarship and receiving customized Irlen Spectral Filters, he is finally able to concentrate for longer periods of time and has gained the confidence to articulate his thoughts and participate in classroom discussions!
Leo, an 18 year old student, moved to Washington to support his struggling family. In a stroke of bad luck, he was assaulted. His brain was damaged in the incident and he became partially paralyzed. After his brain injury, he started showing signs of Irlen Syndrome…
After he recovered from his medical treatments and injuries, Leo tried to go back to school. However, whenever he tried to read textbooks, whiteboards, and other reading materials, his eyes started watering, headaches nagged him incessantly, and he was unable to stay focused for long periods of time. Luckily, two Irlen Screeners worked at his college and provided him with colored overlays. While the overlays provided some relief, they weren’t enough. He still reported dizziness, nauseousness, and overall fatigue when exposed to bright lights. He was recommended for the Individual Aid Scholarship, so he could get Irlen Spectral Filters to protecting his brain from this constant environmental stressor.
Since receiving his Irlen Spectral Filters, Leo reports that his filters “make me happy!” He wears them all day and can participate in life without distortions, getting headaches or becoming dizzy. He is re-enrolling in fall quarter at RTC and wants to obtain an Administrative Assistant Degree within one year. In the classroom, he is no longer bothered by fluorescent lights or the white board, and he is able to read and comprehend with comfort.
Seeing print distortions is also a symptom of Irlen Syndrome. In Nayla’s case, they kept her from continuing her education…
Nayla suffered from seeing print distortions both on paper and in her everyday environment. She would see after images, pulsating lights, and what she referred to as a “visual snow.” She also suffered from headaches/migraines, sleepiness/fatigue, dizziness, and slight nausea from reading. When Irlen Diagnosticians discovered the severity of her symptoms, they all wondered how she was able to graduate high school. She tried a semester of college, but ultimately found it too hard. She expressed that if the Irlen Spectral Filters helped, her ultimate goal would be to return to college and pursue a degree in social work. Here is what she has to say after receiving the Individual Aid Scholarship and her Irlen Spectral Filters:
“These glasses are really helping!! I have found a nice balance. I can’t read with them at all but I found that wearing them throughout the day and around fluoroscent lighting have calmed my eyes enough that I’ve managed to read at night with a dim lighting, sans glasses. I went through 80 pages straight of a novel the other night! I can’t tell you how happy I am and how much it has helped my life already.
Thank goodness I managed to find you! I am forever grateful.
I’ve even been able to return to work helping my father at his store, a help he greatly needed. We discovered that using lamps in the office instead of the previous harsh lighting has made a big difference in my overall comfort and ability to work. I know it seems obvious but I just wasn’t even previously really sure of myself enough to ask for help, you know? So, not only have the glasses helped but also your sage advices. I even feel good enough to go back to school. There’s a great program here for interpretation studies that I am in the process of applying to.
I feel like a pair with the first layer, the dark “Irlen person” lens, one shade lighter would be perfect for every day office use. I am interested in returning to Portland or Salem for a follow up if that is still possible.
So, one final Thank you! The work you/the foundation are doing really does improve lives.
We want to thank everyone that has donated to the effort and continues to raise awareness of this little-known condition. There are millions of other people all around the world that are in similar situations, and it is due to the generosity of people all over the world that we are able to step in and help those that need it the most.