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Please don’t shoot me if I look like an evil robot. That’s not my intention, and I don’t want to scramble your brains. I just want to see you as clearly as you see me. What in the galaxy am I talking about? My Irlen glasses, silly! My diagnostic was this weekend and I finally found my new favorite color. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read my first post about diagnosing my Irlen Syndrome, also called Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome.

After five months of saving and the amazing generosity of five dear friends and family members—thank you again!—I am finally getting my special tinted glasses that will help me see the world as clearly as you do. That is, letters and numbers will stay still, words and objects will stop flashing, details will be clearer, fluorescent lights will not make me prefer sticking a dagger in my eyes, and I won’t suffer from constant headaches and frequent migraines.

Perhaps I have unrealistically high expectations for these new wonder lenses. We’ll see. These are the claims the Irlen Institute makes, and so far in my experience with their tinted overlays (for books and the like) and walking around with the lenses during the testing, there is a good chance my hopes and dreams will come true. I’ll let you know when I get the glasses in hand, or on eye, as it were. Right now they are at the lab in California being tinted my new favorite color and I’ll get them back in two to three weeks. I can’t wait!

I hope in writing this account of the test itself, that anyone else who is going through the process may have a better idea of what to expect. Please keep in mind, however, that this is only my personal experience and yours will be different.

But first, what is my new favorite color? Blue! A deep, almost metallic sci-fi blue with some grey and turquoise. Holding the four-layer-thick lens sandwich over my eyes made me look like a bug-eyed robot from a B sci-fi movie. I wish I had thought to take a picture. Sorry.

On to the diagnostic. The test for the overlays was seriously painful because they needed to set up the conditions to make the distortions manifest as much as possible, as quickly as possible, to then be able to tell which color eliminated the distortions. I was expecting the same this time, but was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite. This time everything was about making the pain go away. 

Irlen Lenses

We started in a comfortably dim light and I held up the disks of tinted lenses over my glasses while the two technicians asked me lots of questions about what I was seeing. We went through lots of color families and ranges of darknesses to find the first color layer that was the most comfortable as far as reducing the pain in my head, reduced the distortions most, minimized the pain when they changed the lighting, and still let me see colors as “true.”

They were very concerned about my ability to see color. I was prepared to now see the world tinted blue or red or whatever color, but was surprised that when I was looking through the right color it did not change the colors of object at all. Reds were still red, yellows were yellow, whites were still white. The lenses did change the intensity of the colors, but not the colors themselves.

Once we had picked the best first layer, we added a second, then a third and fourth. We could have gone on, but I felt that what I was seeing was excellent and comfortable and it was already pretty dark, since several of the layers were pretty dark on their own and there were four of them. One of the technicians kept a running record of my reactions to the color choices for each layer, and I consistently hated the yellows and reds (instantaneous pain spike when I put them in front of my eyes), and favored the blues and greys. Greens weren’t particularly bad or good. This makes sense when looking at a color spectrograph. Apparently my brain has more issues with the red end of the spectrum.

color spectrograph

When we were all pretty confident in the set of colored lenses, we put them through the paces to check for color perception, depth perception, visual distortions, etc. With both sets of lenses held together with plastic clips and me holding them over each eye and my regular glasses, we walked around the room, around the house, through dim places and bright, and the technician pointed out lots of things and asked me to describe what was on a distant wall, the colors of a picture, the curve of the couch, that straight lines were straight, etc. She checked my depth perception walking up and down stairs, in a straight line, around furniture, checked that I was seeing raised surfaces and curves, that picture frames looked like they were coming out of the wall and not into it, etc.

Although at first while she was describing the room and checking my perception, I was like, yeah, and? But I am very glad she checked all of that because the wrong color could cause visual distortions and depth perception issues. Not the goal.

Then we went outside and did the same in the bright New Mexico sun. When I walked outside with my lenses, my body did not immediately tense under the light and my head felt calm and normal. I am not used to this. She had me look at the glare of the sun on a car windshield, and I actually could look at it. I was looking at bright objects and noticing the intensity of the light, but for the first time it was not intensely painful. Then we went inside and the glasses were not too dark.

Back inside I tried reading in very little light and bright light, old yellowing books and books with bright white paper, and had no difficulty with any of it. The difference was incredible, and my head didn’t hurt at all for the first time in I can’t remember when.

Sadly, at the end I had to give back my new glasses and happy colored lenses to mail them off to the lab. Pout. I’ll get them back in two to three weeks, my glasses tinted in my new favorite color. I’m hoping that without the four layers of plastic and clips that they won’t make me look like an evil robot. But if they do, I promise I won’t eat your brains.