Clinic helps child, mother see world

By Kay Arvizu

My grandson Seth Simmons had a hard time learning to read. Therefore, he had a hard time learning everything else.

His mother Tonda Simmons, having struggled all through school before discovering she had dyslexia, kept suggesting her son might also have this disability. Both his mother and father asked for help from teachers, counselors, anyone they thought could help, but he continued to struggle.

Seth was held back to repeat first grade and still had problems in his second year. He loved school. When asked about his favorite part, he would reply “All of it!” Our family wanted him to continue to love learning and so we pressed on for answers to his reading problems.

This is probably a good time to tell you what an intelligent young man Seth is. When he was 4, he and his cousin built a block tower that was taller than they were. They could not reach to put the top on, but Seth figured out that he could put it on if he took the top half off, put the roof piece on, then put the half back on the tower.

Another time, while his parents were painting the house, he took the gutters and used them to build a curved track for his toy cars from the ground up to a limb of his climbing tree.

He has a real affinity for seeing the whole picture. Maybe he will be an architect or an engineer. But first, he has to learn to read.

Fortunately, someone told his mother about Irlen Syndrome. The Irlen Syndrome is a type of perceptual processing problem related to sensitivity to lights, glare, patterns, colors, and contrast. According to a Web site dedicated to the topic (www.irlen.com), 70 percent of the information an individual receives enters through the eyes and must be correctly interpreted by the brain. Any problem in the way the brain processes visual information can cause difficulties in the general ability to function.

It is as if the nervous system is wired differently and this causes problems processing, interpreting, and interacting with the environment.

An appointment was set up for Seth with an Irlen Clinic in Lubbock. The first session was free, to determine if the Irlen method could help him. Then he was tested, using different colored filters, and the results have been amazing.

Seth now wears attractive glasses with blue lenses whenever he does close work, such as reading. When he started fourth grade this year, he was at reading level 1.9, which is a high first-grade level. Now, almost halfway through the school year, his reading level is 3.2. His confidence level has risen considerably, even to the point that he finally is interested in participating in sports. 

Because of his improvement, Seth’s mother was tested, and is enjoying her own colored lenses, somewhat darker than her son’s. She can now focus on her children’s ball games, she says, without moving her eyes constantly. She can read, without the letters scattering across the page. She can write without transposing characters, and sign her name on a straight line.

It seems like a miracle to her, to be able to see normally after all these years. Her level of confidence and self-esteem is at an all-time high.

This information was not readily available to our family. I wonder how many children suffer with this same malady, but are never tested, never helped? How many of our troubled children, or those with behavior problems, could be helped if only they could have some success in their lives? There are even ways to test children too young to talk.

We need to get the word out about this disease. Teachers and doctors and other professionals who work with children need to learn more about it.

Maybe it is too simple, this idea that certain colors could help one’s perception of the written word and the world around him. Simple or not, just ask Seth or Tonda Simmons — they will be glad to tell you it works.

Kay Arvizu is Seth Simmons’ grandmother and a regular contributor to the Opinion page. Contact her at: kayzoo@plateautel.net