LONG BEACH (CBSLA.com) — A Long Beach mother is raising awareness about a little-known condition that caused her twins to suffer from stomach pains and severe headaches.
Tami Wiersma tells CBS2's Lisa Sigell reading was a painful chore for her 8-year-olds Allison and Avery.
But the mother found the cure in colored prescription lenses with the help of specialists at The Irlen Institute.
The condition, known as Irlen Syndrome, can often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder or stress headaches and can be hereditary.
Founder Helen Irlen says she discovered the condition and solution in the '80s when she was working with adults with learning disabilities. She found using colored overlays or tinted lenses made from a variety of colors made reading and other academic activities easier.
"These adults were saying to me these words swirl, fall off the page, they appear and disappear, flash at me. ... I can't focus on the words," Irlen said.
The problem is not with the eyes but the brain and how it processes signals the eyes send.
In people with Irlen Syndrome, the timing is off and the brain has difficulty sorting it all out, causing headaches, distortion and other problems. Irlen found by using colored lenses specifically made in her lab, the words made sense again for her patients.
"Everyone who is helped by this they say, you know, you're the best-kept secret," she said. "And we don't want to be the best-kept secret. We want children and adults to achieve what they can achieve."
For Allison, the solution actually came with rose-colored glasses.
She now says she's doing "really, really, really good" with her Irlen filters.
"She would always tell us her eyeballs hurt and eventually it was her head that hurt. And that her tummy was bothering her," Wiersma said.
"They tested to make sure she was a candidate and once they determined that she was they went through different color spectrums for testing purposes to see which color would ease her pain and help her read better. Once she got her glasses it was immediate. Her teacher was completely flabbergasted that this child was so different than she was the day before," she said.
Avery also has a pair of the specialized lenses. The stomach pains and headaches have stopped. And just like her twin sister, she reads for pleasure.
Irlen says she has now trained people across the world, many in schools, looking for signs of the condition.
Additional information is available on The Irlen Institute website.
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