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The Impact of Colour

 As a consultant I look for various symptoms to determine whether I will test for colour:  

- walking/bumping into things and people in an unfamiliar environment 

-difficulty reading (ask if the words move or are blurred)

-dyslexic type responses to letters like b and d, p and g etc.

-difficulty catching balls

-difficulty going up and down stairs, navigating curbs, getting off the bus

-fear or avoidance of heights

-difference in responses over time.......can answer questions on the computer 100% in the beginning and gradually move to more and more mistakes over time (vision has been stressed).

-problems in areas with lighting contrasts; bright sunshine and shadow, etc.

-problems setting puzzles: use touch more than vision to complete it.

and so on..........


If these symptoms are showing up, I then suggest colour testing to investigate the matter further. I developed this because the Irlen lens specialist in our area refused to work with non verbal people, in other words, not much help for me. Anyone can do this in their home.


A simple and quick test to demonstrate the effect is to throw a marshmallow straight at the face of the child/adult. If it hits them before they respond, you need to investigate further. This is effective because no one actually throws things at a person's face so they are not expecting it, and it won't hurt them. They learn very quickly though so I have found that you cannot do it more than a couple times before they are aware that this is the crazy lady who throws things at my face!


To test for colour create a situation in which you can control the lighting, preferably a small room without windows or good curtains that block the light, or do it after dark. Buy four light bulbs (or more depending on the size of your room). one red, one blue, one green and one yellow. They are sold as party lights in Canada, USA and England (the only places I have done this). I expect other countries have them too. Figure out a number of tasks that the person can do....for example: write his name, (for the little ones we use blocks to make their names), draw a house and a person, cut out an object, set a puzzle, colour a picture, read a few lines, play the memory game, throw and catch a ball, walk on a straight line...........the object of these tasks are not to test the person on ability but to compare results between colours. Watch behavior under each colour and if possible ask how the person is feeling, via fc or the way, we call this the colour game so it doesn't "feel" like a test (creates higher anxiety) and often test other members of the family along with the person with autism so it becomes more of a game. They learn more about themselves too!


Once you have done the tasks under each colour compare results. If there is a huge difference between the tasks under each colour you will know that further investigation is warranted. The colour under which they do the best can be used in a number of different ways over and above using Irlen type lenses. These include the colour of the curtains on the windows, the clothes worn by people who work with this person, the paper used in school activities, or the font on the paper, the colour on the computer screen that one is typing on and so on. I do refer them on to the Irlen specialists if they can afford them..........or we wander down to the dollar stores and try on coloured sunglasses to see which feel the more comfortable. We have even added tint to regular glasses without further testing when and if the cost of Irlen's are out of reach. Testing in this way gives you an idea of where to start with colour and saves you money in the long run as you don't have to work with the whole spectrum with overlays, etc.


A child describes the differences between what she sees with and without her Irlen lenses:




 With the Glasses

 Without the Glasses

  • I can't see leaves on the trees. I see red around the trees.


  • While looking at the toilet I cannot see anything white. - I can only see the dirty water, flowers on the seat cover, and the screws. I stand beside it and feel with my legs to find it, and feel with my finger tips to lift the lid.


  • While looking at the bathtub - I feel the water and hear the bubbles. I step into space like air. Once I step in and sit down, I can feel the bathub.


  • When looking at the banana tree all I can see is blue bags hanging in thin air.



  • My teacher wouldn't listen to me when I said I was scared of money. I could not learn it if I could not see it. Silver is white and white is space like air. I couldn't see the brown coins either. However, I could see both the gold coins, big and small.


  • It is very hard for me to see. The world is very shiney without my Irlen glasses. There is a black dot in the centre of my eyes. If I want to see the people I have to move my eyes so the black dot slides off to the side. Then I can see the faces of the people.

  • I can see all the leaves on the trees.


  • I can see the whole toilet. It is white, except for the blue flowers on the seat cover.

  • When I wear my Irlen glasses I can see water, buble bath, the white plug and the white enamel bathtub.



  • With my glasses I can see the blue bags are hanging in the banana trees. I can the leaves and the trunk of the tree. I can see the bags are there to protect the bananas.


  • Now I can see all the different coins when I am wearing my Irlen lenses. I can see the pennies, nickles, dimes, and quarters and tell the difference between them. I also see that the small gold coin is not small, but has a silver ring around the gold.


  • It is very easy for me to see when I wear my Irlen glasses. The black dot is gone. I can look directly at something and see it clearly.

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