VisionLink – New learning through sight

Vision Link Behavioural Optometrists provide research based treatment for convergence insufficiency, oculomotor dysfunction, spelling and reading problems, dyslexia, attention deficit disorders, Aspergers, Learning Related Vision Disabilities, migraine and brain injuries. We are uniquely positioned to assist Visual Perception through the use of Vision Therapy, Irlen tinted lenses and Cellfield Intervention.

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Home > How We Help > Learning Related Problems > Visual Disabilities: Dyslexia & Dyseidesia, Irlen Syndrome > Irlen Syndrome > History of Irlen in NZ

History of Irlen Lenses in NZ

Around 1980, a Kiwi school teacher, Olive Meares, was the first to report in an Education journal that reading problems could be reduced or eliminated by the use of coloured transparent overlays on the text to be read.

Dr Helen Irlen, a clinical psychologist in California, developed a protocol for the assessment and use of overlays and tinted plastic spectacle lenses in the early 1980's and her lenses have been prescribed worldwide since then. There is much research to support the validity and value of Irlen Spectral Filter Lenses.

Helen was harshly criticized by many academics, but their research proved the validity of her work, so much so that they copied her!


The very first Irlen client in NZ was assessed on 9 December 1986 by David Thatcher, a Hamilton Optometrist, who had trained as an Irlen Diagnostician ( a person who prescribes precision tinted lenses).

In 1993 David Wardell B.Ed., Adv.Dip.Tchg, M.A.A.I.C.became National Director for Irlen in New Zealand.

He brought over 20 years experience as principal of a number of New Zealand schools and founder of Kip McGrath Education Centres (NZ) Ltd.

He is an Irlen Diagnostician and Trainer for all Screeners and Diagnosticians in NZ.


Also in the early 1990's a Hawke's Bay school teacher, Jill Stansfield, at Parkvale School in Hastings,  trained as an Irlen Screener ( a person who uses questionnaires and Coloured Overlays to find those patients who would be likely to benefit from tinted lenses).  She raised the profile of Irlen lenses in Hawke's Bay through her work with slow readers at Parkvale School. We enjoyed a long association for many years before she retired. In our region there are now a number of Irlen Screeners, many of them teachers like Jill with a special interest in helping children to read.

It was also around this time that I became involved with Irlen work. As a Registered Optometrist for more than 30 years with a strong interest in the specialty field called Behavioural Optometry. I have found very good assistance to patients suffering in these and other areas, by using the precision Irlen Tinted lenses to improve Visual Efficiency.

I became a Certified Irlen Diagnostician in 2008 and now provide Irlen for patients from Wairoa to Pahiatua through my VisionLink Irlen Diagnostic Clinic in Hastings. I am assisted by 2 In-House screeners (Michelle and Marie) and other screeners in the community Mark Cooper at Kip McGrath Hastings and Nerine Ehlers at SPARKS in Napier. A little further afield there is Don Griffin at Gisborne Kip McGrath and Prue Deighton in Marton.

It is a great pity that so many children are struggling to read, for want of this therapy.

Uptake by the schools of NZ has been generally weak, though there is an increasing awareness that time spent addressing Irlen needs before commencing Reading Recovery and Individualised reading assistance is time well spent.

I believe that any child who is not reading, spelling or writing to their potential, usually called Dyslexia, would benefit from having the screening procedure at the soonest opportunity.

Since more than 40% of problem readers can be helped, and quickly screened for Irlen Syndrome, it is a wise and economical step for School Boards, teachers and parents to explore before investing in other interventions.  If a child is found to need Irlen Spectral Filters, there is no quicker, easier, cheaper educational  option !

The Irlen strategy does not claim to be a “One-Fixes-All” approach, it is however a powerful piece of the puzzle for many people troubled by their reading.

Do contact me if you wish to discuss these details further, or explore my website.

I am always happy to give presentations on Behavioural Optometry and Irlen Syndrome, perhaps to your school Board of Trustees, teachers, parents or interest groups. You will find it most informative and challenging to your perception of how vision links to learning,

Mark Eagle   Dip.Opt., Cert.Oc.Pharm.

Behavioural Optometrist, Irlen Diagnostician & Cellfield Licensee











Meares, O (1980) Figure/Ground brightness contrast, and reading disabilities. Published in Visible Language XIV,1,13-29

Irlen, H (1983) Successful treatment of learning disabilities. Presented at the 91st Annual Conference of American Psychological Association, Anaheim