Cathryn Hay tries to help people see the world in a new light. Literally.
Hay is a mental health counselor who specializes in working with Irlen filters, which are colored eyeglass and contact lenses designed to help people experiencing visual perception problems.
A former schoolteacher, Hay said she got her counseling credentials and began seeing clients part time in 1984 using traditional methods such as talk therapy. In 1994, she became an independent contractor for the Irlen Institute, which was founded in California by Helen Irlen in 1983.
Helen Irlen and her filters have been the subject of numerous articles in the media. Although the filters are not recognized as effective by mainstream medical organizations, the Irlen Institute’s website claims they have helped over a million people since 1983. There are about 170 clinics such as Hay’s worldwide, according to the site.
Hay said she became interested in the Irlen method through her work with children who had reading problems. She used colored plastic overlays to help students focus on the reading material. From there, she realized that the filters could be used on people of all ages, with a multitude of visual perception issues.
“People wanting help in graduate school. People in midlife who wanted to shift careers. People having trouble driving. They didn’t need glasses, but there was something visual,” she said.
People with migraine headaches and people who have trouble reading computer screens have also been helped, she said.
Hay tests people using an attache case full of filters in different colors, often in combination.
“To some extent, it’s trial and error, but because I’ve been doing it for 20 years, I’m pretty good at it,” she said.
If she determines filters can help the client, the eyeglasses or contact lenses are shipped to California for dyeing.
“They literally dip those lenses in hot dye,” Hay said.
The method can also be used with non-prescription lenses.
Hay said the Irlen method doesn’t work for everyone. And she said her work should not be confused with that of an optometrist. The filters cannot correct vision deficiencies, but only aid with perception.
Hay thinks the Irlen method is based in science. “Light goes through the optic nerve to the back of the brain. When adjusted right, often people can read better immediately,” she said. “It really does make a difference.”
Hay expressed surprise that some people are ignorant or skeptical of the Irlen method.
For her, the best argument in their favor is personal. She has worn the Irlen lenses for 15 years.
Now you know
Irlen Clinic of Wichita/Counseling Resources
Address: 151 S. Whitter
Owner: Cathryn Hay