Visual Processing Disorder

Posted by: Invision Optometry in Category Vision Therapy

Child frustrated in school

Is A Visual Processing Disorder Impacting Your Child’s Learning?

A visual processing disorder, also known as a perceptual disorder, is a deficiency that hinders a child’s ability to make sense of information they see. When a perceptual vision problem is present, understanding what you see, identifying it, judging its importance and relating it to previously stored information in the brain becomes disconnected. When this occurs, everyday activities such as reading, writing, and learning can be very frustrating for a child. A child who is struggling in school may have a learning-related vision problem that primarily affects visual processing and integration. Although visual processing disorders are not a learning disability on their own, they are frequently identified in children who are struggling with reading, math, spelling, and other school subjects.

Vision and Learning Are Closely Related

Considering the link between vision and learning, is an important step to understanding your child’s experience with school and homework. First, it is helpful to keep in mind that there is a difference between eyesight and vision. Many children have 20/20 eyesight yet still have poor vision (visual perceptual skills). While 20/20 means your child’s eyesight is great, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their ability to accurately process what they are seeing is well developed. Simply put, our eyes give us sight and our brain gives us vision. And since more than 80% of classroom learning is visual, it is easy to see what a crucial role visual perceptual skills play in academic achievement. Most importantly, delays in visual processing are not something a child “outgrows”. If undiagnosed or left untreated, a child with poor visual perceptual skills will typically continue to fall behind in class even though it may appear that they are working harder than other students.

Are Your Child’s Struggles The Result Of A Visual Processing Issue?

Woman with learning difficulty

Are Your Child’s Struggles The Result Of A Visual Processing Issue?

Visual processing disorders can cause many problems for your child. It is sometimes referred to as the “hidden disability” because it commonly goes undetected by traditional pediatric, school, and optometric testing. Your child may not show signs of visual processing issues until they start school. Nevertheless, the longer a child goes without help, the greater the impact can be on a wide range of skills.

Signs of Visual Processing Disorders

If your child has become frustrated, withdrawn, or avoids school work, knowing the signs commonly associated with visual processing disorders can help you determine your next steps.

You can suspect a visual processing delay if your child:
  • Does not pay attention to visual tasks
  • Is easily distracted by too much information (visually)
  • Has difficulty reading
  • Lacks interest in TV or movies
  • Is challenged with tasks that require copying, or taking notes
  • Becomes tired while reading
  • Skips words while reading
  • Loses their place while reading
  • Has messy handwriting
  • Reverses or misreads letters, numbers, and words
  • Bumps into things
  • Has poor reading comprehension when reading silently
  • Has below average reading comprehension (despite strong oral comprehension)
  • Trouble with math (omits steps, ignores functions, ignores signs, etc.)

If you are worried that your child may be suffering from a visual processing issue, schedule a comprehensive eye exam and visual perceptual skill testing with a developmental optometrist, who is specially trained to diagnose and treat visual-related learning disabilities.

Not all eye exams are the same!

Girl stacking blocks

Visual Perception

Most routine eye exams only evaluate eye health and refractive problems. But, in order to assess a child’s visual perceptual skills, a comprehensive eye exam should be scheduled with a developmental optometrist who specializes in diagnosing and treating visual-related learning problems. This will ensure that your child is being evaluated for more than eye health and refractive problems. Keep in mind that a pair of glasses will not correct a perceptual vision problem. Only specific therapy activities prescribed and implemented by a developmental optometrist and well-trained therapists, can effectively improve your child’s visual perceptual skills.

Visual Perceptual Testing for Children

For parents who are concerned their child may have a visual processing disorder that is impacting how they learn, it might be time to consider scheduling a visual perceptual skills evaluation.

Assessing a child’s visual processing ability typically entails testing key perceptual skill areas such as:
  • Visual Discrimination: The ability to notice differences in details such as shape, size, color, or other dimensional aspects.
  • Form Constancy (Form Discrimination): The ability to recognize when objects are in a different orientation or format.
  • Figure-Ground (Foreground-Background Differentiation): The ability to focus on a selected target and screen out or ignore irrelevant images.
  • Spatial Relations: The ability to recognize the positioning of objects in space.
  • Visual Closure: The ability to recognize an object, letter or number without being able to see all of the object.
  • Visual Sequencing: The ability to see objects in a particular sequential order.
  • Visual Memory: The ability to remember forms (letters) and sequences of forms (words) and recognize them quickly when seen again.

The good news is that perceptual skills are learned and can be successfully developed and enhanced.

San Diego Vision Therapy

At Invision Optometry, we specialize in helping children with reading delays, visual processing disorders, attention deficit disorder, and special needs by diagnosing visual perceptual problems. Once deficits are identified, we will create an effective vision therapy treatment plan that will put your child on the road to success. Call our office to learn how we can help (619) 222-2020 Ext. 205.


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