Visual Processing Disorder: What You Need to Know

This is a condition that results in an inability to decipher visual cues and stimuli. For example, a child with this disorder might be unable to tell the difference between two shapes – a circle and a rectangle. Visual processing difficulties are lifelong conditions. While it isn’t possible to outgrow these disorders, a child can develop strategies to navigate life conveniently.

These disorders are different from issues involving vision. Difficulties with visual processing affect the way visual information is processed or interpreted by the brain. An individual might have 20/20 vision but still fail to distinguish between two objects.

Difficulties can appear in different ways, and no two children might experience the same challenges. Some may struggle with the ability to evaluate the size, orientation, and color, whereas others might have difficulty judging distances.

There’re different types of visual processing disorders, and an individual might have more than one type of difficulty. Some common areas of difficulty include:

Visual discrimination – The child might confuse or misunderstand written symbols or have difficulty differentiating similarly shaped numbers and letters (example: 6/9, b/d).

Spatial difficulty – The child might experience trouble understanding the location of symbols and objects in relation to one another. Spatial difficulty affects reading skills but might also impact performance in maths.

Visual sequencing – The child might face difficulty distinguishing or seeing the order of words, symbols, or images.

Visual-motor processing – The child might have trouble using feedback from the eyes for coordinating the movement of other body parts.

Short- or long-term visual memory – With short-term visual memory issues, the child might struggle to remember something seen very recently, while long-term visual memory issues make it difficult for them to recollect something seen some time earlier.

Because in a typical classroom, most of the information students learn is received via the eyes, visual processing disorders often affect learning significantly. Students might have trouble focusing and be distracted easily. They might also struggle with reading, writing, art, music, physical education, and sports.

While treatments are available for visual processing disorders, teachers also need to implement classroom accommodations so that the child doesn’t fall behind. As no two students might have the same symptoms, teachers should customize each approach for the individual child. These can include communicating information in different modalities, providing dotted paper for writing, encouraging utilizing an object to guide the eyes when reading, practicing reading books with large prints, etc.

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