What are Visual Processing Disorders?
Visual processing disorders (VPD) occur when there are issues processing the information the eye sees. While they may frequently affect people with Special Educational Needs, they are also common with those who have language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia (which is trouble with processing language) or dyspraxia (which is a coordination disorder). There are several different types of VPDs (and individuals may have more than one) which present different symptoms.
What are the different types of VPDs?
- Visual discrimination issues: Difficulty seeing the difference between two similar letters, shapes or objects: For example, confusing d and b, or p and q.
- Visual figure-ground discrimination issues: Difficulty picking out a letter or character from its background.
- Visual sequencing issues: Difficulty telling the correct order of symbols, words or images which leads to a tendency to skip lines when reading.
- Visual-motor processing issues: Difficulty using what one sees to coordinate movement. Causes struggles with writing between lines and keeping within a margin.
- Long- or short-term visual memory issues: Difficulty recalling what one has seen or read.
- Visual-spatial issues: Difficulty telling where exactly things are and how far apart they are. Causes particular trouble with map reading and time-telling and copying from the board.
- Visual closure issues: Difficulty identifying an object when only parts are visible which can cause issues with spelling because the individual can’t recognize a word if a letter is missing.
- Letter and symbol reversal issues: A tendency to switch or reverse letters or numbers when writing or make letter substitutions when reading.
What are the signs my child may have a VPD?
If you notice your child displays any of the following characteristics consistently, they may well have a VPD which would not be picked up by a standard eye examination. (Remember, you can have 20-20 vision and still have a VPD):
- Turns away from or is easily distracted by a large amount of visual information, such as a busy picture
- Is restless or inattentive during videos or visual presentations and lacks interest in television
- Has difficulty with tasks that require copying (such as taking notes from a board)
- Reverses or misreads letters, numbers and words
- Has difficulty writing within lines or margins and often bumps into things
- Has trouble spelling familiar words with irregular spelling patterns
- Can’t remember phone numbers, when seen visually
- Has poor reading comprehension when reading silently
- Skips words or entire lines when reading, or reads the same sentence over again
- Complains of eye strain, blurred vision or frequently rubs eyes
How can vision therapy help?
Our behavioural optometrist can help people improve their visual abilities. They work on visual techniques such as the eyes’ abilities to track (reading a line across a page), fixate (pick out a word in a series), converge (turn inwards to maintain single vision), focus, change focus, visually discriminate (the ability to detect small differences), perceive depth, use peripheral vision and visual memory (or visualisation).
Together we will create a bespoke program of exercises for the specific needs of the individual, which can be practiced at home. Even with multiple VPDs the exercises take no more than 15 minutes a day and can produce significant improvements. Progress is monitored at the clinic with regular assessments and the program adjusted as necessary. We can also advise on simple ways of accommodating difficulties in the classroom, such as using large-print texts, dictating rather than writing or using paper with embossed lines and margins.
VPDs may be a life-long condition, but there are plenty of ways to make life easier and help your child gain confidence in their visual processing abilities.
If you think that you or your child might be experiencing a visual processing disorder, the Multi-Sensory Training Centre can carry out some simple tests and provide tools and techniques to help.
To book an appointment or simply find out more, please get in touch on 01206 911974 and have a chat with one of our team.