Children who have difficulty with visual processing can affect their everyday life, such as reading and catching a ball.
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Visual processing systems are part of everyday life. When you have a conventional eye test the optician or optometrist will assess a visual processing system known as the parvocellular system or sustained system, which is responsible for processing colour vision and visual acuity. For example, checking the smallest letters you can read on the chart. However, in the real world we are also dependent on other major visual processing systems, which pick up the changing information around us. For example, the systems that detect movement, changing focus from distance to near and control over rapid changes in eye movements. This system is known as the magnocellular system. Being able to perceive a moving world relies on this system. We all live in a moving world – either we are static and observing a moving scene, such as watching a tennis match, or we are moving and watching a static world such as when we ride a bike.
The children we see having a range of problems;-
When a child has problems with these major visual processing systems it can have a real impact on their day to day life. Below are two examples of this:
Reading a book:
As we move our eyes across the text we have to be able to appropriately process, resolve the detail and also suppress as we move our eyes again. If we were not able to do this efficiently we would see the words running into each other, blurring or jumping about or even overlapping each other.
Catching a ball:
To be able to catch a ball you would need to be able to estimate the direction, acceleration, speed as well as the trajectory; then you need to work out how to move your hands into position to catch the ball. If all is working well you will catch the ball. However, in the children we see often these systems don’t work well; either because the visual processing is poor, the information from the extra-ocular muscles is unreliable or motor skills are poor. When this is the case, the hands will close before the ball arrives or after it has hit them, or they may be in the wrong place when the ball arrives.
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A weak auditory processing ability can significantly affect learning progress in children. In a similar way to the visual processing system, the auditory system also has more than one processing system. If you have been to a hearing test you would have been assessed using an audiogram; a pure tone sound test of different high and low pitch frequencies in a sound proofed room. This is very similar to an eye test by an optician/optometrist. However, in real-life we are not in a sound-proof area, we have to pick out a particular sound from a noisy background, for example, a child listening to the teacher in a noisy classroom. This ability is controlled by an auditory processing system that extracts auditory information from a background noise. In those who are able to pick up information out of a background they are able to somehow enhance what they are listening to and make the background noises less noticeable. This ability is aided by visually focusing on the speaker.
To give an example; imagine you are listening to a talk and you are really engrossed. You are not that aware of other people in the room. Lets suppose the person sitting next to you draws your attention, by saying listen to that rain. All of a sudden the noise of the rain becomes intrusive and you lose your ability concentrate on the talk. It had been raining for sometimes but was not important to you, so it had receded into the background; but now it is intrusive.
These reflexes should however have a limited life span and should be inhibited by higher centres of the brain. The maturing of the brain takes place throughout childhood, however the first year is crucial. The brain needs stimulation from the balance, the tactile and the kinaesthetic senses. This comes from being touched, rocked and by continually making rhythmic baby movements – turning around, creeping on tummy, rocking on hands and knees and crawling are all very important milestones in development. When a baby makes these rhythmic movements the primitive reflexes are inhibited and the postural reflexes are developed. If a baby is unable to inhibit his primitive reflexes then motor development will be delayed and it will be more difficult to mature the brain.
The Moro Reflex
The Moro reflex is an automatic response to survive and it is the earliest form of the flight or fight reflex. It should be inhibited and developed into the more sophisticated and controlled startle response. If this reflex does not develop it can cause hypersensitivity to many stimuli causing the child to over react in many situations. The child will be on constant alert and in a heighted state of awareness. This can often have a detrimental effect on concentration and levels of focus.
The ATNR facilitates movement and develops muscle tone. It should be fully developed by the time the foetus is born so that it may help during the birthing process. Retaining the ATNR can affect balance activities like riding a bike, walking in a straight line and catching a ball difficult. It can also have a big effect on handwriting and can have a negative effect on the expression of ideas in a written form.
The Spinal Galant – ‘ants in your pants’
During the birthing process the SGR can help the baby to work its way down the birth canal. Retention of this reflex can have a big influence on concentration as it becomes a distraction in itself. Fidgety behaviour is usual. It can cause people to have poor bladder control, poor attention skills and poor short-term memory.
This reflex is closely linked to the Moro reflex in the early stages of life. It is an early response to gravity. When the head is tipped back the arms and legs extend and when the head is tipped forward the arms and legs flex, influencing muscle tone from the head downwards. This reflex literally helps the baby to ‘straighten out’. Balance, muscle tone and proprioception are all established when the TLR integrates.. A child who retains this reflex will have difficulty with spacial awareness, posture and their position in space.
The STNR divides the body in half at the horizontal midline and allows a baby to learn how to use the two halves of the body individually. Retention of the STNR can therefore affect the coordination of the arms and legs simultaneously. It can also affect sitting posture and clumsiness is often common.
Totally recommend this service to any parent with a child with SEND needs, or even complex medical needs. The staff are excellent. They work with the child and the parents.- Tara *****