In a paper by Franceschini et al., there is a strong correlation to visual-spatial attention and learning to read. The children who had the most difficulty with visual-spatial discrimination had most difficulty in learning to read and often went on to be diagnosed with dyslexia. Mayer et al., found a correlation in visual-spatial reasoning, along with cognitive ability and problem-solving skills, were the deciding factors in determining the scientific reasoning skills of elementary school students. What I really found interesting was the paper by Tosto et al., which studied the visual-spatial abilities of several sets of 12 year old twins. By 12, a bit over half of your visual spatial skills you got from your parents (genetics) but the rest is learned (this was true for both boys and girls). The part of the paper I found interesting is that the same pathways in the brain for visual-spatial reasoning is used for math and science. Who knew? This explains a lot as to why children with developmental dyscalculia have issues with processing visual-spatial information.
What are the signs of Visual Processing Disorder?
There are EIGHT types of visual processing disorders. These are:Visual Figure-Ground Discrimination
- Can't match clothing, socks, or cutlery, especially when the differences are subtle
- Doesn't noticing the similarities and differences between certain colors, shapes and patterns
- Will not see differences between similar looking letters and words (eg b / d, b / p, 5 / S, won’t / want, car / cat)
- Will have a hard time reading maps
- Struggles to find information on a busy blackboard
- Finds it hard to copy work from the board as the child keeps losing his place when copying
- Loses his/her place on the page while reading
- Has poor dictionary skills
- Struggles with map work
- Struggles to find personal items in a cluttered place
- Has difficulty using a separate answer sheet
- Cannot stay in the right place while reading a paragraph. Example: skipping lines, reading the same line over and over
- Problems reversing or misreading letters, numbers and words
- Has difficulty understanding math equations
Visual Motor Processing
- Has difficulty writing within lines or margins of a piece of paper
- Struggles to copy from a board or book
- When moving around often bumps into things
- Has problems participating in sports that require well-timed and precise movements in space
- The inability to know what an object is when only parts of it are visible
- Not recognizing a picture of a familiar object from a partial image. Example: A truck without its wheels
- Misidentifying a word with a letter missing
- Not recognizing a face when one feature (such as the nose) is missing
- Difficulty getting from one place to another
- Has a problem spacing letters and words on paper
- Cannot judge time
- Reading maps and giving directions are difficult
- Difficulty in math
Who Diagnoses Visual Processing Disorders and How to Treat It?This is hard to determine. Visual Processing Disorder is NOT a learning disability be itself. It is only a learning disability IF it interferes with the learning process. Ah, the fun of public education! If you homeschool it is easier because you can implement the accommodations and modifications at home to see if academic function improves.
If you are looking to pursue a diagnosis look for an opthamologist, vision specialist, vision therapist, or a neuropsychologist. One of these professionals should be able to run the psychometric tests needed to make a diagnosis.
There are three kinds of therapies that are important to be aware of as you’re considering ways to help your child with visual processing issues.
Optometric vision therapy: It’s important to note that there is more than one kind of vision therapy. Optometric vision therapy has been proven to help with vision problems that involve eye movements or eye alignment. These eye coordination issues are different from visual processing issues. Visual processing issues involve the way the brain processes the information the eyes take in.
You may hear some kinds of optometric vision therapy referred to as “orthoptic vision therapy.” Both can help with eye muscle and eye alignment. These kinds of therapy can help with vision problems such as convergence insufficiency (when the eyes don’t work together properly when trying to focus on a nearby object).
Optometric vision therapy doesn’t “cure” learning and attention issues. But if your child has vision problems in addition to dyslexia and other issues, resolving vision problems can help him devote more energy to finding strategies that can help with the way his brain processes information.
Behavioral vision therapy: This is different from optometric vision therapy. Behavioral vision therapy involves eye exercises that are designed to improve visual perception. These eye exercises are also designed to improve visual processing skills. But there is no scientific research that shows this kind of therapy helps the brain process visual information. For that reason, behavioral vision therapy is considered a controversial treatment for learning and attention issues.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that it may help some children. But be wary of any treatment that claims to “cure” learning and attention issues. Learn more about how to know when a treatment is reputable.
Educational therapy: Children with visual processing issues may benefit from educational therapy. This type of therapy teaches kids strategies for working around their weaknesses. Learning how to approach problems can reduce frustration, increase self-confidence and lead to greater success in school.
What are appropriate accommodations or modifications?
- Use books, worksheets and other materials with enlarged print
- Read written directions aloud. Varying teaching methods (written and spoken words; images and sounds) can help promote understanding
- Be aware of the weakness but don't overemphasize it. While helping a child work on the weakness is important; it is just as important to build other skills and function in any setting
- Break assignments and chores into clear, concise steps. Often multiple steps can be difficult to visualize and complete
- Give examples and point out the important details of visual information (the part of a picture that contains information for a particular question)
- Provide information about a task before starting to focus attention on the activity
- Allow student to write answers on the same sheet of paper as the questions or offer opportunities for student to explain answers orally
- Provide paper for writing and math work that has darker or raised lines to make the boundaries more distinct
- Organize assignments to be completed in smaller steps instead of one large finished product
- Use a ruler as a reading guide (to keep focus on one line at a time) and a highlighter (to immediately emphasize important information)
- Provide a tape recorder to supplement note-taking
- Color code important information
- Have a proof-reading buddy for all written materials
- Use a tape recorder when getting important information
- Before writing letters or essays, create an outline to simplify and organize ideas
- Have a proofreading buddy for notes and essays
I hope you found this post helpful. I had initially started this post just to discuss visual-spatial processing but as I started to research the subject I found there was so much more to cover! I think I did a decent job overall to cover everything in a broad way. If I missed anything please let me know! I you have any questions you can contact me on the blog or though Facebook.