What is Visual Processing Disorder?
Visual processing disorder can cause issues with the way the brain processes visual information. There are many different types of processing disorder and many different symptoms, which can include trouble drawing or copying, inability to detect differences in shapes or letters, and letter reversals.1
Visual processing disorders (VPDs) affect many students diagnosed with language-based learning disabilities.
- 8 Different types of visual processing disorder2
Eight types of visual processing disorder
There are eight different types of visual processing difficulties, each with its own symptoms. An individual can have more than one type of visual processing difficulty.2
1. VISUAL DISCRIMINATION ISSUES:
- Trouble seeing the difference between similar letters, shapes, or objects2
2. VISUAL FIGURE-GROUND DISCRIMINATION ISSUES:
- Struggle to distinguish a shape or letter from its background2
3. VISUAL SEQUENCING ISSUES:
- Find it difficult to see shapes, letters, or words in the correct order; may skip lines or read the same line over and over2
4. VISUAL-MOTOR PROCESSING ISSUES:
- Trouble using what they see to coordinate with the way they move; may struggle to write within lines or bump into objects while walking2
5. LONG- OR SHORT-TERM VISUAL MEMORY ISSUES:
- Struggle to remember shapes, symbols, or objects they’ve seen, causing issues with reading and spelling2
6. VISUAL-SPATIAL ISSUES:
- Trouble understanding where objects are in space; unsure how close objects are to one another2
7. VISUAL CLOSURE ISSUES:
- Difficulty identifying an object when only parts of it are showing2
8. LETTER AND SYMBOL REVERSAL ISSUES:
- Switch numbers or letters when writing, or may mistake “b” for “d” or “w” for “m”1
What to Do if You Notice Signs of Visual Processing Disorder
If you begin to notice any of the visual processing issues listed above, it’s important to take note of these symptoms. Keep a list so that you can reference specific issues when you speak with your child’s teacher or a specialist.
Talk to Your Child’s Teacher
Take your list of concerns to your child’s teacher and have a conversation about any visual processing difficulties he or she has noticed in the classroom. Ask whether these issues are getting in the way of your child’s reading comprehension or social development.
Request an Evaluation
Poor vision and visual processing disorder are different issues that require different interventions, so it’s important to rule out any vision or eye issues by having your child’s sight checked by a pediatrician or ophthalmologist. If vision proves not to be an issue, talk to your child’s school about getting his or her visual comprehension skills measured.
Be Proactive and Trust Your Gut
As a parent, you are your child’s best advocate. If your child’s school assures you that nothing is wrong, but you sense that there is an issue, don’t be afraid to have your child evaluated for visual processing issues.
What to Do if Your Child is Diagnosed with Visual Processing Disorder
Find a Specialist
If your child has been diagnosed with a visual processing disorder, you’ll want to find an expert who is trained in research-based interventions specifically for these issues. Look for professionals with full certification and ongoing education in the area of visual processing.
Request Classroom Accommodations
Talk to your child’s teacher about making simple classroom accommodations to improve your child’s visual comprehension. For example, ask the teacher to:
- Provide an alternative option to written assignments, for example, dictating stories or essays1
- Use large-print books1
- Try different paper types, such as graph paper, pastel paper, or embossed paper with raised lines1
Create an Individualized Education Plan
Work with your child’s school to create a formal Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This plan should be designed specifically for your child’s needs, and will hold the school accountable for special accommodations. Be sure to request a written copy of this plan.2
Common Visual Processing Disorder Myths
Myth:Children can outgrow visual processing difficulties.Fact:
Visual processing disorders are lifelong conditions. While a student will not simply outgrow a visual processing difficulty, he or she can develop strategies to navigate life in the classroom and beyond.
Myth:Vision problems and visual processing disorder are the same thing.Fact:
A person with visual processing difficulties may have 20/20 vision.2
Myth:There is just one type of visual processing disorder.Fact:
There are eight different types of visual processing issues: visual discrimination issues, visual figure-ground discrimination issues, visual sequencing issues, visual-motor processing issues, long- or short-term visual memory issues, visual-spatial issues, visual closure issues, and letter and symbol reversal issues.
Myth:Dyslexia and visual processing disorder have the same symptoms.Fact:
Individuals with dyslexia struggle to connect letters to sounds; those with visual processing disorder struggle to understand visual information, whether letters, shapes, or objects.3
Myth:Smart students don’t have visual processing disorder.Fact:
Many people with visual processing difficulties do well in school and in their careers. With the right strategies, students with visual processing issues can thrive.
- Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit. LD Online. Retrieved from http://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/visual-perceptual-visual-motor-deficit/
- Understanding Visual Processing Issues. Understood. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/visual-processing-issues/understanding-visual-processing-issues
- What’s the Difference Between Visual Processing Issues and Dyslexia? Understood. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/visual-processing-issues/whats-the-difference-between-visual-processing-issues-and-dyslexia