VISUAL PROCESSING DISORDERS: 8 Visual Processing Disorders to Watch for in your Child Visual Processing

Visual Processing Disorders: 8 Visual Processing Disorders to Watch for in your Child

This article provides helpful information regarding visual processing disorders and how to recognize the signs in your child.

When people think of eyesight, the terms 20/20 vision, sunglasses and eye exams come to mind. Vision is so much more than that and can affect the academic process in ways you might never think of when your child is struggling with reading, writing and spelling. When you realize that 80 to 85 percent of learning occurs through your child’s visual system, it makes you rethink the learning process and focus on the importance of eyesight and how it impacts how they process information through their visual system.

8 Visual Processing Disorders to Watch for in your Child | ilslearningcorner.com

The ultimate goal of the visual process when your child sees objects and processes information is to arrive at an appropriate motor or cognitive response. It’s our eyes that take in the images, but it is the brain that processes our world around us. Things like symbols, pictures, movement, distance, and colors are part of the endless stream of stimuli that reach our eyes. From that point, the brain must process the information accurately to give your child the opportunity to learn and grow. Sometimes, a child can see perfectly fine, but there are weaknesses in the brain functions that process visual information. These weaknesses are called visual processing disorders or visual processing issues.

Visual processing affects everything your child does. Learning in the classroom is affected, as well as how a child responds to movement and distance. Visual discrimination problems can impede a child’s ability to play or participate in simple activities like a game of soccer. Ordinary day to day tasks such as sorting socks, climbing the stairs, putting away silverware, and picking out specific colors in a crayon box may be challenging for a child that silently struggles with visual processing disorders.

Visual Processing Disorders – What it isn’t

Visual processing disorders cover a variety of vision issues that have nothing to do with nearsightedness or farsightedness. A child with a visual processing issue may pass the eye exam with flying colors because the eyes are just fine. The problem lies in the brain, where the occipital lobe has trouble processing the signals that come from the eyes. While we think of vision as something to do with eyesight, it is much more than that. The eyes may be sending a perfectly accurate signal to the brain when they see shapes, letters and words on a page (for example, a triangle drawn on a piece of paper), but it won’t process the information. The eyes see a triangle, but they may not be able to declare which shape it is. Another example is when your child sees a car a short distance down the road, but the brain sees the car far away, which is similar to what happens when your child is trying to read notes from the chalkboard. Brain function is simply weak in these areas.

Visual processing disorders are not considered learning disabilities, but they are commonly found in kids that have learning disabilities. Many children with visual processing issues have 20/20 vision, but many times, a visual processing problem and a learning disability show up together. When this happens, it is called comorbidity. Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of two or more conditions in the same person.

8 Visual Processing Disorders to Watch for in your Child | ilslearningcorner.com

8 Types of Visual Processing Issues

Visual processing conditions are complex. There are eight identified visual processing issues, and a child can have more than one. Many of these conditions go undetected for years because they don’t show up on a simple eye exam. This easy to view chart describes the types of visual processing issues that may occur in your child and what to look for if they struggle in school.

 Visual Processing Disorders

What it is

How it affects your child

Visual Discrimination Disorder Kids with this type of difficulty struggle using their sense of sight for noticing and comparing features and details of different items. They struggle to distinguish one item from another
  • Difficulty seeing the difference between similar letters (b,d, and p,q).
  • Struggles with noticing the difference between certain colors, shapes or objects.
Visual Figure-Ground Discrimination A child with this type of disorder has difficulty with discriminating a shape or object from the background
  • Struggles with finding a piece of information on a page.
  • Difficulty seeing an object with a competing background such as a red bicycle next to a red building.
Visual Motor-Processing Issue The child will struggle with utilizing visual information from the eyes to help coordinate movements with other parts of their bodies.
  • Does not write in lines or margins on paper.
  • Tends to bump into objects.
  • Struggles when participating in sports and other physical activities tied to coordination and balance.
Visual Sequencing Disorder Many kids with this sequencing issue have problems with recognizing the order of symbols, letters, numbers and words.
  • Reverses letters, numbers or words.
  • Difficulty understanding the correct order of a math equation.
  • Struggles staying in the correct place when reading (skips lines, loses place and misses words).
Long or Short Term Visual Memory Problems Issues with remembering things seen a long time ago (long term) or recalling things seen recently (short term).
  • Frequently misspells familiar words with irregular spelling.
  • Does not usually remember phone numbers.
  • Struggles using a calculator or keyboard with accuracy.
Visual-Spatial Condition Children who struggle with spatial relationships show delinquencies in understanding how objects are positioned in space in relation to themselves.
  • Has difficulty getting from one location to another.
  • Problems spacing letters and words on a page.
  • Struggles judging time and direction.
Visual Closure Issues Visual Closure disorder is when a child does not have the ability to identify an object when a part or parts of the object is missing.
  • Can’t recognize a car if the wheels are missing.
  • Struggles with identifying a picture if it does not show the entire image.
Letter and Symbol Reversal Problems This visual reversal problem is common when the student is young. However, after age 7, if the child continues to reverse letters and numbers or makes letter substitutions when reading, this could indicate a problem.
  • Has a hard time with learning letter formation.
  • Struggles with letter substitutions in reading and writing.
  • Interchanges numbers in math equations.

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8 Visual Processing Disorders to Watch for in your Child | ilslearningcorner.com


Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs


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