When we think of vision, we think of seeing…. seeing clearly and with accuracy…that is 20/20 vision. But the ability to see is more than just vision. Our eyes capture the visual information in the world around us and it is our brains that take this information and process it so that it becomes meaningful to us.
Difficulties with visual processing skills are lifelong challenges, as they can cause significant learning difficulties and social difficulties. As well, they can cause difficulties performing tasks that for others appears to be quite simple. Cooking, shopping, driving, kicking a ball, playing on a sports team, writing on a line, writing in our agendas, completing applications/forms, doing laundry and so forth can be extremely challenging and frustrating.
Some of the more common symptoms that suggest issues with visual processing include the following:
- Easily distracted or overwhelmed by too much information on the page
- Restless or fidgety behaviors, especially noted when having to process visual information
- Difficulty writing on the line, inconsistent spacing between words and letters, or difficulty writing to the margin
- Difficulty with capitalization and punctuation
- Clumsy, bumps into things or drops things
- Difficulty tying shoe laces
- Messy eater
- Poor grooming and hygiene
- Skips word or lines when reading
- Rubbing eyes, watery eyes or complains of not seeing well, despite good eyesight
- Trouble interpreting nonverbal cues
- Trouble understanding personal space
- Rigid, inflexible, and rule oriented.
- Everything is seen in black and white.
- Difficulty with sarcasm. Takes things literally.
- Overly sensitive, emotional, frequent meltdowns
- Excessive fear of the dark
- Issues with time management.
- Difficulty generalizing one situation to the next.
What To Do If You Suspect Issues With Visual Processing
The first step is to consult with a medical doctor and/or your child’s pediatrician. Share notes, concerns, and observations with the doctor. Check vision, rule out issues with eyesight. Consult with a neuropsychologist who can perform a battery of tests in order to confirm the presence of visual processing issues and how it is manifesting academically, socially and emotionally.
What are Some Recommended Treatment Options?
There are a number of recommendations and accommodations that could be put in place at school to better support students with these types of challenges. Some examples would be: providing books with enlarged font and familiar font, having less clutter on a page (more white space), using a laptop with access to grammar and spellchecker for lengthy written work, using graph paper for math activities, and so forth.
It is also important to understand that anxiety is usually highly co-morbid with these difficulties. An essential part of the treatment approach is to learn as much as you can about your challenges. Through understanding, the individual will be in a better position to develop more appropriate strategies that could help compensate for areas of challenge. Treatment must also address improving social skills, particularly with respect to perspective taking, and emotions. Organizational skills, time management, and problem solving techniques must be taught and further developed.