What is a Visual Processing Disorder?

Our vision creates our reality and shapes the world we live in. When our vision works correctly, our brain and eyes process and interpret the visual information from the world around us. They convert light into a meaningful image that allow us to place ourselves in the world around us.

Imagine trying to cross the road. You need to judge the distance between cars, how fast they are going, how far you need to go, and think about the order of things you need to accomplish.

Someone with visual processing disorder may struggle with imagining such a thing and acting appropriately to all the visual stimuli.

When visual information is incorrectly processed by our eyes and brain, it cannot be integrated with our other systems, which can lead to struggles with learning, difficulty in comprehension, or being a slow reader. Sadly, many people mislabel this as dyslexia or more generally as a learning disability. Individuals who are not trained and licensed to diagnose visual problems can miss the visual perceptual deficits, which can have negative life-long consequences. And 79% of children who do have dyslexia also have a vision impairment that can make reading and learning even more difficult.

Luckily, if someone is struggling with visual information processing disorder, a developmental optometrist like Dr. Jesse Willingham can diagnose and treat them so they live a better life without the disorder or an erroneous label.

Symptoms of a visual processing disorder:

  •  Sloppy or trouble writing
  • Inability to detect differences in shapes/letters
  • Reverse letters or numbers
  • Poor speller 
  • Easily forgets letters, numbers, and words
  • Poor eye-hand coordination 
  • Difficulty making sense of cluttered environments
  • Confuse similar looking words
  • Have poor reading comprehension
  • Make errors copying
  • Have difficulty following multi-stepped directions
  • Have difficulty telling time or understanding the concept of time

letter reversals

This video does a great job of walking you through what visual processing is.

Different vision problems that interfere with visual processing:

  • visuospatial deficit
  • visual sensory integration disorder
  • poor spatial awareness
  • visual memory
  • visual discrimination issues
  • visual figure ground discrimination issues
  • visual sequencing issues
  • visualization
  • visual motor processing issues
  • visual closure issues
  • letter and symbol reversals

Visual processing is defined as an individual’s ability to: detect light, derive meaning from light, and respond based on that meaning. It is our ability “to perceive, analyze, synthesize, and think with visual patterns and involves the ability to store and recall visual representations via visual imagery and visual memory.” 

Learning is defined as an individual’s ability to: derive meaning from what is experienced, establish relationship, and develop memory.

An example of visual processing and learning is when we read and our ability to communicate and understand language. Vision is the first step in processing written language. Reading derives meaning from visual language, visual symbols (letters) that relate to auditory symbols (phonics).

Vision therapy helps children learn to focus

Vision Therapy & Visual Processing

Many children are mislabeled as a disrupter or misdiagnosed with having attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD) because their range of visual skills were not evaluated fully. At Brighter Outlook Vision, we strive to prevent a child from experiencing this tragedy by determining if vision is the problem and then building healthier, better functioning neural pathways through a program of optometric vision therapy.

Vision therapy helps with building and developing the neural software that enables us to take in information and integrate it. Treatment for vision problems or visual processing difficulties not only improves eye tracking skills, but can also help develop a stronger connection or new pathways from the eyes to the brain & body by introducing novel experiences and guiding patients through appropriate visual interaction and interpretation. Harnessing visual input through vision therapy is fulfilling to our patients because they begin to better understand what is really happening within them. 

This won’t only help have a more enriching experience when reading and playing sports, but also will help the child gain confidence in his/her overall learning experience throughout his or her life. A person’s vision creates their reality, vision therapy can help them decipher and interact with their reality more fully.

Vision therapy helps train these visual abilities to better one’s visual processing:

  • Eye movement control
  • Near/far clarity (accommodation) 
  • Both eyes synchronized
  • Visual perception- figure ground, closure
  • Matching vision with other sensory and muscular systems (auditory & vestibular)
  • Derive meaning 
  • Visual memory

Vision therapy can help children with ADHD who have vision problems

Having a visual processing disorder can be a lifelong problem, unless it is diagnosed and treated. Children will not grow out of it on their own, but need professional assistance.

If you or a loved one may be struggling with these symptoms, please connect with us to set up an initial evaluation to begin a journey toward better vision and a better life.