Eight-year-old Deepa was facing issues with her vision. She didn’t respond to visual stimuli presented to her in the way a typical eight-year-old would. For example, she couldn’t find the same colored balls and sort them together from a collection of a large number of differently colored balls. She couldn’t write within the lines of her notebooks and had trouble copying out words. Even playing with friends was a challenge for Deepa, she couldn’t estimate the distance of objects so games like hopscotch or catch became challenging.This led to Deepa withdrawing more and more from her friends. Although she could grasp new concepts, she couldn’t learn through visual aids. Her parents took her to multiple ophthalmologists who informed them that she had perfect vision. Finally, a pediatrician suggested that they visit a psychologist, who confirmed that she had a visual processing disorder.
Vision refers not just to eyesight but also to the visual centers in the brain responsible for processing and making meaning of what the eye sees, including symbols, distances and pictures. Any weakness in these centers is responsible for visual processing disorders or visual processing issues. While there are ways to compensate for these weaknesses, visual processing issues present lifelong challenges. For the child it can cause problems with socializing and impact their self-esteem too; some children may become frustrated and withdrawn.
Eight different kinds of visual processing disorders exist. A child can have more than one kind of disorder at a time.
It can be difficult to recognize the signs of visual processing issues as a parent or a teacher. But once recognized, it becomes easier to help the child with the learning issues they are facing. A child with visual processing issues may display the following behaviors and signs:
Researchers are yet to discover the exact cause of visual processing issues. However, they know that these issues occur when the brain fails to accurately receive and read the visual cues sent by the eyes.
It has been suggested by some researchers that extremely low birth weight and having been very preterm may play a role. Mild traumatic injury to the visual centers of the brain might also lead to the disorder but there isn’t enough research yet to support this statement.
When your child starts struggling in school and it appears to be a vision problem they are facing, please visit a pediatrician who will examine them. The pediatrician may then refer the child to a pediatric ophthalmologist or a neuropsychologist, depending on the need.
A pediatric ophthalmologist will perform a complete examination of the child’s eyes and vision, and also look for physical reasons for the issues. On the other hand, a neuropsychologist may perform a series of tests to see how the child’s visual issues are affecting their overall development. The tests are designed to measure intelligence, academic and language skills, memory, and attention abilities.
There is no medication or recognized cure for visual processing disorder. However, the following interventions may be helpful:
1. Understanding Visual Processing Issues: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/visual-processing-issues/understanding-visual-processing-issues
2. The Difference Between Dyslexia and Visual Processing Issues: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/the-difference-between-dyslexia-and-visual-processing-issues
3. National Centre for Learning Disabilities, Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders: http://www.ldonline.org/article/6390/