Visual Processing – a Hidden Disability
Visual processing challenges are often missed. Mom had her child’s vision checked, but she did not check for a visual processing challenge. Here was our conversation.
“I had my child’s eyes tested last year at his annual physical,” a mom proclaimed last week. “I was told his eyes were a perfect 20/20!”
“Great”, I replied, “Do you know what that means?” I asked.
“Well it means his vision is great! Mom responded.
“Actually, what it means is that he can see what he is supposed to see from 20 feet away!”
I kept probing-“Have you ever had your child seen by a vision specialist?”
“No”, she quickly responded. “Should I?”
I must have this conversation a few times a week with parents. There is so much confusion and even CONTROVERSY over the role of vision relating to reading and learning.
Visual Processing Issues are Often Missed
Let’s be CLEAR…It is hard to read or focus if a child can NOT SEE the material clearly. Our two eyes need to work together to focus on letters/words!
If an obviously advanced/smart child is struggling with beginning reading, the possibility of vision deficits SHOULD be considered. (Young children should have their eyes examined by an eye professional at least once before they are 3 years old.) An examination by a behavioral optometrist who will review eye teamwork,(are their eyes working together?) visual perception, coordination of involved eye muscles, and eye-hand coordination (all of which are teachable skills) can rule out or document vision-related problems as well as evaluate visual acuity.
As Barbara Maxwell notes in her article: Reading Help for Struggling Gifted Visual-Spatial Learners: Wholes and Patterns
Young children are naturally far-sighted. The passions of gifted children— puzzles, identifying dinosaurs, Lego construction, etc.—often involve near-point work and visual stress.
Although poor or weak visual skills does not necessarily CAUSE reading problems, repetitive interventions will not be very successful UNLESS these co-existing difficulties are assessed and addressed!
Maybe because I had this vision difficulty as a child, I am MORE sensitive to it as an educator and parent. However, I have found, that it is VITAL to an educational assessment to be sure visual processing is included.
A Visual Learner is More Likely to Have a Visual Processing Challenge
Parents also often ask “How can my child be a VISUAL LEARNER if s/he has a visual processing problem?” That is a very good question. What I refer to as a “Visual Learner” is someone who visualizes pictures in their head about experiences they have had or words they hear. Visual Learners have a higher incidence of eye-teaming/tracking issues (i.e. they often skip words or lines when reading). We include in our no cost on-line assessment, a norm referenced scale developed by vision experts that screens for these challenges. Parents are often surprised at how their child responds. Most teachers have NO IDEA about these issues
Below is a great explanation of visual challenges– Is your child at risk?
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