Visual Processing


An Excerpt from Sensory Incompatibility August 2010

Visual, seeing the world around us.

Those of us with vision rely on it heavily.  We use it to communicate, to take in our surrounding, help our visual mapping in our rains, know what time of day it is by reading the light and to take in beauty.  When this sense is distorted, so is the information that comes into the brain from it.

Our eyes are the most used resource for learning.  We learn first by watching our parents, seeing their expressions and trying to track their movements.  It is easier to detect and treat a malfunction in the mechanical portion of vision, sight.  Glasses help make the light and color entering our eyes sharp and focused.  Vision is also processing that information, the colors, brightness and depth of what we see all needs to be interpreted to become useful information.

Two eyes are better than one unless they are not working in conjunction with each other.  A simple test at school determines a child’s visual acuity, the processing, communication and cohesive double senses is often overlooked.  Our mind’s eye development begins at birth and we accept that what we see is what we get, until it starts to fail.  When I child is processing visual information incorrectly, it is hard for them to know this is a problem; it is how they have always seen.  Learning large black on white block letters might be fine, once a child must now decipher these letters in smaller print closer to their face and make words of them, this is where the troubles play out.  Picture books help a child mask their issues by guessing at the words, and getting them right part of the time.

Reading needs sight and language processing and visual mapping.  It is hard to remember all the rules of the English language each time you see a word for the first time.  Acuity is first, convergence, the eyes meeting at the same point, is next and processing is after that.  When the eyes are not converging, reading and learning become sensory incompatibility issue for the child.  A child might see double letters, out of focus or the letter could move and the child can easily lose their place when reading or concentrating on information.  Tracking a teacher, trying to gain information posted on walls and chalkboards will be difficult and lead to decreased learning potential.

The first several years of school are devoted to learning to read and the use of language.  A child who not only has a hard time reading will have a hard time writing, spelling, doing math, science projects and anything that challenges their visual sense.

These children might compensate with their visual mapping skills, they have taken in information with the other senses, by hearing the information and thus processed this way.  To read we must recognize the letters and words and the sounds that go with it.  Visual mapping is the anticipation of the word order, sentence structure and flow of a story.  When reading is a sensory incompatibility, children had a hard time building their language abilities.

About the 3rd grade reading turns to a main resource of learning.  Children are expected to research information, convey what they are learning and anticipate through written information like a schedule change that is written on a chalkboard.

When copying from a chalkboard a child must remember small amounts of information to transcribe it to their own paper.  This can be a visual processing problem, not only a visual acuity problem.  First seeing the word in order, committing the order to memory, anticipating where their hands are in relation to the paper, focusing on the paper that is now near to them, repeating the order of the letters and forming the letter in the same order.  Each of these steps could be a problem and all parts of the process that come after are affected.

Reading is not the only thing that can be sensory incompatible with children with SPD.  The eyes work with the vestibular system to allow purposeful movement.  A child can have eye hand coordination problems, over or under shoot for placing an object somewhere and also misjudge other movements around them.  They may misjudge distance and have a hard time with heights or activities that require correct body placements.  They can incorrectly interpret where others are in relation to themselves.

All in all, visual acuity is only half way towards good vision, the convergence and processing can hinder and even halt learning.  They might actually be missing the big picture.




To read about a great expert in the field of Developmental Optometry, click to see and hear Dr. Lynn Hellerstein