What is Visual Processing Disorder?

Vision issues, of the type that an eye doctor deals with, are issues of the visual “hardware.” There is a flaw somewhere in the structure of the eye that causes the incoming signal to be distorted. Glasses, contact lenses or laser surgery are all fixes for the “visual hardware.”

Visual processing issues are issues of the visual “software”: how the brain interprets and uses the incoming data it receives from the eye.

How Visual Processing Disorder might manifest

There are multiple types of visual processing issues. Here are 8 types and how they manifest:

  • Visual discrimination issues. Difficulty seeing the difference between two similar figures.
    • Confusing d and b, or a circle and an oval.
  • Visual figure-ground discrimination issues. Difficulty pulling out a shape or character from its background.
    • Inability to find a specific piece of information on a page
    • Difficulty finding “hidden pictures.”
  • Visual sequencing issues. Difficulty telling the order of symbols, words or images.
    • Problems writing answers on a different sheet than the questions.
    • Reversing or misreading words or numbers.
  • Visual-motor processing issues. Difficulty using feedback from the eyes to direct physical movement.
    • Difficulty writing within the lines or margins.
    • Clumsiness, bumping into things.
  • Long- or short-term visual memory issues. Difficulty recalling what’s been seen.
    • Trouble spelling.
    • Inability to remember facts after reading them silently.
  • Visual-spatial issues. Difficulty telling where objects are in space, including the distance between objects and the distance between an object and one’s self.
    • Trouble reading maps.
    • Trouble estimating time.
    • Difficulty in understanding stories involving placement of objects in relation to each other.
    • Bumping into things.
  • Visual closure issues. Difficulty identifying an object when only parts are visible.
    • Inability to identify a relative in a photo if the relative is missing the glasses they always wear.
    • Inability to recognize a familiar word if it is missing a letter.
  • Letter and symbol reversal issues. Switching letters or numbers when writing or reading.


What causes Visual Processing Disorder

There’s no conclusive evidence on causes. Top candidates are:

  • Genetic tendency
  • Developmental delays in childhood can affect visual processing, particularly gazing and tracking delays in infancy
  • Vestibular difficulties.  The vestibular and visual systems' neurological track is in the same component of the brain.  When the vestibular system is not working, the visual system is affected.
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Treating Visual Processing Disorder

Techniques for teaching the brain and the nervous system to react accurately to visual stimuli include:

  • Vision therapy - working on the occulomotor components that affect the movement of the eyes and their communication with the brain
  • Vestibular therapy
  • Augmentative auditory therapy
  • Reflex integration therapy