The visual system develops along with the sensory system. If a child has delays in the sensory system or developmental delays they will often have coexisting delays in binocular, accommodative, and oculomotor development. The fact they have a delay in one sensory system often complicates the progress in treatment for another.

Your child may have perfect eyesight, but if the eyes are not working together properly to send accurate information to the brain, then your child will struggle to make sense of the incorrect message being sent.

The visual cortex is the most massive system in the human brain and is responsible for higher-level processing of the visual image. It lies at the rear of the brain, above the cerebellum. The interconnections between layers of the cortex, the thalamus, the cerebellum, the hippocampus and the remainder of the areas of the brain are under active investigation.

Visual processing disorder refers to a reduced ability to make sense of information taken in through the eyes. This is different from problems involving sight or sharpness of vision.  Difficulties with visual processing affect how visual information is interpreted or processed. A person with visual processing problems may have 20/20 vision but may have difficulties discriminating foreground from background, forms, size, and position in space. The person may be unable to synthesise and analyse visually presented information accurately or fast enough. The eyes look and the brain sees.

Visual problems related to sensory processing can take many forms. Often children cannot find what they are looking for. Their writing may appear untidy, they have difficulty staying on the line and spacing out their work. They may also be visually distracted when there is too much on the walls in the classroom or by movements.

Possible signs that your child has dysfunction in their vision (not 20/20 vision, but visual perception):

Hypersensitivity to Visual Input

  • rubs eyes/watery eyes; gets headaches after reading or watching TV
  • sensitive to bright lights; will squint or cover eyes and/or headaches from light
  • avoids eye contact
  • has difficulty keeping eyes focused on a task
  • unable to stay focused for an appropriate amount of time
  • enjoys playing in the dark
  • has difficulty in bright color lit room or dimly lit room
  • easily distracted by other visual stimuli in the room; ie, movement, decorations, toys, windows, etc.

Hyposensitivity to Visual Input

  • often loses place while reading
  • has difficulty identifying the difference between similar letters & figures
  • complains about “seeing double”
  • makes reversal in words or letters when copying, or reads words backwards
  • tends to write at a slant on the page
  • confuses left and right
  • difficulty judging spatial relationships in the environment

If you suspect your child may have visual perceptual difficulties, please see a qualified Occupational Therapist and/or Developmental Optometrist. During treatment we use sensory integration techniques utilizing ALL of the senses to help develop the brain. We use the above pictured “monster pen light” to help assess your child’s visual perceptual skills with all treatment.

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