Vision Problems and Special Needs Children

When a child or adult has 20/20 vision but is unable to differentiate between a triangle and a square, the eyes are not a problem, the issue is with visual processing skills. It is the brain and not the eyes that processes the visual world including things like symbols, pictures, and distances.

There are eight types of visual processing issues

  • Visual discrimination issue wherein there is a difficulty in seeing the difference between two similar letters or objects. e.g. confusing d and b, p and q.
  • Visual figure ground discrimination issues wherein kids find it difficult to find a specific piece of information on a page.
  • Visual sequencing issues wherein there is a difficulty in telling the order of symbols, words or images. They skip lines when reading and misread letters numbers and words.
  • visual motor processing- The kids find it difficult to use information taken from the eyes to coordinate movement of other parts of their body so they bump into things or may have trouble copying from a book.
  • Long or short term visual memory issues- They have trouble remember what they have read and using calculators and key boards.
  • Visual spatial issues- The kids are unable to make out how far the things are from them and from each other. They find it difficult to read maps and judging time.
  • Visual closure issues- Kids find it difficult to identify an object if parts of it is missing e.g. if a letter is missing, they may not recognize the word.
  • Letter and symbol reversal issues- They switch letters or umbers while writing and this may affect their math skills.

Common symptoms of visual processing issues are

  • The child does not pay attention to visual tasks
  • Is easily distracted by too much visual information
  • Is restless or inattentive during video or visual presentations
  • Lacks interest in movies or television
  • Has difficulty with tasks that require copying e.g. taking notes from a board
  • reverses or misreads letter, numbers and words
  • bumps into things
  • Has difficulty writing within lines or margins
  • Has trouble spelling familiar words with irregular words or patterns
  • Can’t remember phone numbers
  • Has poor comprehension when reading silently
  • Can’t remember basic facts that were read silently
  • Skips words or entire lines when reading or reads the same line over and over again
  • Complains of eye strain and rubs eyes frequently
  • Has below average reading comprehension and writing skills despite having oral comprehension and verbal skills
  • Has weak math skills
  • Fails to observe or recognize changes on bulletin boards, road signs etc.

How Vision Therapy Helps ? 

Visual therapy is a form of neurological training or rehabilitation that involves specifically prescribed procedures addressing the diagnosed vision condition. In some cases, visual training is the only available and effective treatment option for these conditions. These procedures are to improve visual skills such as eye teaming, depth perception, focusing, eye movements and eye-hand coordination.

  • Eye tracking: the ability of the eyes to follow a moving target such as in sports or to reposition the eyes as in reading.
  • Eye Teaming : the ability to control the two eyes together so you don’t see double.
  • Depth Perception : the ability to judge distances correctly and see in 3 dimensions.
  • Fixation : the ability to keep the eyes pointed at a particular target.
  • Visual Attention : the ability to maintain attention during periods of intense nearwork.
  • Eye Focusing : the ability to change and maintain clarity.
  • Visual Thinking : the ability to form concepts in your mind and see visual imagery.
  • Visual Memory : the ability to retain visual information over time.
  • Visual & motor planning: the ability to think ahead visually before performing tasks.

Visual processing issues affects the academic performance of the kids which leads to emotional disturbance and low self-esteem. It makes life skills and simple tasks difficult for them.

How can visual processing issues be diagnosed & managed ?

A visit to the developmental pediatricians, pediatric ophthalmologists, pediatric optometrists, behavioral optometrists can help detect this problem in children & adults. Vision therapy, which involves a variety of exercises using devices like prisms lenses and computerized programs can help resolve issues with visual processing.