Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Understanding Visual Processing Disorder

For special education purposes, a visual processing, or visual perceptual disorder refers to a child’s limited ability to make sense of information taken in through the eyes.

Vital role in the learning process

For success in school, children must have crisp, sharp eyesight in order to see the print clearly. In addition, they must also be able to coordinate their eye movements as a team in order to follow a line of print without losing their place; they must be able to make quick focusing changes when looking up to the board and back to their desks; and they must be able to interpret and accurately process what they are seeing. A weakenss in either of these abilities can seriously interfere with school performance.

Disorder usually goes untreated

Without explaining that the school nurse measured only the ability to see clearly at a distance of 20 feet, a report of “normal” vision can be very misleading. There are at least twenty factors of vision. It is possible for a child to have difficulty in one or a combination of these 20 factors and still be able to see clearly at 20 feet.

Given a report of "normal" vision, the parent is less likely to consider vision as a factor contributing to learning problems. As a result, many children with visual problems that would respond to intervention often go untreated.

Symptoms often misdiagnosed

At the close up distances required for reading, children with eye teaming problems (the ability to focus both eyes on the same space at the same time) are only able to aim their eyes together correctly for short periods of time.

When a child with eye teaming problems reads, the print appears to “swim” across the page and he will lose his place. In addition, children with eye teaming problems can be easily distracted, finding it difficult to concentrate and remain on task when the strain on their eyes is so great. Because of these symptoms, many children with visual problems are misdiagnosed as having an attention deficit disorder (ADD).

If a child has difficulty remaining focused during the early years, the first place to look is for visual immaturity. Children at risk for learning-related vision problems should receive a comprehensive eye examination.

Glasses alone will not correct many of these problems. Time and further maturation may improve the problem, but it is best to get proper evaluation and care.

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