National Center for Learning Disabilities

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Visual Processing Disorders

What Is Visual Processing DisorderThere are lots of ways the brain processes visual information. Weaknesses in a particular kind of visual processing can often be seen in specific difficulties with practical, everyday tasks.

Below is an explanation of each of the types of visual processing. Each category also includes:

  • Possible difficulties that can occur if there is a weakness in that area
  • Possible strategies that may help overcome the difficulties.

Be aware that weakness can occur in one or more category at the same time.

It is also important to note that many people without any kind of visual processing disorder experience problems with learning and behavior from time to time. However, if a person consistently displays difficulties with these tasks over time, testing for visual processing disorders by trained professionals should be considered.

Visual Discrimination

The Skill—Using the sense of sight to notice and compare the features of different items to distinguish one item from another.

Difficulties Observed

  • Seeing the difference between two similar letters, shapes or objects
  • Noticing the similarities and differences between certain colors, shapes and patterns

Types of Helpful Strategies

  • Clearly space words/problems on a page.
  • Anticipate confusions and point out examples of correct responses.

 

Visual Figure-Ground Discrimination

The Skill—Discriminating a shape or printed character from its background.

Difficulties Observed

  • Finding a specific bit of information on a printed page full of words and numbers
  • Seeing an image within a competing background

Types of Helpful Strategies

  • Practice with ‘find the item’ challenges, such as “Where’s Waldo?”
  • Use an index card or marker when reading to blot out distraction of other words.
  • Highlight useful information while reading.

 

Visual Sequencing

The Skill—The ability to see and distinguish the order of symbols, words or images.

Difficulties Observed

  • Using a separate answer sheet
  • Staying in the right place while reading a paragraph. Example: skipping lines, reading the same line over and over
  • Reversing or misreading letters, numbers and words
  • Understanding math equations

Types of Helpful Strategies

  • Combine reading with oral presentation.
  • Color code written instruction.
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