Tag Archives: visual-motor integration

What does it mean to have a visual processing problem?

The Visual Learning Center offers 
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland, near Silver Spring.

A visual processing problem is a type of perceptual deficiency that hinders a child’s ability to make sense of information that they take in through their eyes. Reading, writing, learning and countless important everyday activities require strong visual processing skills.

Click here to watch a video about vision problems and learning.

To be able to see clearly is just the beginning, and 20-20 vision is not enough. It is the brain, not the eyes, that interprets and applies visual data. A visual processing problem occurs when there is a disruption or inefficiency in the way the brain processes information after the eyes see something.

Vision requires healthy neurological activity and communication between the eyes and the brain within a complex set of mechanisms. A visual processing problem results when this system either hasn’t developed properly or it has been damaged in some way.

Click here to download our free guide, “10 Things You Need to Know About Vision”

When a child has a visual processing disorder, they may see clearly and their eyes may function normally, but they may not have the ability effectively and efficiently interpret, categorize, remember, or associate meaning with the images and information in their brain.

Examples of visual processing problems include difficulty with visualization, visual memory, visual processing speed and accuracy,  visual-motor integration and speed, and more.

Visualization is the process of creating a mental picture in the mind. It’s what occurs when someone says to “picture this” or when you’re reading and you imagine the characters and scene in your mind. This process is fundamental to creating and associating meaning. A child with a visualization problem struggles to create that mental picture, so they are missing an important building block of learning.

Visual memory refers to the ability to accurately remember something you see. We have to remember what letters look like, what words look like, and what letters and words mean from sentence to sentence, from page to page, and from day to day. If there is a problem with visual memory, learning of the same material has to occur again and again.

Visual processing speed and accuracy involves reading words, sentences, and numbers quickly and with few errors. Children with visual processing problems tend to work slowly and make more errors in their work.

Visual-motor integration is the ability to correctly perceive visual information, process it, and move your hands or body accordingly. Visual-motor speed is the ability to efficiently integrate visual skills and motor skills for the purpose of completing a task.

Visual sequencing is the ability to tell the correct order of words, symbols, or images.

Visual figure-ground discrimination enables a child to distinguish a shape or text from the background in which it is situated. Visual discrimination is the ability to recognize the difference between similar objects, shapes, or letters, such as p and q or b and d.

Visual closure is the ability to identify an object from its parts. For example, the child might not be able to identify a car that’s missing its wheels or a word missing letters, which interferes with learning, reading, and spelling.

Visual-spatial processing refers to the ability to tell space or distance of an object, either on paper or physically. It also enables understanding of time and narrative, which factors into comprehension levels.

If your child has a visual processing problem, school, athletics, and even social interaction can be challenging. The good news is visual processing therapy with one-on-one vision training can effectively improve visual processing skills.

Signs of visual processing problems include:

  • Difficulty reading
  • Complaints of tiredness while reading
  • Losing place or skipping words while reading
  • Trouble with math or inability to make progress in math
  • Messy handwriting
  • Difficulty buttoning or zipping clothes or trouble cutting food or using scissors

Read 9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem.

If you suspect your child could have a visual processing disorder, schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

For visual processing therapy in Silver Spring or Olney Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule a comprehensive vision exam today.

visual-motor problems

Signs That Your Child Could Have a Visual-Motor Problem

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland,  convenient to Silver Spring.

Vision plays a significant role in guiding our movements. If your child is having problems with movement — whether they are struggling with fine motor skills or gross motor skills — the difficulty could be caused by visual-motor dysfunction, which is treatable with vision therapy.

Fine motor function is what we think of as eye-hand coordination, and it requires translating abstract visual information into the equivalent fine motor activity. Fine motor skills include handwriting, cutting with scissors, coloring, drawing, typing, texting, and other small movement hand functions.

Gross motor function, which is eye-body coordination, requires translating visual information into the equivalent gross motor activity. Gross motor skills include walking, running, sports, and general physical agility and coordination.

Visual-motor integration is comprised of the ability to correctly perceive visual information, process it, and move your hands or body accordingly. Visual-motor speed refers to the ability to efficiently integrate visual skills and motor skills for the purpose of completing a task.

Research shows a significant correlation between visual-motor integration skills and academic performance in writing, spelling, reading, and math. Even when taking overall cognitive abilities and learning disabilities into account, visual-motor dysfunction negatively impacts performance and standardized test scores.

To learn more how vision can affect learning, download our free guide here and watch our pre-recorded webinar here.

Early signs of visual-motor problems in children can include missed milestones and delays in gross motor skills, such as crawling, standing, and walking or fine motor skills, such as grasping and manipulating objects or gripping crayons.

In early elementary years, children with delayed or disordered visual-motor skills may have trouble with tasks such as copying their name or even copying basic shapes. Low visual-motor skills in Kindergarten have been shown to predict reading difficulties in later years.

Other signs of visual-motor dysfunction include:

  • Messy handwriting and sloppy drawing
  • Poor grades on written tests despite being able to give answers orally
  • Trouble gripping or repeatedly re-gripping pencil
  • Difficulty coloring inside the lines or writing within lines
  • Misaligning numbers in columns for math problems
  • Excessive errors and erasing
  • Slow to complete written assignments
  • Frustration with pencil and paper activities
  • Difficulty copying from the board
  • General clumsiness or trouble with coordination
  • Poor performance in sports, such as hitting, catching, or kicking a ball

Coordinating visual perception, visual processing, and fine or gross motor output can be so challenging for children that learning occurs more slowly and overall performance is affected. Students with visual-motor problems often know the material being covered, but putting pencil to paper is not as easy for them as it is for their peers.

It’s possible that in a child with a visual-motor problem, visual perception is intact and that there may not be a problem with body movement and coordination. The issue could be with the mechanism that enables motor and visual systems to communicate well and work together efficiently.  

Even if a child is working with an Occupational Therapist (OT) to improve motor skills, this may not address problems with visual perception, visual-motor integration, and visual-motor speed. OTs are trained to work with children to improve and strengthen specific skills and abilities, but deficiencies in the visual processing system can interfere with a child’s ability to make progress.

If you suspect your child may be struggling with a visual-motor problem, the first step is to schedule a functional vision exam with an optometrist trained in developmental vision care. Once diagnosed, the good news is, an individualized vision therapy program can result in noticeable improvement in a relatively short period of time.

At the Visual Learning Center in Olney, Maryland, we provide vision therapy that regularly results in improved visual motor speed, better legibility with written tasks, accelerated development of visual-motor integration skills, and improved coordination and sports performance.

Vision Therapy Helps Children Who Struggle With Visual Motor Integration

Visual-motor integration (VMI) is the function that ensures our eyes and the movement of our hands work together efficiently and smoothly. Healthy VMI coordinates and assimilates visual perception (input), visual processing (decoding), and visual output through the fine motor skill of writing.

Click here to watch a video about how vision affects learning.

When you think of hand-eye or eye-hand coordination and learning, you might think it’s only challenging for early learners fumbling to grasp and control jumbo-sized markers and crayons. Once your child seems to have the hang of holding his pencil, you may not expect visual-motor integration to significantly affect learning; but undetected deficiencies in your child’s visual-motor skills can interfere with paper-pencil work in elementary school and beyond.

Even if a child is working with an Occupational Therapist (OT) to improve motor skills, this may not address possible problems with visual perception. OTs are trained to work with children to improve and strengthen specific skills and abilities, but deficiencies in the visual processing system can interfere with a child’s ability to make progress.

Visual-motor integration includes the ability to first correctly perceive visual information as a form, such as a letter, and then correctly replicate it. In early elementary years, children with delayed or disordered VMI have trouble with seemingly simple tasks such as copying their name or even copying basic shapes–what they write or draw does not look like the word or shape they are using for a guide.

Other signs of visual-motor dysfunction include:

  • Messy handwriting
  • Poor test taking, despite knowing the material
  • Trouble gripping or repeatedly re-gripping pencil
  • Difficulty writing within lines
  • Excessive erasing
  • Slow to complete assignments
  • Leaning close to paper
  • Lots of omissions and errors in work

Click here for 9 signs your child may have an undiagnosed vision problem.

While we tend to appreciate the importance of high-functioning visual-motor integration for activities such as sports, art, or music, research findings demonstrate a notable correlation between visual-motor integration skills and academic performance in writing, spelling, reading, and math. Even when taking learning disabilities and overall cognitive abilities into account, poor visual-motor integration has been shown to impact standardized test scores. Low VMI skills in Kindergarten have also been shown to predict reading abilities in middle school.

For students with visual motor deficiencies, coordinating their visual perception, visual processing, and fine motor output is so challenging that they have significant difficulty with tasks such as copying information from the board or from a book onto paper. Because of this, learning occurs more slowly and overall performance is affected. They have trouble following instructions, completing worksheets and other written assignments, and writing answers on tests. They know the material being covered, but putting pencil to paper is not as easy for them as it is for their peers.

If you suspect your child may be struggling with visual motor integration, the first step is to schedule a functional vision exam with an optometrist trained in developmental vision care. Once diagnosed, the good news is, an individualized vision therapy program can result in noticeable improvement in a relatively short period of time.

If you are in the Olney or Silver Spring, MD area, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today for an appointment today.

child reverses letters while writing at a desk

Common Causes When a Child Reverses Letters

When parents notice a child reversing letters, they often assume that what they are observing is a sign or symptom of dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that causes difficulty in writing, reading, and spelling. Children with dyslexia often reverse letters; however, while letter reversal in writing can be a symptom of dyslexia, this does not mean that every child who reverses letters has dyslexia.

A child may reverse letters in the early stages of learning. As a child begins to practice writing, they will make mistakes or their motor skills might not be well developed yet. Parents and teachers should continue to observe and see if the child makes improvement with guidance and practice.

Children who do not improve letter reversals within the first two years of schooling should be watched more closely and evaluated by a professional. The child could be dyslexic or have another learning disability.

But there is also a another lesser-known cause that could explain the child’s tendency to reverse letters, such as ‘p’ and ‘q’ or ‘b’ and ‘d’ when writing. Learning-related vision problems interfere with the visual processing system and cause affected children to reverse letters. Without detection, diagnosis, and vision therapy, the child will continue to reverse letters and struggle with reading, writing, and spelling.

Research indicates the major causes of letter reversals include the following:

  • Poor visual memory:  the ability to recall a visual image
  • Poor visualization: the ability to create a mental image
  • Poor visual-motor integrations:  the ability of the visual and muscular system to reinforce each other
  • Poor visual association: the ability to link what you see with something you saw, heard, or felt in the past.

If a child is lacking ability or skills in the areas of visual association, integration, visual-motor, and recall skills, he will be more likely than his peers to continue reversing letters when writing. Intensive vision therapy will strengthen visual skills, and with training and practice, letter reversals can be eliminated.

“Parents are often told the child will outgrow it. And this can be true. Continued exposure to letters and numbers will reduce reversals; but if the underlying causes are left untreated, learning will still be slow and school performance will suffer.” – Dr. Philip Nicholson

Without knowing and addressing the cause of letter reversals beyond the initial stages of learning development, a child will not automatically improve.

Assuming the child is dyslexic may not help, unfortunately, because the methods used for helping a dyslexic child learn are different from the methods used to improve visual processing in a child who has learning-related vision problems.

If your child is reversing letters beyond second grade or 8 years of age, we recommend screening for dyslexia and vision problems. Learn more about learning-related vision problems by downloading our free guide here and watching our webinar here.

If you live near Olney, MD, schedule an appointment with the Visual Learning Center for a thorough vision assessment.

What is Visual Processing Therapy?

Unless we have complete vision impairment, we all take information in from our environment through our eyes. However, it is the brain, not the eyes, that processes this visual information. We cannot make sense of what we see with our eyes without the accompanying healthy functioning of the brain and healthy communication between the eyes and brain. Normal visual processing requires a complex system of neurological activity to be developed and functioning properly.

Many children lack good visual processing skills. Because of a delay in development or disorder, their vision system has trouble computing visual input. They can’t make sense of what they see as easily as their peers who have a properly functioning vision system. Consequently, their performance of everyday tasks such as reading, memorizing, and studying tends to be slower than normal and their abilities in these areas can fall below average.

Effective visual processing therapy involves intense one-on-one vision training programs that develop skills vital for fast and efficient learning.

At the Visual Learning Center in Olney, MD, our visual processing therapy program specifically works on areas of processing speed and accuracy, selective concentration, visual memory, letter reversals, visual-motor integration and speed, and visualization.

Visual processing speed and accuracy involves reading words, sentences, and numbers quickly and accurately. Because students with visual processing problems tend to work slowly, vision therapy includes procedures designed to increase the speed with which they are able to process information, with greater precision.

Selective concentration requires a child to stay on a visual task, even with distractions present. During visual processing therapy, the child practices tasks repeatedly while also enduring distractions. This practice trains the visual processing system to improve and become more focused.

Visual memory refers to the ability to accurately remember what is only seen for a short period of time. In visual therapy, children complete activities created to enhance their memory so they can recall the visual information they take in more readily.

When children struggle with letter reversals, they confuse similarly shaped letters such as b, d, p and q. If this is a problem for your child, visual processing therapy will help them better recognize and correctly write the letters they have been reversing.

Another difficulty children with visual processing problems sometimes face is trouble with visual-motor integration and speed. In other words, their eye-hand coordination may be delayed or awkward. Through vision therapy, children’s visual-motor integration can improve significantly, which can improve confidence and performance in sports, physical activities, handwriting and social interaction.

Healthy visual processing also requires the ability to visualize. Visualization is the process of creating a mental picture in the mind that is used to solve a problem. Learning and school performance often requires problem solving, so vision therapy works to improve a child’s ability to visualize.

Visual processing skills are required for learning and functioning normally in everyday life. If your child has problems with visual processing, school, athletics, and even social interaction can be difficult. An intense visual processing therapy program can result in remarkable improvement in the areas of processing speed and accuracy, selective concentration, visual memory, letter reversals, visual-motor integration and speed, or visualization in a relatively short period of time.