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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.

daughter struggling with reading

7 Reasons Children With Undiagnosed Vision Problems Struggle to Read

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

Is your child struggling to read, and you don’t know why? One of the most frequent complaints by parents who visit the Visual Learning Center is that their child is having difficulty reading or reading below grade level.

This can be particularly disheartening for parents who love to read or remember fondly curling up with a good book as a child. You may have even noticed that your child seemed to read easily in Kindergarten, but then fell behind as time went on.

You sense something is wrong, but assessments and interventions for learning disabilities, dyslexia, or attention deficit disorders haven’t helped.

One commonly overlooked type of condition that might be interfering with your child’s ability to read could be a learning-related functional vision problem, even with “20/20” eyesight. An undiagnosed vision disorder or deficiency can make reading incredibly difficult.

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

When parents first learn that their child may potentially have a learning-related vision problem that’s interfering with their ability to read well, they usually wonder why the school’s vision screening or family eye doctor didn’t detect a problem.

The problem is routine vision screenings typically only test for the child’s ability to see clearly at a distance for a few moments. Reading requires intense and sustained focusing of the eyes for a prolonged period time, moving the eyes smoothly along lines of text, and processing of the information through the entire visual system for comprehension.

Here are 7 Reasons Children With Undiagnosed Vision Problems Struggle to Read (even with 20/20 eyesight):

They lose their place when reading.

To read, the eye jumps across the text and fixates on certain points; with each fixation, the child takes in either a whole word or part of a word while the eye is momentarily stationary. If your child has trouble with eye tracking, they will often lose their place in the text, making reading difficult.

They see letters in reverse.

Many parents assume letter reversals are always a sign of dyslexia. Letter reversals are also a common symptom of vision problems, such as eye movement disorders and visual processing deficiencies, which can make reading challenging.

Their eyes are not moving together as a team.

The ability to move, turn, and point the eyes together at the same time is called eye teaming or binocular vision skills. If a child’s eyes are not working together as a team, they may be experiencing double vision or blurry vision, which makes reading tiring.

Their eyes and brain do not work together efficiently.

Vision includes a lot more than eyesight. Vision is comprised of three main components — reception, processing, and output; and each of these main components of vision is complex. If any aspect of the complex vision system is not functioning in a normal and healthy way, this can interfere with the ability to read.

Their eyes do not stay focused.

Children with accommodative dysfunction, or trouble focusing, have difficulty maintaining a clear image for a reasonable length of time. Reading is challenging because the text grows fuzzy or blurred, and they have to strain to stay focused.

They quickly forget what they just learned or read.

Visual memory is the ability to look at something, create a mental image for that thing, and hold that picture in your mind for later recall and use. To read, a child must look at a word, recognize and recall individual letters and strings of letters, create a mental image for that word and associate it with a meaning, and hold that word picture in mind to see and retrieve later. If a child has a visual memory deficiency, the process is a struggle and it affects their ability to read.

They’re frustrated and tired.

Children with vision problems are constantly overcompensating for their deficiencies and straining, so resulting  irritability and physical symptoms are common. For this reason, the child may seem restless or “act out” with disruptive behavior. They may experience headaches or exhaustion after reading or complain that their eyes hurt, feel tired, or that their eyes are excessively dry or watery.

To detect a learning-related vision problem, your child must undergo a thorough functional vision exam by an optometrist trained in developmental vision care.

Once diagnosed, the good news is, an individualized vision therapy program can result in significant improvement in a relatively short period of time.

If your family is located in the Olney or Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland area, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today to schedule an appointment.

Visual Processing Disorders Often Go Undetected in Children

Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center 
provides developmental optometry and vision therapy
in Olney, MD and the surrounding Silver Spring area.

A visual processing disorder is a type of perceptual deficiency that hinders a child’s ability to make sense of information that they take in through their eyes. When a child has a visual processing disorder, they may see clearly and their eyes may function normally, but they are not able to efficiently or effectively interpret, categorize, remember, or associate meaning with the images and information in their brain.

It’s the brain, not the eyes, that associates meaning with images, symbols, text, and spatial dimensions or distance. Typical vision exams usually only test for clarity and sharpness of vision.  Even with 20/20 eyesight, there can be a weakness in visual processing that interferes with learning and other functions.

Warning signs and symptoms of visual processing disorders include:

Difficulty reading, complaints of tiredness while reading, losing place or skipping words while reading:

Visual processing disorders can cause children to mix up the order of words and letters, reverse letters, or have poor visual memory, which affects comprehension and leads to confusion and frustration.

Trouble with math or inability to make progress in math:

If a child has a visual processing disorder, you may first notice that they have trouble remembering numbers, such as their phone number or address. They may copy down the wrong numbers from the board or from an equation. They may also confuse math symbols or have difficulty distinguishing the order and meaning of symbols in an equation.

Messy handwriting, difficulty buttoning or zipping clothes, trouble cutting food or using scissors:

In these cases, the child may be experiencing a visual processing problem related to their visual-motor skills and fine motor skills, meaning they are having difficulty coordinating what they see with their associated body movements to accomplish tasks.

Types of visual processing disorders include issues with:

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

Visual figure-ground discrimination: the ability to distinguish a shape or text from the background in which it’s situated

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

Visual discrimination: the ability to recognize the difference between similar shapes, objects, or letters, such as p and q or b and d

Visual spatial processing: the ability to tell distance or space of an object, either physically or on paper. This also affects understanding of time and narrative, which interferes with comprehension.

Visual memory: the ability to recall what they’ve seen or read, which could occur either in the short-term or long-term. This interferes with reading, comprehension, and spelling, as well as using a keyboard or calculator.

Visual-motor processing: the ability to use what you see with your eyes to coordinate movement in the rest of your body. This interferes with writing, drawing, cutting, tasks that require hand-eye coordination, and sports.

Much of what we learn and do requires efficient and effective visual processing. If there is not a problem, these visual processing skills are easily taken for granted in a normal, healthy, functioning visual system.

If a child has a visual processing disorder, however, it can cause many problems in school with learning, in social situations, and with self-esteem. A large percentage of children who have trouble in school have some sort of processing disorder, including visual processing.

The good news is, intensive vision therapy treatment can improve visual processing skills and even cure visual processing deficiencies.

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 an exam to detect possible visual processing disorders and vision therapy in Onley, Maryland and Silver Spring, contact The Visual Learning Center today.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

A child that sees like this can pass a vision screening [infographic]

As a parent, you’re dedicated to ensuring your children are healthy, thriving, and have access to the best available learning opportunities. So when your child undergoes an eye exam at school or with your family eye doctor and passes with “20/20 eyesight” or a prescription for corrective lenses, you’re probably confident that his or her vision is fine.

As far as common knowledge goes, you’ve done everything necessary to make sure your child is able to see clearly enough to perform well in school. If your child continues to struggle in school, it must be due to something else, right?

Unfortunately, most eye exams do not test for functional vision problems that often interfere with learning and performance. A typical eye exam with your family optometrist or ophthalmologist generally only tests to determine if your child can see clearly at a distance for a period long enough to complete the exam. It doesn’t test for eye movement and visual processing problems that may affect your child’s ability to see, learn, and complete tasks for a sustained period of time in a learning environment.

The general exam doesn’t check into how well the eyes work together as a team, how quickly the eyes focus when moving from one visual plane to another, how smoothly the eyes move across the page when reading, how efficiently the brain processes information taken in by the eyes, or a number of other areas of functional vision.

Only a functional vision exam by an optometrist trained in developmental vision care can diagnose learning-related vision problems such as convergence insufficiency, amblyopia, strabismus, blurred vision, double vision, and more.

Children who see like the illustrations below can still pass a typical vision test:

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Right Click + Save to Download

As you can now see, if your child sees like any of the above illustrations, learning can be challenging. Children with functional vision problems struggle more than their peers to learn, not because they are not bright and capable of learning, but because their visual system is not functioning in a healthy manner.

The good news is, once he or she receives an appropriate diagnosis, a personalized and intensive vision therapy program can lead to significant lasting improvements in a relatively short period of time.

Click here to read “9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem,” to learn more about signs and symptoms of functional vision problems that interfere with learning.

After reviewing the signs and symptoms, if you suspect your child may have a learning-related vision problem, schedule a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist today.

If you are located in Olney or Silver Spring, MD, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment today.

Vision Therapy Activity – Sight Words Search and Tracking

When a child has difficulty with reading because he struggles with losing his place, skipping words or lines, recognizing, remembering, or spelling words, or reversing letters, these challenges may indicate an undetected learning-related vision problem. Your child might have visual processing skills deficiencies or underdeveloped eye movement skills, making it difficult to coordinate eye muscles or process visual information correctly and efficiently.

Only a functional vision exam by an optometrist who specializes in developmental vision care can diagnose or rule out a learning-related vision problem. Fortunately, if your child is diagnosed with a learning-related vision problem, vision therapy can help significantly. A comprehensive vision therapy program, complete with intensive vision training by a qualified vision therapist is most effective when supplemented by practice at home.

At the Visual Learning Center in Olney, MD, we encourage the patients in our vision therapy programs to practice a variety of activities at home.

Today, we have two activities involving ‘sight words’ to introduce you to. The first is a tracking activity and the second is a sight words word search. The tracking activity packet uses sight words and is designed to develop and strengthen not only spelling skills but also eye movement skills and visual processing skills in the areas of ‘figure ground’ and ‘figure concentration.’

Watch the video to learn more and view a demonstration:

Download your tracking packet HERE.

The tracking packet is broken up into varying levels of difficulty and is appropriate for beginning and remedial readers. Level one is the easiest, and each activity asks the child to spell a word, starting on the first row, going from left to right, as if we were reading, we find and circle the letters of the word in the proper sequence and record the time it takes.

If necessary, the person doing the activity can use a finger to keep his or her place, but only up to level 3, by which point the patient should be tracking only with the eyes.

The goal of practicing with the tracking packet is to increase the speed it takes to go through each activity, and do so without errors from skipping a letter or missing the target word.

The word search activity is more challenging and is also broken down by level of difficulty. In beginning levels, you see words that are used more frequently in printed materials than later levels. You can add a timer as an element to increase difficulty.