Tag Archives: reversing letters

visual memory disorder

Visual Memory: Why Do Some Children Struggle to Remember Something They Just Learned?

Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar?

  • Your son studied for his spelling test. You drilled and quizzed him the night before, and he seemed to know his words; but his grade was much lower than you expected. He’s a smart kid, but his poor spelling is an ongoing challenge.
  • Your daughter learned to read a new word on page 5 of her book; but by page 25, she doesn’t even recognize the same word and struggles to read it all over again.
  • Your child can’t seem to remember his own phone number or address. He forgets details he’s read and can’t recall the order of events. You’re frustrated that he keeps forgetting things, and you’re starting to wonder if he’s ignoring important information out of carelessness.
  • Your kid has difficulty using a keyboard or calculator. Kids these days are whizzes at typing and texting, but she slowly hunts for each letter, number, and character.

Each of these behaviors could possibly indicate that your child has a visual processing problem — specifically, a visual memory disorder.

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. In learning 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.

For children with strong visual memory skills, this process happens efficiently and without strained effort. If a child has a visual memory deficiency, however, the process is a struggle and affects the ability to learn easily.

Eighty percent of what we learn is visual; so being able to visually picture and remember what we see is a critical component of learning.

Discover more about how vision affects learning by watching this video for parents.

If a child has difficulty processing and storing visual information in his short-term memory, he will not be able to recall that information in his longer-term memory for later use. If he wasn’t able to properly input and store the mental image of his spelling word the night before, he is not going to recall and spell it correctly on his test the following day.

Strong visual memory is a critical skill for word recognition and reading comprehension. You may not have considered this before, but each word has its own unique shape — its own form, which we capture in a mental image — that we must instantaneously recognize while reading.

A student with a healthy visual memory function will be able to learn and recall a new word after being exposed to that word one time, or a few times. A student with a visual memory disorder has to be exposed to a word repeatedly, many times, before retaining it. They’re no less intelligent than their peers; they simply aren’t creating and retaining the mental image due to a skills deficiency.

When we read, we put words and phrases together with visual images to conceptualize meaning. If we can see pictures in our mind and form a clear mental image of what’s taking place in the text as we’re reading, it enables us to comprehend.

Once the visual information is taken in through the eyes, the process of comprehension has only just begun. Next, the brain runs the information through the process of visual perception to extract the information and use it.

Visual memory is what enables a child to recognize and remember letters, words, and their meaning. Recognizing, remembering, and applying information quickly and easily is critical for performance in reading comprehension, and student must have a healthy visual memory for ease of comprehension.

Poor visual memory is also a common cause for letter reversals. A student with a visual memory problem will be more likely than his peers to continue reversing letters, such as b and d or p and q, because they may recall the shape but not the correct laterality or directionality.

A typical routine eye exam will not detect a deficiency in visual memory. If you suspect a visual memory problem, schedule a comprehensive functional vision exam with an optometrist who specializes in functional or developmental vision care is trained to test for a visual memory.

Without well-developed visual memory skills children will struggle to learn. The good news is an individualized vision therapy program can improve visual memory skills significantly. In vision therapy, children complete activities created to enhance their memory so they can recall the visual information they take in more readily. Click here for vision therapy success stories.

If your family is located in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr, Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule a comprehensive vision exam today.

What Your Child’s Handwriting Could Reveal About Struggles With Reading

Many children struggle to read because of an undiagnosed vision problem. These children are often bright and may have passed a vision screening with 20/20 eyesight; so it is not always readily apparent that a vision deficiency is to blame for difficulty reading. Most parents and educators are simply unaware that vision is so critical to learning and that healthy vision is comprised of so much more than being able to pass a typical eye exam.

Sometimes parents and teachers attribute reading and learning difficulties to laziness, behavior problems, or attention deficits. You may notice that your child is skipping words or lines or seeming to bounce around the text; so you might assume that he or she is distracted, being careless, or not trying hard enough.

The truth is, a child with learning-related vision problems often becomes frustrated. Every effort to complete tasks, such as reading and writing that comes more naturally and easily to their classmates with healthy normal vision systems requires extra effort and strain. Because they are young and unaware that a problem exists, they are unable to articulate what they are experience and their self-esteem often suffers.

More often than not, your child will not be able to tell you that he’s experiencing a vision problem, because he has no way of knowing his experience isn’t normal. Your family eye doctor doesn’t usually detect a problem, because he is only trained to test for specific eye conditions. Teachers, occupational therapists, and other professionals are all-too-often simply uninformed about learning-related vision deficiencies.

So how can you know if a vision problem could be to blame for your child’s reading and learning difficulties and trouble in school?

Click here for 9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem

Poor handwriting skills could be a sign that your child is struggling with a functional vision problem.

Exceptionally messy handwriting with crooked or poorly-spaced letters or words could indicate an undetected functional vision deficiency that is interfering with your child’s ability to read and learn.

Misaligned words or letters in your child’s handwriting could be a clue that your child is struggling with poor eye teaming or eye tracking — functions crucial to following text on a page without strain.

If your child’s letters are big and sloppy, this might be due to avoiding using the visual system as much as possible while writing. They may avoid looking directly at the paper and scribble words on the page while barely looking.

Conversely, a child with vision problem may have tiny handwriting. If they struggle with visual-motor function, they may make an extra-concentrated effort to control their hand using minimal movement, and the result is unusually small handwriting.

Another indication way handwriting may indicate a learning-related vision problem is that your child’s handwriting may become increasingly messy over time. She may start off her homework with relatively neat writing, but 15 minutes later, you can barely make out what she’s written. This is because a child with a functional vision deficiency is constantly struggling to keep the eyes turned, focused, and moving smoothly from left to right. So the strain quickly leads to fatigue that becomes apparent in declining handwriting.

You may also notice that your child reverses letters, such as ‘p’ and ‘q’ or ‘b’ and ‘d’ when writing. Often confused with dyslexia, a learning-related vision problem may be interfering with the visual processing system and cause affected children to reverse letters.

To be clear, messy handwriting or writing errors are not always a sign that a child has a vision problem. But if your bright child is struggling with reading and you’re not sure why, it’s time to start looking for some answers. If you’re aware and you look carefully enough, you may start to see some of the telltale signs, such as the handwriting clues we’ve outlined here.

Handwriting problems may arise if a child has a problem with visual dominance due to amblyopia (lazy eye), deficient eye movement skills, or poor visualization skills, among other possible problems — all of which affect reading and learning as well.

The good news is, vision therapy can help, and your child can experience a significant improvement in a relatively short period of time. A child can learn to strengthen eye movement skills, look ahead to where the pencil is going, point and focus eyes in the right place, incorporate peripheral vision, and more.  Vision therapy that improves handwriting will also improve learning. 

If you suspect your child has a learning-related vision problem, schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

To learn more about how vision affects learning, download our free guide here, and watch our webinar for parents here.

If you live in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule a comprehensive vision exam today.

Click here to learn more about why your child loses his place while reading. To learn more about how vision problems interfere with reading comprehension, click here. To find more information about how vision therapy will help your child with reading, go here.

summer reading

Summer Vision Screening: When a Bright Child Struggles in School Summer is the Season to Discover Why

As your child wraps up another school year, now may be a good time to reassess his or her progress and struggles. You might be asking yourself some of the following questions and wondering what you can do to help set your child up for success as a student:

  • Did my child advance this year or seem to fall behind?
  • Is my child reading on-level, or still having difficulty keeping up with classmates?
  • Did my child’s behavior disrupt his learning environment this year?
  • Does social awkwardness or clumsiness seem to be interfering with my child’s happiness or self-esteem?

If you are concerned about your child’s performance in school, or perhaps in social interactions and sports, summer is the season to focus on getting to the root of your child’s difficulties and finding the best available help.

If you and your child are dreading making your way through the summer reading list, it may be time to figure out why what could be an enjoyable activity has become such a chore.

When a child struggles in school, summer can be a welcome break from suffering through long days in the classroom and tackling difficult homework assignments in the evenings. Without the daily stress of school, summer can also be the best time to schedule assessments for learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, perceptual deficiencies that could be interfering with learning, and start treatment.

What you may not have considered is that one possible culprit behind your child’s struggles could be a vision problem. Learning-related vision problems are often over-looked because symptoms sometimes mimic or appear similar to learning disabilities, dyslexia, or attention deficit disorder.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

Children with vision problems that interfere with learning are often found to have “20/20” eyesight when they undergo typical vision screenings at school or with the family eye doctor, so parents and teachers may not suspect a problem with vision. A more thorough functional vision exam is needed to uncover visual processing deficiencies.

When a child’s vision system does not work efficiently, visual skills deficiencies can contribute to learning problems. For the learning process to work as it should, your child must first be able to see, then use what he sees to understand. The ability to see letters on a chart for an eye exam is not enough — 20/20 is just the beginning.

Symptoms of vision problems include, but are not limited to:

  • Squinting while reading near or far
  • Rubbing red, irritated, or watering eyes
  • Rubbing temple or forehead and complaining of headaches
  • Complaints of dizziness or motion sickness
  • Skipping words or losing place while reading
  • Confusing similar words
  • Reversing letters
  • Being easily distracted, inattentive, unable to stay on task
  • Disruptive behavior, especially after expressing frustration with work
  • Poor hand-eye coordination, depth perception, or awkwardness and clumsiness
  • Performing noticeably better on oral vs. written demonstrations of learning

If you or your child’s teacher have noticed any of these symptoms, take your child to an optometrist that specializes in developmental and functional care for an in-depth vision screening this summer. If your child is found to have a problem with eye focusing, eye teaming, eye tracking, or visual processing, you could be one step closer to having answers you need to improving your child’s performance in school and self-esteem.

The good news is, with an individualized vision therapy program, significant progress can be made within a relatively short period of time, even in time for next school year.

If you live in or near Olney, MD, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson, O.D. and his staff at the Visual Learning Center. Call 301-570-4611 for a comprehensive assessment and to see if your child might significantly benefit from vision therapy this summer.