Tag Archives: visual discrimination

children with visual discrimination problems

Poor visual discrimination skills are often mistaken for symptoms of dyslexia

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

Does your child struggle with reading? Have you noticed your child reversing letters? If so, you and your child’s teachers may suspect dyslexia. However, an undetected vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy could actually be to blame for letter reversals and other common learning problems.

Download our free guide: “10 Things You Need to Know About Vision” here.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that causes difficulty with reading, writing, and spelling. Reversing letters is one of the most familiar tell-tale signs of dyslexia, but letter reversals are common among children with treatable vision problems too.

People with dyslexia learn differently, and while they are often able to adapt and overcome the challenges they face, it is a condition that can’t be reversed.

Visual discrimination is a perceptual process involving our ability to correctly identify distinctive features of a visual stimulus, such as text. Visual discrimination skills enable a child to see and identify size, color, shape, and orientation.

Poor visual discrimination skills cause a child to have difficulty with directionality or laterality. With poor directionality or laterality skills, a child is unable to distinguish left from right on themselves, which causes them to have trouble distinguishing left from right on other objects, including letters and numbers.

For example, they will confuse b with d or q with p. They may also confuse b with p or d with q.

You will notice young children having trouble determining left from right, which is a normal phase of learning; but by the time a child reaches second grade, this skill should be fully developed. For those of us with a normal healthy visual processing system, this skill develops early and naturally. So if the child continues to confuse directions and reverse letters beyond second grade, they may need to undergo vision therapy to further develop the skill.

When visual discrimination isn’t functioning properly, similar letters and words will continue to be confused. In addition to directionality, they may confuse words that appear similar, such as “want” and “what.”

Without addressing this problem, deficient visual discrimination functions can be a lifelong challenge.

The good news is, unlike dyslexia and other learning disabilities, poor visual discrimination skills can be treated and improved significantly in a short period of time with vision therapy. Vision Therapy is a treatment program that includes exercises and procedures that are designed to enhance a child’s ability to control eye movement and visual processing.

View demonstrations of vision therapy exercises to improve visual discrimination skills here.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

If you suspect that your child might have a problem with visual discrimination, contact your nearest developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care for a comprehensive vision exam.

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

vision therapy exercises to do at home

3 Vision Therapy Exercises to Improve Common Reading Problems


Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center
offers Vision Therapy in Olney, MD near Silver Spring.

Common reading problems in children can be traced to a number of possible causes, including learning disabilities, dyslexia, or attention deficit disorder. However, one cause that is often overlooked is vision. An undetected functional vision problem could be the reason a child is struggling to read.

Click here for instant access to a webinar on how undetected vision deficiencies could be the reason behind common reading problems in children.

The good news is, unlike other diagnoses, learning-related vision problems can be treated and improved significantly in a short period of time with Vision Therapy. Vision Therapy is a treatment program that includes procedures and exercises designed to enhance a child’s ability to control eye movement and visual processing.

At the Visual Learning Center, which offers vision therapy in Olney, MD, a developmental optometrist and team of trained vision therapists provide individualized intensive treatment programs designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies in children.

Visual processing skills and eye movement can be developed and reinforced by practicing a prescribed set of exercises and activities that a child will do under the guidance of a trained vision therapist.

Patients at the Visual Learning Center are encouraged to supplement in-office treatment with additional practice at home, which we’ve found to enhance our vision therapy success stories.

To be clear, vision therapy will not help your child with reading difficulties if your child does not have a vision problem The only way to determine if your child’s common reading problem is caused by a vision deficiency is to undergo a comprehensive vision screening by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care. If your child is diagnosed with a vision problem, your doctor will prescribe an individualized intensive treatment program.   

The following activities are vision therapy exercises are intended to supplement in-office care to improve common reading problems and learning-related vision deficiencies:

Discrimination Orientation Arrows (DOA) is a vision therapy activity that develops visual discrimination, which is a skill essential in determining correct letter orientation and preventing letter reversals among students with learning-related vision problems.

This activity seeks to mimic the process of selecting a direction for each letter while writing.  “Should d point right or left? Should b point left or right? Which direction should I write q? Which direction should I write p?”

Watch the video  below to see a demonstration of the Discrimination Orientation Arrows activity in progress. Download your own activity board here.


With practice, the outcome children enjoy from the discrimination arrows activity is that they begin to catch mistakes faster and more easily, reduce the frequency of errors, and dramatically boost their self-esteem.

The Stickman Activity aims to improve eye movement skills and visual processing skills.

Doing this activity can improve laterality and directionality, which are required for reading, writing and recognizing direction and orientation of words and letters. This activity can also improve figure-ground perception, which is necessary to distinguish an image or text relative to its context or background. Additionally, the activity can enhance visual concentration, which is a skill that allows the eyes to fixate attention for a long enough period of time to read and comprehend.

Watch the video below for a demonstration. Download your Stickman Activity packet here.


Letter Tracking Activities are designed to improve eye movement skills and visual processing skills, such as discrimination.

Visual discrimination is a perceptual process that involves the ability to correctly identify basic features of a visual stimulus, such as text. Discrimination enables a child to see and identify shape, size, orientation, and color.

Poor visual discrimination skills cause a child to skip letters or words when reading and have problems with laterality and directionality.

Watch the video below for a demonstration. Download a Letter Tracking Activity packet here.


The letter tracking activity is useful to reduce writing and common reading problems caused by poor visual discrimination.

For vision therapy in Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment.

Vision Therapy Exercise: Letter Tracking Activity

You may notice that your child is skipping letters or words when reading. You might obseve that your child can not distinctly identify the left or right side of his body, or be able to recognize direction applied to objects and symbols such as letters. You may see him flipping or reversing letters when writing, or recognize that he is unable to distinguish ‘p’ from ‘q’ or ‘b’ from ‘d’ while reading. If so, it’s possible that your child has a visual processing problem, such as poor visual discrimination.

Visual discrimination is a perceptual process that involves the ability to correctly identify basic features of a visual stimulus, such as text. Discrimination allows us to see and identify shape, size, orientation, and color.

Weakness in the area of visual discrimination leads to skipping letters or words when reading, or poor laterality and directionality. Laterality and directionality are skills required to write and recognize words with the correct orientation, or direction.

A visual processing problem, such as poor visual discrimination can be identified through a comprehensive functional vision exam, by a trained developmental optometrist.

Once a child is diagnosed with a visual processing problem, fortunately, an individualized vision therapy program will likely lead to significant improvement quickly. (Click here to view vision therapy success stories.)

In addition to in-office vision therapy, Dr. Philip Nicholson of the Visual Learning Center in Olney, MD, also recommends supplemental vision therapy activities that can be done at home.

One example of a vision therapy activity that can be practiced outside of the office is letter tracking. Letter tracking activities are designed to improve eye movement skills and visual processing skills, such as discrimination.

The vision therapy letter tracking activity involves drawing a continuous line, looping and circling letters of the alphabet, in sequential order, as directed. Patients first strive for accuracy, and then progress toward greater speed while maintaining accuracy. If the patient skips letters, he will find that the activity cannot be completed, and he can start again. This activity is useful to improve visual discrimination and reduce the errors that occur in reading, writing, and other activities due to poor visual discrimination.

Watch the video below for a demonstration of letter tracking and download a letter tracking packet here.

Should you wish to learn more about this vision therapy activity for visual discrimination improvement or schedule an appointment with Visual Learning Center in Olney, Maryland, contact us today at (301) 570-4611.

How Vision Problems Interfere with Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension refers to a child’s ability to not only read the text on a page, but also process it and understand its meaning.

For a child to develop reading comprehension, the entire visual processing system must work efficiently. Seeing the text clearly is only the first step in the process. Your child must know how to sound out a word or remember a word on sight, understand each word’s meaning, and then make sense of sentences and paragraphs.

Intelligence is one factor in reading comprehension, but there are many more factors that come into play in a child’s ability to both read and comprehend. Some bright children have difficulty with reading comprehension due to problems with their visual processing system.

In order to read, we take in visual information in the form of text and then decode it into mental images to which we assign meaning, and then retain and use those images to categorize and recall for future use.

Taking in visual information efficiently requires the coordination of hundreds of eye muscles and strong oculomotor control. If there is a weakness or deficiency, this can affect a child’s ability to focus both eyes on the same spot simultaneously or to move their eyes smoothly as a team across a line of text. Poor eye tracking,  eye teaming, or focus leads to difficulty and frustration for a child, and the extra effort to take in visual information may cause fatigue, headaches, or the inability to maintain attention.

Once the visual information is taken in through the eyes, the process of comprehension has only just begun.  Next up, a child’s brain will have to run the information through the process of visual perception, meaning they will have to be able to extract the information they see and use it appropriately.

Efficient visual perception is needed for a child to recognize and remember letters, words, and their meaning. If a child has a deficiency related to visual perception, he will struggle with minor differences in similar words or letters. This may lead to confusing p with q or d with b, for example; or it may also mean conflating words with similar beginnings, reading words backwards, or having difficulty distinguishing the main idea of a story from a minor detail. Recognizing, remembering, and applying information quickly and easily is critical for performance in reading comprehension, and student must have a healthy vision system to do so.

The following are specific ways visual perceptual processing may interfere with reading comprehension:

Visual Spatial Skills and Visual Discrimination are required to organize visual space and understand directional concepts and orientation. A child with poor visual spatial and discrimination skills may process a letter or word backwards.

Visualization is the ability to create a mental image in one’s mind, which is important for processing and remembering information for comprehension. When someone says, “I see what you mean,” we think of this a an idiom, but when it comes to reading and visual processing, we really are creating mental images that help us to comprehend. We’re essentially seeing something in our mind.

Visual Memory is the ability to retain information that you have learned. A child must be able to recognize and remember a word from one page, assignment, and day to the next. He must create an image of that word or set of words in his mind and recall it as needed.

Visual Sequential Memory refers to the ability to remember the proper sequence of words, letters, or story narrative, in the same order it was seen originally. Keeping the images of what they recall in order is of course critical to comprehension.

So, as you can see, the ability to comprehend is not simply a function of intelligence.

If a child is having difficulty moving and coordinating his eye muscles properly and then the child also has difficulty processing that information visually in his brain, he is going to perform poorly in the area of reading comprehension as a result.

If a student has a visual processing problem, reading comprehension can be improved significantly and relatively quickly with an individualized comprehensive vision therapy plan. If you suspect your child has a learning-related vision problem that interferes with reading comprehension, contact a developmental optometrist for a functional vision exam and vision therapy program.

If you are in the Olney. Maryland area, convenient to Silver Spring, schedule an appointment with Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today.