We see therefore we perceive; we perceive therefore we see. Vision and perception are two sides of a coin, which are mutually supporting. Human beings- adults and children alike are dependent on these two aspects for most of the day to day functioning. We learn to read and write because we can see and perceive. And if anything was to go wrong with either of these our learning gets affected.

When children explore their world, they rely most on the sense of sight. It is the visual world that gives children information about color, shape, and form, and provides an opportunity to revise ideas based upon visual data gathered from new experiences. By exploring and experiencing the visual world, children can meet their growing needs to understand and interpret their world.  Visual information processing means being able to quickly and accurately process and analyze what is being seen, and store it in visual memory for later recall.

For example, in the classroom when reading and writing, it is important to be able to quickly and accurately decode, comprehend and remember written material whilst still being able to listen to the teacher. As about 80% of the information in the classroom and at home is presented visually, visual processing skills have a vital role in the learning process. Reading and mathematics are two subjects where accurate perception and understanding of spatial relationships are very important since both of these subjects rely heavily on the use of symbols (letters, numbers, punctuation, math signs). Children must have crisp, sharp eyesight in order to see the print clearly.

They must also be able to coordinate their eye movements as a team; follow a line of print without losing their place; maintain clear focus as they read or make quick focusing changes when looking up to the board and back to their desks. Also they must be able to interpret and accurately process what they are seeing. If a child has inadequate visual skills in any of these areas, he/she can experience great difficulty in school, especially in reading because of difficulty with letter and word recognition. If a child cannot accurately visually discriminate the letter ‘b’ from the letter ‘d’ and the letter ‘p’ from the letter ‘q’; he/she will be unable to reliably reproduce these letters upon demand.

If a child has problem with visual closure, he/she may have difficulty with accurate letter formation and handwriting legibility may be poor. Thus, visual processing skills are necessary to establish a strong foundation for learning. At the age of 5 years eyes are mature enough to successfully engage in learning activities. If a child has difficulty remaining focused during the early years, the first place to look is for visual immaturity. If a child is not able to read word correctly or skips word or place while reading parents take the child for eye check-up. If they couldn’t find any problem with Visual Acuity-Distance(clarity of sight in the distance, 20/20 eyesight as measured by the standard Snellen eye chart)., with only this information, the parents and teachers are less likely to consider vision as a factor contributing to child’s learning problems and they feel child is not interested in studies.

As a result, many children with visual processing disorder that would respond to intervention often go untreated. Children with visual processing disorder exhibit loss of place as the print “swims” and moves, eyestrain, fatigue headaches and frustration. In addition, children can be easily distracted, finding it difficult to concentrate and remain on task when the strain on their eyes is so great. Many of these symptoms overlap with common behavioral disorders. Too often some teachers do not fully understand the disorder and assume that any inattentive behaviors, especially in the class room or workplace, must be ADHD. Thus, many of these children are often misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder or other behavioral disorders.

Many children experience problems with learning and behavior occasionally, but if your child consistently displays difficulties with these tasks over time, testing for visual processing disorders by trained Pediatric Occupational Therapist should be considered. Children at risk for learning-related vision problems should receive a comprehensive eye examination in which all appropriate areas of visual function are evaluated. A thorough assessment of a child’s reading ability, vocabulary, visual memory, attention span and eye movements is necessary for diagnosis. Glasses alone will not correct many of these problems. Time and further maturation may improve the problem, but it is best to get proper evaluation and care. By learning more about visual processing disorder in general, and your child’s learning difficulties in particular, you can help pave the way for success at school and beyond.Introductory content.

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This article was contributed by Dr. Ganesh Tajane

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