Visual Processing Disorder

Young girl at the eye doctors

Could You or a Family Member Have a Visual Processing Disorder?

Trouble reading and writing or difficulty following instructions aren't always related to learning disabilities or behavioral issues. A problem with the way the brain processes visual information may be to blame for these and other challenges.

What Are Visual Processing Disorders?

Visual processing disorders (VPD) aren't caused by a problem with the eyes. In fact, you can have 20/20 vision and still have one of these disorders. VPDs occur when the brain struggles to process the information it receives from the eyes. When processing is slow, inefficient, or inconsistent, you or your child may have difficulty recognizing words, completing math problems, or copying a simple diagram.

VPDs are often confused with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia (a reading disorder), dyspraxia (a coordination disorder), or dysgraphia (a learning disorder that affects handwriting).

What Are the Symptoms of Visual Processing Disorders?

If you have a VPD, you may:

  • Lose your place often when reading.
  • Read the same line more than once.
  • Struggle to recognize letters, words, or colors.
  • See words or letters backward or in the wrong order.
  • Read slowly and fail to remember what you read.
  • Have difficulty writing on lined paper.
  • Misunderstand the rules of a game or find it hard to follow step-by-step instructions.
  • Bump into things.
  • Struggle with sports and activities that require hand-eye coordination.
  • Not be able to distinguish an image from its background.
  • Have trouble with directions or distinguishing left from right.
  • Fail to copy words, numbers, or images correctly.
  • Find it impossible to recognize incomplete letters, numbers, or images.
  • Seem to have a short attention span due to your processing difficulties.
  • Have difficulty remembering phone numbers, passwords, or spelling words.
  • Write illegibly with odd spacing and poorly formed letters.

Children and adults who have visual processing disorders may experience eyestrain, fatigue, and headaches as they struggle to read and make sense of the world around them. Although VPD is not a learning disorder, it interferes with your child's ability to learn and can lead to low self-esteem, depression, frustration, and behavioral problems.

VPD symptoms vary depending on the type of processing disorder. If you have a spatial relations problem, you may have trouble recognizing the position of letters, numbers, and objects and determining the distance between them. The disorder can cause you to reverse letters and numbers or mistake letters that are similar. A visual memory issue may affect your ability to remember directions, recognize words, or even recall faces.

How Are Visual Processing Disorders Diagnosed and Treated?

During a comprehensive vision examination, your vision therapist will perform a variety of tests that will help him or her determine if you have a VPD, as well as diagnose a specific disorder or disorders. If you are diagnosed with a VPD, your therapist will recommend a therapy plan that will help your brain improve its ability to quickly and accurately identify, organize and process information received from the eyes.

Vision therapy involves aids, devices, prisms, lenses, activities, and games designed to challenge your brain and enhance and expand its capabilities. For example, if you often confuse letters or numbers, you might play a matching game that helps you recognize like objects and distinguish between colors and shapes. With each therapy session, you'll retrain your brain and gradually improve your visual processing skills.

Vision therapy can help you overcome the many challenges of a visual processing disorder. Contact our office to schedule an appointment for you or your child.


Hartford Courant: Making Sure That Vision Problems Don’t Affect a Child’s Learning, 8/16/20

College of Optometrists in Vision Development: Signs & Symptoms of Learning-Related Vision Problems

StatPearls: Visual Discrimination, 9/27/20

ScienceDirect: Visual Memory


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