This month I’ll be telling you about the cognitive area of Visual Processing. This is exactly what it sounds like; it is how you brain interprets and processes visual information. There is a lot your brain has to process to interpret what we see. You have to be able to perceive and think about visual patterns, visual sequences, and see letters and symbols as they really are. Of course if you have a vision impairment this will impact your eyes ability to see; however, when we talk about visual processing we are talking about what the brain is doing not what the eye is able to do.
If a child struggles in this area they might struggle to orient themselves in their own space. It might seem like they have difficulty paying attention to where other people or objects are. This is because they aren’t able to use the visual cues around them to help guide where those things move. Let’s meet Jimmy who is a student who struggles with visual processing. As you can imagine, if Jimmy is walking around bumping into objects or standing too close to someone this can impact him socially. Also, imagine him in gym class! He isn’t the most athletic student. Academically, visuals like graphs, models, diagrams, and charts might be confusing for him.
Let’s let Jimmy tell us more about how his is visual processing weaknesses impact him…
If I’m not perceiving words, letters, and numbers as being separate that will make me very confused too. I might struggle to go in the right direction when I’m solving a math problem or reading something. This makes it even worse when letters and numbers look alike! If I see a p I might not know if it’s a p or a q very quickly. When I’m solving 6 X 2 I might glance and think it’s 9 X 2.
Especially, when I’m reading I’m likely to be inconsistent with recognizing words, symbols, and letters. When I see a picture I might not be able to see all of the details and everything might blend in together with the background.
I might dislike writing because it’s hard for me to organize my thoughts on paper. Then if I have to look at my book and answer questions on a worksheet or type on my computer. It’s hard for me to transition between the two.
When I do math I get lost trying to find information in my book when I’m looking at number lines, graphs, and charts. Even if I’m doing an activity on my computer, it can be hard. The hardest is when I have to write my math problems on my paper all by myself. I just can’t seem to keep everything lined up in a neat row. It’s so hard for me to compare objects in math problems. I try to picture it, but I can’t.
Luckily, I have a teacher, Ms. Brown, who understand these things are difficult for me, and she uses all these tricks so I can understand better. She used tape on my desk at the left side so I know where to start all my work. She taught me to use my finger from left to right under the words when I read so I don’t get lost as much. She also put a helpful chart on my desk to help me remember which letters and numbers I confuse so now I can use it to see that it really is 6 X 2. My favorite thing Ms. Brown did was give me graph paper to write my math problems on! Now I don’t have to worry as much about lining them up neatly! This year we were able to learn to write in cursive, and that helped me out a lot since I don’t have to pick up my pencil as often. Ms. Brown even gave me this cool grip I put on my pencil that makes it easier to write! Even though those tricks help me a lot, when Ms. Brown gives us a long writing assignment she gives me the option of typing it up or writing on paper. I’m always so excited to use the computer because I’m able to write more of what I know quicker. When Ms. Brown gives me notes she highlights the important stuff just for me! That way when I go to study it’s not so overwhelming. Sometimes instead of highlighting it she’ll let me fill in the blank. I love this because I can focus more on what we are learning instead of freaking out about trying to write everything I hear down. Charts and maps still get confusing, but she lets Matt, my friend who sits beside me, work with me on them. It really helps when Matt explains what the chart means to him.
I hope Jimmy’s story of his visual processing struggles helps you work with Jimmy and his friends this school year!