What is Visual Processing Disorder?

Visual processing disorder can cause issues with the way the brain processes visual information. There are many different types of processing disorder and many different symptoms, which can include trouble drawing or copying, inability to detect differences in shapes or letters, and letter reversals.Visual processing disorders (VPDs) affect many students diagnosed with language-based learning disabilities.


There are eight different types of visual processing difficulties, each with its own symptoms. An individual can have more than one type of visual processing difficulty.


Trouble seeing the difference between similar letters, shapes, or objects


Struggle to distinguish a shape or letter from its background


Find it difficult to see shapes, letters, or words in the correct order; may skip lines or read the same line over and over


Trouble using what they see to coordinate with the way they move; may struggle to write within lines or bump into objects              while walking


Struggle to remember shapes, symbols, or objects they’ve seen, causing issues with reading and spelling


Trouble understanding where objects are in space; unsure how close objects are to one another


Difficulty identifying an object when only parts of it are showing


Switch numbers or letters when writing, or may mistake “b” for “d” or “w” for “m”1

What is Visual Discrimination?

Visual discrimination is the ability to recognize details in visual images. It allows people to identify the size, shape or form, color and position of objects and printed material. Visual discrimination skills also enable people to identify likenesses and differences between specific images.

For children, much of how they learn is through visual observation. Also, every book or nature walk is an adventure, as kids take in the variety of shapes, colors, people, and animals they encounter. Having strong visual discrimination skills enables children to observe details in their environment.

Why Visual Discrimination Skills Are Important

To be able to read, children need to distinguish between the numerous and various symbols that comprise our written language. As children become familiar with written language, they will become aware of the fact that words are groups of letters separated by spaces. They must then notice that letters are different than numerals, and they must learn the names of all the letters (both uppercase and lowercase) and the numerals 0 to 9. To be able to do this, children must be able to recognize distinct characteristics of each symbol. While adults do this with ease, think of the concentration it takes for a child to recognize and name the letter E when it is so similar to the letter F, the letter L or even the letter H. There are very slight differences in many letters (b, d, and p for example) and numerals (look at 6 and 9 or 2 and 5), so it is important for children to have finely developed visual discrimination skills to enable them to recognize and remember these differences.

Visual discrimination skills are also important in many other areas of the school curriculum. Think about the learning that takes place throughout a school day as children observe their environment. Science experiments, demonstrations in physical education class, stories told with accompanying pictures to discuss and on and on! Even such basic things as learning the names of new classmates and recognizing which cubbyhole and coat hook is theirs depend on strong visual discrimination skills.

Practice With Activities at Home

There are many activities that you can do with your child to help him hone his visual discrimination skills. Once your child realizes the importance of looking closely at things around him, he will be well on his way. You’ll be surprised how sharp and observant those little eyes can be!

Read books about “opposites.” Discuss with children the differences between the two pictures. This helps children learn the concept of “same and different.”

Teach your child the names of basic shapes, such as square, triangle, circle, rectangle, oval and diamond. Some of these shapes are similar (circle/oval or square/rectangle/diamond), so discriminating between them will take some concentration and observation.

Read picture books and discuss the pictures with your child. Ask him to tell you what he sees in the pictures and then ask him to find specific things in the pictures.

Look through magazines with your child and ask him to point out specific objects. Begin with easy to spot items and increase the difficulty as your child’s comfort with this activity increases. Then ask him to see if he can stump you by requesting that you find something on the page.

Make duplicates of some family photos. Show your child two identical pictures with one different picture and ask him which pictures are the same and which one is different.

Play “I Spy” by giving your child clues about something within view. Increase the difficulty as he becomes more skillful by spying things that are partially hidden or small in size. This is a great game to play when you have a few idle minutes, such as standing in line at the grocery store or waiting at the doctor’s office.

Give your child a pile of clean socks and ask him to put two alike socks together to make a pair. You can make this activity more challenging by mixing two sizes of socks in the pile (from two children in the family).

Show your child a deck of playing cards and ask him to begin by putting the cards into two groups – red and black. When he is comfortable with that task, ask him to separate the two piles into individual suits – hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs. Increase the difficulty by showing your child part of the deck (10s, jacks, queens, kings and aces, for example) and asking him to sort the cards into piles based on the rank.

Give your child building blocks of various sizes and ask him to put them in order from the smallest to the largest.

Provide your child with puzzles. He will have to pay close attention to the shapes of the puzzle pieces and the shapes of the holes.

Use the cards from a matching or memory game to practice matching identical pictures.

Show your child pictures that develop in a sequence and ask him to place them in the correct order. He will have to look closely at the pictures to complete this task.

Look at books that feature hidden pictures. These puzzles can be challenging and fun!


Child development centre

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *