Visual Processing Dysfunction Characteristics
A child struggling with visual processing issues will display some of these characteristics:
These informal evaluations can be done at home to help a parent determine if a child is experiencing a blocked learning gate. Be sure as well to have your child’s vision acuity checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to make sure that this is not the cause of the child's reading problem.
Eye tracking: With the child standing three feet in front of you, take an interesting object and slowly move it in a left-to-right manner in front of the child’s eyes. Ask the child to keep his eyes on the target. Do this for about four swings of the target. Watch to see if the child’s eyes skip in any spot, or if they begin to water. Then slowly move the target in a horizontal figure eight manner within the child’s shoulder width, making sure that the target is not too close to the child’s face. See if the child can look in those various directions without skipping or his eyes looking stressed in any way. Make a note of your findings. There are specific exercises that can be done to strengthen a child’s eye teaming abilities to reduce the stress in the visual learning system.
Cross crawl: Many times younger children have difficulty reading because they are not efficiently crossing the midline of their body. This is the process that normally occurs when a baby is crawling. However, some children develop a learning gate problem in this area because they did not crawl, or they crawled but had a traumatic event (such as a fall, or back-to-back ear infections) that inhibited this natural process and made it much less effective.
Stand in front of the child and demonstrate the cross crawl movement by lifting the right knee and tapping it with the left hand, then doing the same with the left knee and right hand. Do this for a minute so the child can observe you. Then ask the child to do it also. Don't correct the child at first, but let him or her figure it out while you continue to do your cross crawl movements in front of him. If the child can’t do it, and becomes frustrated, then you can start him out by having him march with his legs while you touch the opposite knee with his hands. After doing this for a bit, remove your hands from the child's hands, and let him do this himself.
Make a note of your findings. If you confirm your child has midline issues, there are specific things that you can do to address this problem.
Reading: There are four components to reading successfully:
We can observe a child’s oral reading to help use determine if eye tracking ability is contributing to the child's reading difficulties. If the child can read, have him read a passage, and carefully watch his eyes to see if he reads to the end of the line, and then starts the new line, but quickly darts back with his eyes to the last line to make sure that he is in the right spot. We all do this once in a while. Watch to see if the child does this frequently. This takes much more effort to read when this saccadic eye movement is occurring.
Also observe if the child begins reading the word “dig” by forming a “b” with his mouth first. Any time a child reverses a letter or word, six months after being taught to read, that is a sign of stress in the child’s visual processing system. Make a note of your findings. There are specific things that can be done to make this process easier for your child.
Colored overlays: At times, a child will experience a mild scotopic sensitivity syndrome, which means that the reflection of the white background of the paper makes it more difficult for the child to see the black letters that compose the text.
One of the ways that you can informally determine if this is any issue, is by obtaining some plastic colored reading overlays (available at www.diannecraft.org.)
Have the child read a paragraph or a few lines. Then place a blue colored transparency over the next paragraph and have him read. Then place a green overlay over the next paragraph when the child is reading orally. Listen for subtle changes in fluency. Ask the child what he experienced in fluency while reading with the various colors. Many times the child will say that a particular transparency acted as a magnifying glass, making the letters bigger, and easier to see. There are other colors that you could try, but blue and green are the main ones that help children right away, in my 35 years of working with bright, hard-working learners.
If the child does markedly better with one of the colored overlays, continue to use it to reduce the visual stress that he is experiencing. However, it will only act as a temporary aid, until you correct the underlying problem, which is lack of eye convergence. The eyes can be encouraged to work together as a team while reading by doing various home exercises, or by working with a vision therapist using both home and office exercises.
Resources for Correcting Vision Acuity Problems