Visual Processing

By Director

What is Visual Processing? Visual processing is the process in which our brain uses visual cues to make sense of what we see in the world around us.  People who have not developed good eye movement, eye teaming, and eye focusing skills will often have more difficulty with visual processing skills. But visual processing is not just about vision. There are three steps in visual processing:  processing information mainly about shape; processing information mainly about color; and processing information about movement, location, and spatial organization. When these three steps do not work together, processing visual information can be very difficult.

Visual processing disorder can cause challenges with the way the brain processes visual information. There are many different types of processing disorder and many different symptoms. These can include trouble drawing or copying, inability to detect differences in shapes or letters, and letter reversals.

Type of Visual Processing Disorder


Visual Discrimination Challenges

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

Visual Figure-Ground Challenges

Struggle to distinguish a shape or letter from its background

Visual Sequencing Challenges

Difficulty seeing shapes, letters, or words in the correct order; might skip lines or read the same line over and over

Visual Motor Processing Challenges

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

Visual Memory Challenges

Can be long or short term. Struggle to remember shapes, symbols, or objects they’ve seen, causing issues with reading and spelling

Visual Spatial Challenges

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

Visual Closure Challenges

Difficulty identifying an object when only parts of it are showing

Letter/Symbol Reversal Challenges

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


When it comes to the process of reading, the brain has to do a lot of heavy lifting to add a word to the automatic word bank. It is not as simple as just connecting the phoneme (the letter) to the sound. A reader has to accurately and automatically recognize each letter, despite significant variations in fonts. In addition, they must recognize differences in the appearance of upper and lower case letters. It is not only a memory challenge. It is tied to how our brains recognize, categorize and makes sense of a symbol. For people with dyslexia, the brain provides more possibilities for each symbol. The reader has to accurately register the sequence and order of letters. They must also retain that letter order in memory, along with the appropriate directionality of the letters and lines of text. It is important to use a consistent text when working with people with dyslexia.

Click the tabs to see the Myths vs. Facts about Visual Processing Challenges


Children can outgrow visual processing difficulties.


Vision problems and visual processing disorder are the same thing.


There is just one type of visual processing disorder.


Dyslexia and visual processing disorder have the same symptoms.


Smart students don’t have visual processing disorder.


Visual processing disorders are lifelong conditions. While a student will not simply outgrow a visual processing difficulty, he or she can develop strategies to navigate life in the classroom and beyond.


A person with visual processing difficulties may have 20/20 vision.


There are eight different types of visual processing issues: visual discrimination issues, visual figure-ground discrimination issues, visual sequencing issues, visual-motor processing issues, long- or short-term visual memory issues, visual-spatial issues, visual closure issues, and letter and symbol reversal issues.


Individuals with dyslexia struggle to connect letters to sounds; those with visual processing disorder struggle to understand visual information, whether letters, shapes, or objects.


Many people with visual processing difficulties do well in school and in their careers. With the right strategies, students with visual processing issues are very successful

Click below to see ways to begin when a Visual Processing Issue is suspected.

Keep Track of What You See

If you start noticing to notice any of the visual processing issues listed above, it’s important to take note of these symptoms. Keep a list so that you can reference specific issues when you speak with a specialist or your child’s teacher. Written documentation if powerful. 

Talk to Your Child’s Teacher

Set up a time to have a conversation with your child’s teacher about any visual processing difficulties he or she has noticed in the classroom. Ask whether these issues are getting in the way of your child’s reading comprehension or social interactions/development. Share your documentation and concerns.

Request an Evaluation

Poor vision and visual processing disorder are different issues that require different interventions. An important first step is to rule out any vision or eye issues by having your child’s sight checked by a pediatrician or pediatric ophthalmologist. If vision proves not to be an issue, talk to your child’s school about getting his or her visual comprehension skills measured.


Be Proactive and "Trust Your Gut"

As a parent, you are your child’s best advocate. If your child’s school assures you that nothing is wrong, but you sense that there is an issue, don’t be afraid to have your child evaluated for visual processing issues. Contact an Occupational Therapist for an evaluation.


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