Friday, April 08, 2005

Do You See What I See? - Visual Perceptual Problems

Visual Perceptual difficulties vary widely, although the tools clinicians have to evaluate them are often too simple. Often it's hard to understand what another's visual experience is like, but figuring out pieces of the puzzle can help you troubleshoot when problems arise.

Many kids visual perceptual problems - including, but not limited to some with dyslexia, premature birth, or one of the autism spectrum disorders. Because the eyes are at the front of the head and the visual cortex is at the back of the head, visual information travels a long distance, so there are many spots to goof up the signals.

Here's a recent paper which seems to have figured out the site in the left frontal lobe that becomes activated when the brain decides it's really seeing something.

If you have a child with visual perceptual difficulties, remember that the brain matures a great deal from early childhood into adulthood, and visual perception can improve. The first thing one needs to do is become a visual detective - studying under what conditions visual confusion or overload occurs. Are there environments or handouts that are troublesome? Look for situations where there may be too much movement, visual crowding of details, or problems with lighting, glare, or color. In future posts, we'll talk about strategies to improve visual orientation and discrimination.

Visual Discrimination - "I See It"
Visual Perceptual Changes in Children Abstract
Visual Problems in Young Children
Visual Perception Autism Research
More Visual Perception and Autism
Visual Perception and Dyslexia Research

Blogger is having problems today, hope this goes through.


  1. Anonymous5:49 PM

    Is it true that visual perception can improve with occupational therapy? And also, how much can visual perception improve if a child has been diagnosed?

  2. Hi Anon,

    What OT / visual rehabilitation therapy can usually do is improve hand eye coordination, eye movement coordination, visual fixation, and visual flexibility (e.g. looking near and far). It can also improve eyes-body coordination, reduce reversals, etc.

    When children or adults have trouble with visual perception tests - it may be due to eye coordination problems, or eye-hand / body map problems - rather than being due to a perceptual problem independent of the motor system.

    Our understanding is that therapy is most effective for motor - sensory coordination, not pure perceptual problems. For instance, training cannot 'help' prosopagnosia which is a problem perceiving faces that is independent of any motor system. There are some vision therapists who can still help prosopagnosic children though, for instance learning a systematic approach to reading faces and remembering them with verbal mediation.

    Does that make sense?

  3. Anonymous8:12 AM

    Thank you so much! Yes it does make sense. My son was diagnosed with a visual perception problem (reversal & locational). His eyes are perfect (we did have a complete eye evaluation). He loves sports and his eye hand coordination is very good. His social skills are also very good, so we know he doesn't have prosopagnosia.

    My guess is that his visual perception problem is completely different in this case. We have have an appointment coming up with a neurologist, maybe he can help us understand more what his problem is.

    Thanks again!