Thursday, June 22, 2006

Space Blindness

We wanted to blog on space blindness because it's more common than people may realize, particularly overseas or other adopted kids, kids who were born prematurely, and others who may have had prenatal stress or toxic exposure.

Visual perceptual problems are rarely recognized identified specifically because they often don't receive neuropsychological testing by neuropsychologists or neurologists, and for the most part they are lumped as having "inattentive ADD", generic learning disability, Aspergers / autism spectrum disorder, or non verbal learning disability. That's what happens when behavioral checklists are the gold standard for assessments.

In the figure below, look at drawings of two children who have different impairments in their spatial perception. The child with a left hemispheric injury remembers the global aspects of the picture, while the child with a right hemispheric injury remembers the details.

Not surprisingly, these different misperceptions have profoundly different effects on learning from visual instruction and spatial organization in general. Common subjects that may be profoundly affected: writing, mathematics, and social interactions.

Now some people may think this is some obscure neuro-thing, but as we said -this is much more common than people realize - it's just that as it stands, kids are rarely evaluated by professionals who understand brain organization and how it may go awry.

In a future post, we'll blog more on compensations for visual perceptual and memory problems. Common routes of compensation include verbal mediation, or the use of words to describe visual-spatial relationships. Other helpful approaches include the use of sensory-motor memory (e.g. air writing) or visual associative cues.

Review: Kids & Impaired Visual Spatial Perception pdf
Picture of Dorsal Stream - Visual Processing - Adoption Issues


  1. Anonymous3:38 PM

    Please do blog more on this subject! This is the first place I've seen anything in print about this, and it describes my daughter (born prematurely) quite accurately. The neuropsych evaluated her concluded that she had, amongst other things, a partially-resolved right-side visual neglect. Nice to get a dx, but it also would be nice to have some practical advice.

    This child has already had vision therapy. Do you think there would be any value in having her visual field checked by a low-vision clinic as well?

  2. Thanks for letting us know, we will! If any other readers have experience on this subject, please share them.

    Our experience has been very spotty with vision professionals - we have even had families tell us that some low vision professionals knew very little about partially sighted or visual perceptual kids. They may have more experience with congenitally blind. It's really that kids with these problems get stuck in the cracks between normal vision and blind.

    But there are many more of them than people realize - and there is hope for better organization through Internet communities and the like.

    In our book, we specifically fought to include a chapter on brain-based visual processing disorders because there is so little practical information about what the experience is like, and how teaching can be made more effective.

    It might be worthwhile to go and see the low vision clinic - what state do you live in? We have had different types of professionals work very well with these kids - OTs, vision therapists / behavioral opticians, low vision specialists, etc. but they usually have had a special interest in vision - and extra training as well.

  3. Jenny in Va.12:30 PM

    Glad to hear you've got a whole chapter on it! I've had your book on pre-order for months now...

    I live in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. and, yes, I'd love to hear about well-qualified professionals in this area. In a typical 2e manner, she compensates well for her weaknesses and dazzles people with her strengths, making it hard to convince people that she needs help. Meanwhile, she gets lost on the way back to the table in a restaurant....

  4. If you want to search for more articles, try searching on central visual impairment, or even the old term, cortical visual impairment. Sometimes if there's a counselor for deaf-blind within the school system, they have a lot more training in CVI.

    Possible folks near you would be the Low Vision service at Childrens Hospital (Boston) or Mary Morse in New Hampshire.

    I know that may not seem that close, but sometimes these professionals can coordinate by email or by phone with your child's school.

    For other folks on the West coast who may be reading this, Bill Good at UCSF is a good resource.