Visual processing issues

6 Common Myths About Visual Processing Issues

By The Understood Team

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Visual processing issues get confused with dyslexia. Sometimes they’re (incorrectly) associated with the kind of vision problems that get tested with an eye chart. Here are six common myths about visual processing issues—and the truth about each.

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Close up of a young girl with blue framed glasses staring wistfully out the school bus window
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Myth #1: Visual processing issues can be fixed with glasses.

Fact: Visual processing issues are not the same as vision problems. In fact it’s possible for a child to have 20/20 vision and still have visual processing issues. “Seeing” is much more than reading letters on an eye chart. Visual processing refers to the way the brain perceives and processes what the eye sees. There are several types of visual processing issues that can result from problems interpreting this information—and they can’t be fixed with corrective eyewear.

Active boy riding through an outdoor fountain on his scooter
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Myth #2: Visual processing issues and ADHD are the same thing.

Fact: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and visual processing issues are very different. It’s understandable, though, that some people get them mixed up. Kids with visual processing issues can be easily distracted by information on a messy blackboard. They might confuse symbols like + or × in math class and have trouble focusing as a result. Distractibility and trouble with focus is commonly seen in kids with ADHD, too.

Young girl with a concentrated look attempting to climb on the playground jungle gym
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Myth #3: Kids with visual processing issues just need to try harder.

Fact: Academic difficulties related to visual processing aren’t the result of laziness. People with visual processing issues interpret what they see in ways that are different and often inefficient. This causes trouble responding to certain aspects of traditional instruction, such as taking down notes from the board. Even slight adjustments in classroom practice—the teacher reading information from the board aloud, for example—can help kids with visual processing issues be successful in school.

Girl’s soccer team standing in a huddle with coach reviewing the plays
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Myth #4: Kids will grow out of visual processing issues.

Fact: While characteristics of visual processing issues may change over time, the issues themselves don’t simply go away. Visual processing issues—although not related to IQ—are based in the brain. Kids with visual processing issues will have them throughout life, but these issues are in no way a prescription for failure! With the right support, kids with visual processing issues can achieve great things at school and throughout life.

Close up of a young girl’s feet hopping through colorful hoola hoops laid out on the asphalt
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Myth #5: Kids with visual processing issues are just clumsy.

Fact: Kids with visual processing issues often have trouble judging distances or organizing themselves in space. As a result, they might seem prone to bump into things or set things down too close to the edge of a table. The resulting lost pencils, missing papers and broken bowls and mugs might make it seem like children with visual processing difficulties are “just clumsy”—but they’re not.

Football coach and player standing on field reviewing plays on a clip board
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Myth #6: Visual processing issues and dyslexia are the same thing.

Fact: Visual processing issues and dyslexia are not the same thing. But they do share some features. For example, kids with visual processing issues might have trouble differentiating between similar-looking letters or numbers. Kids with dyslexia may experience this, too.

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About the Author

Understood Team Graphic

The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Sheldon Horowitz

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D., is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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