If your child has visual processing issues, or if you suspect he does, there are some treatment options that can help. But it’s important first to find out exactly what’s going on with your child.
That’s because kids who have difficulty processing visual information may have dyslexia, too. Therapy or treatment that helps with one issue may not help with the other. It’s also important to know whether your child has any eyesight problems. These are separate from visual processing issues. And correcting vision does not help with visual processing issues.
With the right kind of strategies and support, kids with visual processing issues can learn to read and write well. Here’s a look at what helps with visual processing issues. As you read, keep in mind that there are many non-medical ways to help kids with these issues succeed in school and in life.
Are there medications to help kids with visual processing issues?
There are no medications that can treat visual processing issues. But if you think your child is also dealing with ADHD or other challenges like depression or anxiety, talk with your child’s doctor. Together, you can come up with a treatment plan for any co-occurring issues.
Depending on your child’s issues, the doctor can help you decide whether the treatment plan will include ADHD medication, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.
What types of therapy and intervention can help kids with visual processing issues?
There are three kinds of therapies that are important to be aware of as you’re considering ways to help your child with visual processing issues.
Optometric vision therapy: It’s important to note that there is more than one kind of vision therapy. Optometric vision therapy has been proven to help with vision problems that involve eye movements or eye alignment. These eye coordination issues are different from visual processing issues. Visual processing issues involve the way the brain processes the information the eyes take in.
You may hear some kinds of optometric vision therapy referred to as “orthoptic vision therapy.” Both can help with eye muscle and eye alignment. These kinds of therapy can help with vision problems such as convergence insufficiency (when the eyes don’t work together properly when trying to focus on a nearby object).
Optometric vision therapy doesn’t “cure” learning and attention issues. But if your child has vision problems in addition to dyslexia and other issues, resolving vision problems can help him devote more energy to finding strategies that can help with the way his brain processes information.
Behavioral vision therapy: This is different from optometric vision therapy. Behavioral vision therapy involves eye exercises that are designed to improve visual perception. These eye exercises are also designed to improve visual processing skills. But there is no scientific research that shows this kind of therapy helps the brain process visual information. For that reason, behavioral vision therapy is considered a controversial treatment for learning and attention issues.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that it may help some children. But be wary of any treatment that claims to “cure” learning and attention issues. Learn more about how to know when a treatment is reputable.
Educational therapy: Children with visual processing issues may benefit from educational therapy. This type of therapy teaches kids strategies for working around their weaknesses. Learning how to approach problems can reduce frustration, increase self-confidence and lead to greater success in school.
What educational strategies can help with visual processing issues?
There are many non-medical ways parents and schools can help with visual processing issues in school and at home. Remember that learning can be multisensory. Kids who have trouble taking in visual information can be helped by hands-on activities as well as by listening. For example, you or the teacher could say aloud the directions that are written on your child’s homework sheet.
There are many different kinds of classroom accommodations that can help with learning and attention issues. One of the most important accommodations for kids with visual processing issues is allowing them to take frequent breaks. This can help them avoid eye strain and improve focus.
Another area you may want to discuss with the school is note-taking. If taking notes is hard for your child, you could ask the teacher to give your child a copy of her lecture notes or to let your child use a tape recorder so he can listen to the lecture again at home.
These kinds of accommodations can be formalized in an Individualized Education Program or a 504 plan. If your child doesn’t qualify for either of these or if you don’t want to pursue them, you can also ask the teacher if she’s willing to provide informal supports.
At home, make sure your child’s homework area is free of clutter. This can help keep visual distractions to a minimum. Doing math problems on graph paper may help. Using extra sheets of blank paper to cover up parts of a math homework sheet can also help.
What else can help kids with visual processing issues?
It’s a good idea to learn about assistive technology and adaptive tools. For example, there’s a simple tool called a reading guide strip that may help your child get through information that’s printed on paper. You may also want to explore Tech Finder for recommended apps, games and software programs that can help with reading issues.
Just remember that the more you understand about your child’s issues, the easier it will be for you to find strategies that can help. Talk to your child’s teacher and doctor about what you can do to help him thrive.