Friday Counseling Issues: Learning Disabilities

Visual Processing Disorder:   This is a problem not with vision, in terms of being nearsighted or farsighted, but instead  it concerns how information taken in through the eyes is processed in the brain. Here is a website that will help explain the problem:

In simple terms,  the person simply can’t make sense of what he sees in what we consider normal terms.  For instance, spatial problems would be those in which it is difficult to perceive the positions of objects in a given space, or in relation to other objects. You may notice, for instance, a child reaching for a toy and missing it  over and over again.  It is normal in the beginning, but if it persists and does not improve, there could be a visual processing disorder.


Other problems will develop.  Math and reading are both based on symbols or figures that a child needs to learn to identify and use correctly.  Also, a child with visual processing disorder may be one who is told he is clumsy, or needs to be more careful. He bumps into things, trips on the steps with regularity, puts his cup or class on the edge when he thinks he has set it far enough back that it won’t spill.

This is not an area of expertise for me. I have taught kids with several of the other learning disabilities we’ve discussed, but not this one.  From what I’m reading online, there are interventions that can be helpful.  One of them has to do with what we call “figure-ground,” something I learned about  in working with kids who had ADD.  The “ground” is the paper  on which the “figures” are written.  I learned to write tests that had lots of white space instead of crowding the page with too much  type. Matching sections were done in sets of five rather than ten or more, which can be terribly difficult for kids with a variety of learning disabilities.  And I did not hand-write my tests.  Students learn to read the printed word, not the written word. Not all teachers have the same handwriting, and some have  a hand that is difficult to read.  Typing, especially in  a size larger than  10 or even 12, is easier on the eyes.

Because I designed my tests for the kids who had difficulty, all my students grew to appreciate my uncluttered, easy-to-read tests.  Clutter is a real problem for kids with visual perception difficulties. A neat and orderly locker, desk, or book bag is very helpful for these kids. It’s a skill that should be taught and learned early on.

Next week I’m going to finish this series with a post about autism.  Again, I’m no expert in that subject, but because it is becoming so common I’d like to address it. The best news is that there IS help, and there is hope.


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