Visual Processing Assessment

Visual Processing Assessment

It is important for parents to realise that children with excellent clarity of eyesight as measured on a letter chart can still have significant visually related learning difficulties.


Visual processing is how your brain interprets and understands the pictures as they are presented to the eyes.

Issues with visual processing skills may present in the following difficulties for your child:-

  • poor organisation on a page
  • reversals of numbers, letters or words
  • poor handwriting
  • problems with sight words
  • poor spelling
  • poor letter or word recognition
  • poor attention
  • poor comprehension
  • not recognising the same word in the next sentence
  • avoidance or disruptive behaviours in class
  • difficulty with following instructions

At Midwest Optical we assess whether your child is performing at an age appropriate level of visual  processing skills. In order to read comfortably and with good comprehension, the visual system needs to perform several functions other than just making sure that the letters are clear.

There are a number of visual abilities that are needed in order to achieve developmental age appropriate levels of reading and writing skills.

These visual abilities that are tested include:

  • Visual spatial development – the ability to recognise how things go together in space. This includes puzzle skills and construction skills as well as how things are put in order. It incorporates problem solving skills, mathematical skills and organisation of one’s own environment. Visual spatial development is the ability to distinguish differences among similar shapes and forms. This skill helps children in understanding relationships and recognizing underlying concepts, and is closely related to the problem solving and conceptual skills required for higher-level science and math.
  • Visual spatial orientation is helpful with letter reversals. While some parents and educators consider letter reversals after age seven to be a symptom of dyslexia, the most common cause of reversals in older children is a lack of visual spatial development, or consistently knowing left from right, either in relationship to their own bodies or to the world around them. Children with poor visual processing have not developed adequate skills in visual perception and spatial orientation, such as laterality and directionality. 
  • Visual discrimination – the ability to spot similarities and differences. It is the ability of the child to be aware of the distinctive features of forms including shape, orientation, size, and colour. It is the ability to distinguish similarities and differences between objects like letters (d, b) or shapes.  In reading, this skill helps children distinguish between similarly spelled words, such as was/saw, then/when, on/one, or run/ran.
  • Visual memory  - is the ability to recall characteristics of what is or has been seen.   This skill helps children remember what they read and see by processing information through their short-term memory and filtering that information into their long-term memory. Children with poor visual memory may struggle with comprehension. They often talk aloud, or softly whisper to themselves, as they read in order to help compensate. They may have difficulty remembering what a word looks like or fail to recognize the same word on a different page. They may also take longer copying from the board because they must frequently review the text.
  • Visual sequencing - or visual sequential memory, is the ability to determine or remember the order of symbols, words, or objects.  This skill is particularly important for spelling.  A child who struggles with visual sequencing may omit, add or transpose letters within words.  He or she talk aloud while writing.  Recognizing and remembering patterns may also prove difficult.
  • Visual motor integration - Visual motor integration (VMI) consists of coordinating visual perceptual skills together with gross-motor movement and fine-motor movement. It is the ability to integrate visual input with motor output. This is how individuals plan, execute and monitor motor tasks, such as threading a needle, tying shoe laces, catching or hitting a ball. It is also essential in academic performance. It is commonly referred to as eye hand co-ordination.
  • Visual closure - is the ability to know what an object is when only parts of it are visible. This skill helps children read and comprehend; their eyes don't have to individually process every letter in a word for them to quickly recognize the word by sight. This skill can also help children recognize inferences and predict outcomes. Children with poor visual closure may have difficulty completing a thought. They may also confuse similar objects or words, especially words with close beginning or endings.

An assessment of visual processing, if required, is conducted after a child has had a comprehensive eye examination, at a subsequent appointment time. The recommendation for this assessment to be undertaken is based on the results of the eye examination and parent report.

This assessment usually takes about one hour and is performed by our Occupational Therapist, Narelle Dennett. It also includes assessment of motor planning, bilateral integration, fine motor skills, attention, concentration and numeracy skills. The fee for this assessment is not covered by Medicare but is rebatable through private health insurance.