Visual Processing | Interpretation and Understanding

Visual Processing | What is it for?

Visual processing is the development of the ability to interpret and understand visual input from the environment. It is a highly sought after skill and the lack of it is the cause of many learning challenges.

Visual Processing

Processing visual information is a complicated process within the brain and interruption of this process can cause learning difficulties. I am going to share with you just how important it really is for learners to be able to process visual information.

Visual processing influences the ability for learners to observe and interpret their environment, read for understanding, write and spell fluently and understand rules of language; and enhance organization skills. It is essential for recognition of objects and for visual memory after an object has gone from sight.

Learners with poor visual processing will have trouble with visual tasks such as copying from a white board, finding their place on a page for reading; have difficulty with writing such as letter reversal and poor letter orientation and lack of phonological awareness. Dyslexia and dyscalculia both have interruption in visual processing and perception.

Visual Processing | What You Can Do

• Recognize the difficulty and validate this with the learner. This is half the battle!

• Play memory, matching and sequencing games.

• Have letters which can be manipulated into words and sentences. This allows for practice of visual processing and gives the learner opportunities to problem solve and correct spelling. Play word games.

• Encourage activities that ask the learner to find objects on a page; problem solving mazes; do dot to dots; and spot the difference.

• Encourage short writing projects such as cards, poems, posters.

• Exploit oral language as this is usually a strength in learners with challenges in visual processing. Encourage oral stories.

• Encourage pictorial memory when learning to spell words. Not all words in the English language have a picture. The learner may make pictures for the more difficult words.

• Encourage recognition of sight words.

• Explain to the learner about long term memory so they are conscious of storing items to be remembered. All you need to say is ‘pop that in your long term memory’. They will soon get the idea of what is required.

Visual processing should be encouraged at every opportunity as it will lead to lessening challenges in learning.

Visual Processing | More in Depth Thoughts on What You Can Do

When it comes to helping a learner, recognizing the difficulty with the learner is important. As mentioned above, this is half the battle, so once you have figured it out you and the learner both can move forward.

This should be done with care, and be aware that you should not make it seem alarming, as they are struggling.

By playing memory, matching, and sequence games, you can help the learner improve their visual processing significantly. It may take time, so be patient. Playing word games is also helpful, as well as giving them letters that can be formed into words. The more you engage them with this type of learning, the more improvement you will see.

There are also many activities that you can use in the classroom to help learners find objects on a page, so that they can shorten the amount of time it takes for them to find something. As learners start improving their visual processing, they will gain more confidence and will be more apt to continue to participate in activities.

Short writing projects are also helpful in improving visual processing, so get students involved in writing poems, writing short stories, or even creating cards. Learners will be able to work on their visual processing as well as get the chance to use their creative ability.

Visual Processing | Coupling Visual with Language Skills

When it comes to visual processing, you can be assured that coupling that with language skills is also effective. Oral stories are quite effective, and it encourages the learner to focus on two areas of opportunity: visual processing and creative story telling.

Keep in mind that word recognition does combine both of these, and by asking learners to create an image that goes with the word will help them dramatically improve their visual processing.

Learners will also need to know that it’s important to hold certain information in their memory, so, ask them to “pop that into their memory”, and they will know better what is important to recall at a later time.

Now that you know more about visual processing, you are better able to help your learners overcome their deepest challenges.

View our Sensory Processing article.


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Heather Collins

Heather Collins is an Early Childhood and Special Education Teacher who makes developmentally appropriate resources for teachers and parents to use with their children. She is author and co-author of poetry books and children’s books. She is a passionate collagist and has crafted beautiful finger puppets and story aprons suitable for early childhood education.

Her resources can be purchased on this website or she can be contacted at Create-Ed by emailing You can order an original apron for any favourite storybook.

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