The visual system is responsible for the body’s ability to perceive and interpret one’s surroundings using visible light. Children with visual processing issues may have trouble recognizing slight variations in color or brightness, gauging the size and distance of objects, reading, or concentrating in bright, busy environments.
See below for a quick guide on identifying visual issues as a seeker, avoider or sensory challenged and how you can help support your child with these struggles.
Visual Issues May Appear As:
- Seek out bright or busy environments.
- Prefer toys with bright, reflective, or shiny surfaces.
- Be distracted by objects with spinning, flashing, or moving lights.
- Insist on clothing and toys with specific shapes, colors, and patterns.
- Crave screen time and prefer stimulating movies and games.
- Seek out dark or secluded environments.
- Avoid messy rooms and busy, crowded spaces.
- Frequently cover their eyes or hide their heads under pillows or clothing.
- React strongly or as if in pain to bright, strobing, or fluorescent light.
- Perceive dim, normal, or natural as much brighter than it actually is.
- Be bothered or distracted by objects with bright, reflective, or shiny surfaces.
- Be bothered or distracted by objects with spinning, flashing, or moving lights.
- Prefer clothing and toys with muted and simple shapes, colors, and patterns.
- Have difficulty distinguishing between letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Be slow to recognize characteristics of objects, such as size, shape, or color.
- Be unable to judge the distance between people and other objects.
- Have difficulty reading the facial expressions and emotional cues of others.
How to Support Visual Issues:
- Play with flashlights and other visually stimulating toys.
- Encourage a healthy amount of screen time.
- Sleep with a nightlight or calming alternative, such as a lava lamp.
- Provide a variety of colors and patterns in toys, décor, and clothing.
- Use visual aids while studying to help reinforce key concepts.
- Schedule time throughout the day to watch videos or play with stimulating toys. This can be especially helpful when transitioning from one activity to another.
- Avoid toys and games with flashing or blinking lights.
- Keep curtains or blinds closed whenever possible.
- Wear sunglasses, tinted glasses, or hats when needed.
- Give advance warning of bright or unexpected light whenever possible.
- Be conscious of colors and patterns in toys, décor, and clothing.
- Replace bright overhead lights with dimmable floor, table, or desk lamps.
- Be mindful of clutter, reflective surfaces, and lights from electronics or appliances.
- Work on calming strategies and develop a plan for how to exit overwhelming situations.
- Label or color-code similar objects, such as books or study materials, and keep them in a designated place.
- Play outdoor games, such as catch or soccer, to practice coordination and gauging the distance between people and objects.
- Play games to practice grouping like items together. (“Can you find everything in the room that is a circle? Every picture in the book that is related to sports or food?”)
- Play games to practice distinguishing between numbers, letters, and symbols. (“d and b, 5 and S, S and $—are these the same or different?”)
- Assign chores that have a large visual component, such as matching socks, putting away silverware, or sweeping the floor.
Read more about the visual system on the STAR institute’s website.