The Sense Of Sight: Ophthalmoception

Senses are the brain’s capability to process information from the surrounding environment, commonly referred to as “perceiving.” It’s important to know that each sense is a system of sensory cells that corresponds to a particular region of the brain where signals are received and then interpreted. In humans, there are a variety of senses. Today, we are focusing on the sense of sight, otherwise known as “Opthalmoception,” and how it’s affected by Sensory Processing Disorder.

In the broadest sense, sight or vision happens when the eye’s photoreceptors focus and detect visible light in the retina. This then generates an electrical nerve impulse creating various colors, hues, and brightness forming shapes.

There are two types of photoreceptors in the eye: rods and cones. Rods are sensitive to light and cones help distinguish colors. The neurons take the image and send it to your brain. The brain then interprets it and alerts you as to what the image is and how to respond.

When someone has sensory processing disorder, their ability to cognitively process information they take in through the eyes (visual perception) is affected. There are 8 different kinds of visual processing errors that can occur:

  • Visual Discrimination (confusing d and b, p and q)
  • Visual Figure-Ground Discrimination (pulling out a shape from its background)
  • Visual Sequencing Issues (difficulty establishing order of words, symbols, or image).
  • Visual Motor-Processing Issues (trouble coordinating movement of body parts)
  • Long or Short-Term Visual Memory Issues (recalling what they have seen)
  • Visual-Spatial Issues (difficulty telling location of objects)
  • Visual Closure Issues (being unable to recognize parts of the whole)
  • Letter and Symbol Reversal Issues (switching letters or numbers when writing – also know as dyslexia, which affects 1 in 5 kids)

Here are some indicators as to whether or not your child might be suffering from visual processing disorder:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Distracted by visual stimuli
  • Squints and rubs eyes
  • Trouble finding things even when it’s right in front of them
  • Headaches after visual stimulating activity
  • Trouble holding eye contact
  • Loving or hating being in the dark
  • Trouble distinguishing between shapes, letter or symbols
  • Trouble with handwriting including but not limited letter reversals, sizing, spacing or alignment of letters
  • Losing place when reading
  • Bumps into things
  • Slow or hesitant with stairs
  • Trouble distinguishing left from right

If you noticed that your child might have any of these warning signs, then there are few activities that you can do to help develop visual skills.

  • Develop visual tracking skills by using moving objects and stationary objects
  • Crawling and rolling on the floor
  • Spot the difference and hidden picture games
  • Emphasis maintaining eye contact when speaking
  • Hot & Cold Scavenger Hunts
  • Balloon volleyball
  • Bubble popping
  • Using a flashlight before going to the dentist (for more information go to our visiting the dentist page)

When your child is suffering from visual processing issues, it can affect their academic life, emotional life, as well as basic life skills. The best places to get help are a pediatric ophthalmologist, pediatric optometrist, behavior optometrist and in extreme cases a neuropsychologist.