Brainwaves, Issue 7, Visual Processing

By | October 1, 2012

Issue 7, When seeing is deceiving…
Visual Processing
This weekend, I began to clean out my garden! The cucumber plants have frozen and the pumpkin (yes…just one) has been picked! For most of us, our visual system is delighted by the colors of fall that are all around us. Be sure to stop your busy life and take note because one big wind…and it will all be gone!
Brainwaves is a monthly newsletter designed to create some “brainwaves” within my community of colleagues, friends and clients.
The last issue focused on movement under-sensitivity and the children who need to move! I talked about different reasons for why this can happen and included a description of the visual-ocular reflex (VOR). This reflex connects our vision system to our movement system. The VOR makes it possible for what we see to remain stable even when we are moving. It helps us to keep our place on a line of type when we are reading and for activities requiring eye-hand coordination.
A very interesting website with activities demonstrating visual processing is…
This website describes components of visual processing including visual perception, central/peripheral integration, saccades, tracking, pursuits, focusing, and eye teaming. It describes eye hand/body coordination…
“Twenty percent of the raw visual data coming off the retina does not go back to the visual cortex for imaging but breaks away and travels up to the brain’s motor centers to help with balance, coordination, and movement. Visual motor integration, commonly called eye-body or eye-hand coordination, is a critical component of vision. Think of it as a visual “follow the leader”: the eyes go first and tell the muscles where to follow.”

Often when we talk about visual processing, it is in the context of “eye contact”. “Eye contact” is frequently an area of concern for parents, teachers, and therapists.  Judith Bluestone in her book “The Fabric of Autism” explains that for children with visual processing difficulties, peripheral vision IS the way that they look at people. If their eye muscles, reflexes and other aspects of their nervous system are not working together to focus the eyes forward, their peripheral vision becomes more reliable. She also describes how, as a child, she took “snapshots” of people’s faces and each time she would look back at their face, it was “not the same face…human faces have so many details and possibilities of altered expression than animals’ faces…inanimate objects provide constancy…”
So, as an occupational therapy, I often speak about visual sensitivity…but it is more likely visual confusion that these children are experiencing….once again triggering their fright or flight system…
…and I thought adjusting to my progressive lenses was hard!
So Now What?
• Judith Bluestone also describes how sucking actions (through a straw) actually exercises the eye muscles. Try it, use a straw and while you are sucking, either close your eyes or look downward and you will feel your eyes converge or move inward. She suggests crazy straws for children and sucking with their eyes closed if possible.
• She also recommends blowing games to exercise eye divergence and suggests games that include blowing of cotton balls with straws but be careful of signs of hyperventilation!
• Reducing visual stimuli in the child’s environment will help them to focus, calm and be less confused. Organization, de-cluttering and demarcation of their spaces and working area will be beneficial.

Upcoming Workshops
Understanding Behavior from a Sensation Point of View held at Discoveries in Therapy, 468 Academy Road, one workshop held over two evenings, October 10 and 24, 2012; [email protected] for more information. There are only a few spaces left!

The Attachment Network of Manitoba is very excited to announce that Dr. Dan Siegel will be coming to Winnipeg on November 20, 2012!