Definition
Visual-spatial processing involves the ability to make sense of information taken in through the eyes. In terms of reading, writing and math, students must be able to recognize the shapes of objects (such as letters and numbers), perceive their direction, and tell the difference between similar shapes (e.g. the letters b and d, p and q, or the symbols + and x). They must also be able to focus on words in text while filtering out other distractions (e.g. pictures on the page).
Visual-spatial processing difficulties do not involve problems with vision, but rather involve problems interpreting visual information (Duff, 2005).

Common Characteristics of Students with Visual-Spatial Processing Difficulties
Student may:

  • · Have difficulty reading or refuse to read, and may be reading below grade level
  • · Have more success comprehending text which is read orally than that which is read silently
  • · Have poor handwriting (dysgraphia) and seem to struggle with handwriting assignments, note-taking, or copying information from the board or a textbook
  • · Omit or reverse words or letters in handwriting and have difficulty spelling on paper, but may be an adequate oral speller
  • · Have trouble in math with function signs (plus, minus, multiply, divide), skip steps in math problems or confuse similar-looking formulas (LD Online,2008)
  • · Have difficulty with tasks which require fine motor skills (e.g., cutting with scissors or tying shoes)
  • · Have difficulty recognizing spatial relationships of objects (e.g., bigger, smaller, over, under, etc.)
  • · Have difficulty learning from experience or repetition (e.g., needs to be TOLD how to perform tasks while doing them, does not learn by simply doing) (NLD Ontario,2002)
  • · Difficulty understanding nonverbal communication or social cues, sometimes resulting in problems with peer relations
  • · Become restless during videos or visual presentations

Classroom Accommodations/Modifications/Suggestions



  • · Give all directions aloud and be sure that they are direct and specific
  • · Provide student with enlarged print texts when possible (LD Online,2008)
  • · Make a “window” for student to use when reading – cut a hole in a large index card to help block out distractions on a page (e.g. pictures, graphs etc.)
  • · Allow student to use a ruler or his/her finger when reading
  • · Highlight or underline important information on assigned reading
  • · Provide student with copied notes
  • · Provide a scribe for testing and note-taking
  • · Allow use of a tape-recorder for note-taking
  • · Try to reduce distractions in the classroom and give student preferential seating (e.g. closer to teacher or instructional area)
  • · Allow handwriting assignments to be completed on a word processor
  • · Read tests aloud for student
  • · Allow extra time for tests and written tasks
  • · Provide opportunities for cooperative learning and/or peer tutoring when possible
  • · Provide graph paper for written math assignments to help keep columns aligned
  • · Provide graphic organizers with dark lines or raised lines (for kinesthetic learners) for note-taking
  • · Provide student with more than one way to obtain information (e.g., if you are writing on the chalkboard be sure to also read what you are writing out loud
  • ·Frequently monitor progress to ensure that appropriate accommodations are in place

Duff, J. (2005). Visual Processing Disorders and Learning Difficulties. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from Behavioural Neurotherapy Clinic: http://www.adhd.com.au/Visual_Processing_Disorders.htm
National Center for Learning Disabilities. (2008). LD Online. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders: http://www.ldonline.org/article/Visual_and_Auditory_Processing_Disorders
NLD Ontario. (2002, January 29). Visual-Spatial Diversity. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from "Learning Differently...Outside the Box": http://www.nldontario.org/articles/VisualSpatialDiversity.html
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