Visual processing disorder and dyslexia have a lot of overlapping symptoms, but they are not the same. If your child is struggling with reading, their teachers may suggest that they have either of these issues. They are often confused with each other.
As a parent, you need to untangle these diagnoses to ensure that your child gets the correct diagnosis and the help they need. To help you get started, here are a few differences between dyslexia and visual processing disorder.
Struggles with seeing differences between similar letters
Both children with dyslexia and visual processing disorder have trouble distinguishing letters that look similar. For instance, they may struggle to notice or remember the difference between a lowercase "b" and a lowercase "d".
However, for kids with a visual processing disorder, this challenge also extends to seeing the difference between similar shapes and objects. It doesn't just apply to letters.
Struggles between hearing differences between similar sounds
Kids with visual processing disorder generally only have trouble with visual processing. They typically can easily hear the differences between letters. For kids with dyslexia, that is not the case. These kids struggle with phonemes in general.
Kids who have dyslexia don't just struggle with words on paper. They may also mispronounce many words. For instance, the letters in "animal" can get conflated so the child pronounces it as "aminal". While this is normal for small children, these issues will persist much longer for people with dyslexia.
You can also just ask your child if they can hear small differences in words. For instance, can they hear the difference between "mine" and "mind" or do those words sound the same? Questions like this can help you figure out if they might be struggling with vision processing issues or dyslexia.
Spatial struggles and strengths
Both kids with visual processing issues and dyslexia will have trouble with spacing on the page. They may struggle to distinguish a letter from its background, may read letters in the wrong order, or may skip lines while reading.
For kids with a visual processing disorder, these struggles can also be part of their regular life. They may have spatial issues that prevent them from seeing how close objects are to one another, and they may even bump into objects. Everyone with dyslexia is different, but some people with dyslexia actually have heightened spatial awareness.
These are complex concerns that you cannot diagnose on your own. To get help, contact a visual specialist or a dyslexia tutor.
For more information on vision processing, contact a professional near you.