Visual Processing

Visual Processing and Brain-Based Learning

Visual processing is the process of how your eyes receive information and the steps involved to recognize or understand that information. Brain-based learning methods are based on the latest scientific research about how the brain learns. This includes cognitive development— how students learn differently as they age, grow, and mature socially, emotionally, and cognitively. Within brain-based learning is the awareness that we learn through the vision, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic systems.

The Visual Processing System Explained

We all receive information through our five senses: smell, taste, hearing, seeing, and doing. Within each of those senses, there are subcategories. The sense of smell can sense sweet, pungent, savory, floral, etc. The sense of taste can break down foods into salty, sweet, bitter, or sour. Within hearing (auditory processing), seeing (visual processing), and doing (tactile/kinesthetic processing), there are 9 sub-categories each. When learning is difficult, it is due to one or more of those areas not working as efficiently as they could, should and can. And, when you want to optimize learning, pay attention to what you are doing specifically to address each of these systems.

Visual Processing and Brain-Based Learning

Research from Early Choice Pediatric Therapy has found that once a child enters school, about 75% of the classroom activities are directed through visual processing pathways. This is one compelling reason to be sure to include a variety of visual activities to improve reading and overall learning skills.

Additionally, according to the National Vision Research Institute of Australia, about 40% of the human brain is involved in one form or another with visual processing.

Let me explain… Upon visual input, visual signals leave the eye and follow a path into the superior colliculus in the brainstem. This is where the electrical impulses react and control all eye movements such as blinking, dilating pupils, and tracking objects that are moving or tracking a line of words. The optic nerve then forms synapses and sends neurons to the occipital lobe of the cerebral cortex. This pathway is responsible for experiencing and controlling visual perception. The input comes from both eyes. The right cortex receives impulses from the left orbit and the left cortex receives input from the right orbit.

Rayner, in 1997, summarized 25 years of research on eye movements. Reading involves rapid eye movements, which are called saccades. These rapid eye movements and tracking are separated by fixations when the eyes are relatively still. Saccade movements typically travel about 6 to 9 letter spaces. They are not impacted by the size of print. The complete perceptual span is larger, extending to 14 or 15 letter spaces to the right and 3 to 4 spaces to the left. It is the saccade movement to the left combined with the perceptual span length that assures that every letter of every word enters the visual field.

About 10-15% of the time, readers also shift back (known as regression) to look back at material that has already been read. And as text becomes more difficult, saccade length tends to decrease and regression frequency increases.

It is important to note that the space between words does facilitate fluent reading. When the spacing between words varies or is not available, reading is slowed by as much as 50%. The research further notes that efficient eye movement is more critical than generating predictions of upcoming words. Readers systematically move their eyes from left to right across the text and then fixate on most of the content words. The processing associated with each word is very rapid, and the link between the eyes and the mind is very tight. Rayner, K. (1997) Scientific Studies of Reading, 1(4) pages 317-339.

Summer Reading Program incorporates the 9 Areas of Visual Processing

Bonnie Terry’s Summer Reading program uses proven methods that improve your visual processing system:

  1. Reading fluency training
  2. Rapid naming activities
  3. Visual memory activities
  4. Visual discrimination activities
  5. Eye-aiming activities

Learn More

Who is Bonnie Terry?

Bonnie Terry is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and internationally recognized as America’s Leading Learning Specialist and the founder of Terry is an expert in developing learning programs that target how people learn through the visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic processing systems. Terry coaches teachers and parents so they can give their child a 2 to 4-year learning advantage in just 45-60 minutes a day. She is a frequent media guest and speaker.

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