Visual processing or perception is the ability to organize, interpret, and give meaning to what is seen. There are nine subcategories of visual processing, nine of auditory processing, and nine of tactile/kinesthetic processing. These 27 areas of processing impact learning. When learning is hard, it is typically due to one or more of these areas not working as well as it could, should, and can.  These areas are learned skills and can improve.

areas-of-visual-perceptionThis post is on visual processing. According to the National Vision Research Institute of Australia, 40% of the human brain is involved in one form or another with visual perception. Additionally, Early Choice Pediatric Therapy found that once a child enters school, 75% of classroom activities are directed through visual pathways.

So, what are some of these visual processing areas? And, how do they impact learning?

Visual Figure Ground is the ability to visually attend to the designated stimulus and not be distracted by the background. This area of processing allows you to find specific items on a page. When there are too many colors on a page, it may be difficult for you to focus. Instead, you pay attention to the irrelevant stimulus. You may also frequently lose your place on a page while reading and find it hard to copy work from the board.

Visual Memory is another area of visual processing that impacts learning. This is the ability to store and retrieve information from memory. In other words, remembering that you have seen a picture or a word before. Poor visual memory skills make it difficult for you to remember a new word that you saw on page one and then come upon that same word two or three pages later. You may have to sound it out again because you don’t remember what the word was. Spelling is usually difficult for those with visual memory difficulties.

Depressed little girl studing in the classroom

Depressed little girl studing in the classroom

Things to do to improve visual figure-ground skills

  1. Hidden pictures – Where’s Waldo
  2. Find a particular spice in the pantry
  3. Sort cereal or pasta into muffin or egg trays according to shape or color

Find your favorite socks in a messy drawer

Things to do to improve visual memory skills

  1. Play visual memory – matching games.
  2. Play I-spy
  3. Copy patterns using beads, pegs, blocks, numbers, or letters

There are seven other areas of visual processing, and each of them does impact learning. For more visual, auditory, and kinesthetic processing activities, check out our Awaken the Scholar Within VAK Program and our Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills.


Bonnie 100x100Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET, Board Certified Educational Therapist #10167, is considered one of the top experts in the country in helping teachers and parents identify their students’ learning disabilities/learning difficulties.

She’s been an educator, learning disability specialist, and educational therapist since 1973. Ms. Terry gives teachers and parents the ability to give their child a 2 – 4 year advantage in just 20 minutes a day. She’s a contributing author to education journals. She’s a popular national and international speaker.