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Visual Processing Explained: Visual Memory

While children are routinely screened for eye problems like nearsightedness and farsightedness, visual processing difficulties stem from the way the brain sorts through visual stimuli, rather than with the health of the eyes themselves. Visual memory is one of many visual processes that affect the way children take in information about the world around them.

What Is Visual Memory?

Simply put, visual memory is the ability to remember what something looks like. It’s a short-term memory issue that can keep children from taking what they see and transferring it to long-term memory, which has serious implications for their ability to learn — especially since so much of what teachers present is visual in nature. For example, if your child struggles to immediately recall what a letter or sight word looks like, she’ll have trouble reading or remembering what she’s read later.

How to Detect Visual Memory Problems

Like all learning disabilities in general and visual processing issues in particular, it’s important to have a professional test your child to make an accurate diagnosis. Still, you may notice signs of visual memory problems if your child exhibits several of these symptoms: Your child can’t remember a sight word from one page to the next. Your child has trouble copying information from a book or from the board. Your child has trouble memorizing basic data like phone numbers and addresses. Your child has trouble recalling details of what she has read. Your child mixes up similar letters like p and q because she can’t remember them exactly. Your child has trouble finding letters on a keyboard or numbers on a calculator. These symptoms are also related to other learning problems, so ask your child’s teacher for help to determine the exact cause of your child’s difficulties.

Activities to Remediate Visual Memory Weaknesses

Reinforcing visual memory may take some extra practice, but there are enjoyable ways to help your child build this important skill. Classic memory games are a good way to get started. Whether the cards use words or images, learning to remember the details and position of the cards to find them later is a crucial visual memory task. You can also print out pictures with many objects and give your child a set time to remember as many aspects of the artwork as possible. She can then either list items in writing, describe them orally or recreate as much of the picture as possible by drawing. Kim’s Game is another good activity: Set up a variety of household items on a plate and have your child memorize them. Then, when she has her eyes closed, remove or rearrange an item or two and challenge your child to figure out what’s different.

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