Processing Disorders

What is an information processing disorder? According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities "An information processing disorder is a deficiency in a person's ability to effectively use the information the senses have gathered." It does not result from a physical disability such as blindness or deafness.

Visual Processing Disorders:

Visual Discrimination

The skill of visual discrimination includes the ability to recognize and distinguish different shapes. With a visual discrimination processing disorder, a person has problems seeing the difference between letters and other small objects, and noticing the similarities in patterns.
A testing sheet for visual discrimination processing disorder
A testing sheet for visual discrimination processing disorder

Visual Sequencing

Visual sequencing is the ability to "see and distinguish the order of symbols, words or images" (NCLD). With a visual sequencing disorder, a person may have trouble using separate answers sheets for tests, reading an entire paragraph without skipping lines, or understanding math equations.
A testing program for visual sequencing processing disorder
A testing program for visual sequencing processing disorder

Visual Memory

There are two kinds of visual memory: long term and short term. Long term visual memory is the ability to recall something that was seen a long time ago, and short term visual memory is the ability to recall images seen recently. If a person has a visual memory problem, they have trouble remembering the "spelling of familiar words with irregular spelling" (NCLD). They also have trouble with reading comprehension and using a keyboard or keypad with speed and accuracy. A person with a visual memory processing disorder would also have a hard time remembering names.

Visual Motor Processing

The skill of visual motor processing involves "Using feedback from the eyes to coordinate the movement of other parts of the body" (NCLD). A person with a visual motor processing disorder would have problems writing on a sheet of paper. For example, I know a person who has this processing disorder. He can't hand write at all - his sentences slope off to the left and he runs out of paper. For his tests, the teachers print out a full page after every question and he still has trouble answering. Other problems resulting from a visual motor processing disorder include the inability to copy from a board or book and participating in sports that require precice movements in space, like tennis, pool, or baseball.

Visual Closure

The skill of visual closure is "The ability to know what an object is when only parts of it are visible." (NCLD). Difficulties resulting from this disorder include the inability to recognize common objects with simple parts missing (the example given was a truck without it's wheels), or the inability to recognize words with letters missing.

Spatial Relationships

Spatial Relationship processing is the ability to understand how objects exist in space around oneself (how far an object is away from you, for example). If a person has a spatial relationship processing disorder, they may have problems getting from point A to point B, organizing letters in a sentence or on a page, judging time and reading maps.

Auditory Processing Disorders

Auditory Discrimination

According to the NCLD, the skill of auditory discrimination is "the ability to compare and distinguish the distinct and separate sounds in words". A person with an auditory discrimination processing disorder would have difficulty learning to read, distinguishing between similar sounds (15 and 50, or 70 and 17), understanding language, and following directions.

Auditory Memory

Like visual memory, there are two kinds of auditory memory: long term and short term. Long term visual memory involves the remembering of details heard a long time ago, and short term memory involves remembering things heard recently. A person with a processing disorder of this kind would have problems recognizing names, memorizing phone numbers, following complicated directions, or recalling stories or songs.

Auditory Sequencing

Auditory sequencing is the skill of understanding and recalling the order of words. A person with auditory sequencing would have problems confusing larger numbers (the example given was 74 and 47), confusing lists, and remembering the correct order of instructions.

In Popular Culture

Time Article about sensory processing disorder. The article is titled The Next Attention Deficit Disorder? and tells about a family who 's son has an auditory processing disorder.
Sensory Processing Disorder - One Mom's Story Sensory processing disorder involving the wrong processing of senses.
Memory Impairment Associated With Auditory Processing Disorder Science Daily News about new information linking memory impairment with auditory processing disorder.
Sensory Processing Disorder Online Support Group


My aunt participated in the Hawaii Ironman last October, and she told me about a father and son team, the Hoyts. Dick and Rick Hoyt compete in Ironman and a variety of other races together. Rick, the son, has a disability. When Rick was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, thus cutting off the flow of oxygen to his brain. So his father, Dick, pushes him in a wheelchair and carries him throughout the race. I found a short ten-minute video that tells more about their very inspirational story.
-Amanda R.

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