Many students have difficulty learning to read because of poor visual processing skills. This means they lack the ability to recognize, sort, recall, and assemble various patterns in what they are seeing. Following a specific pattern allows the student to arrive at a decision faster than without a pattern. Also, some patterns of recognition are better than others because they lead to quicker solutions. Another key component of pattern recognition is to remember and apply the pattern repeatedly with out modification. Deviations from the pattern will cause mistakes.
Two of the most common patterns students follow when learning to read are sight reading and phonics. In sight reading, a student uses a whole word approach and essentially memorizes the entire structure of a word. In this method, there is very little pattern recognition. Consequently, sight readers have the most difficulty learning to read because they don’t really have a strong pattern to apply to new words or words they have forgotten. In phonics, words are broken down into groups by sounds. This method tends to be more successful than sight reading because the student has a more specific pattern to follow. With phonics, students can sound out each word and if they follow the pattern can even sound out new words.
In students with visual processing difficulties, sight reading and phonics do not lend to better reading.This is because sight reading lacks a strong visual pattern and phonics uses mostly auditory patterns not visual patterns. Students with visual processing disabilities need strong visual patterns to read better. When students are shown key repeating and specific letter sequences used in words they can be trained to read better immediately. In fact, this visual sequencing technique works so well it allows any reader to properly pronounce multi-syllable words they have never even seen or heard before. Students experiencing reading difficulty or slow improvement with standard reading tutorial should be suspected of having a visual processing disorder. Visual processing disorders can be diagnosed and treated by an eye doctor specializing in this area.
– Article by Dr. David Bloch, OD