1) A child may have 20/20 vision (can see the letters on a wall chart at 20 feet), but not have the visual skills need to use his eyes efficiently for reading. Visual skills include the abilities to:
· move one's eyes across the page from word to word without moving one's head, skipping words, skipping lines, or repeatedly moving one's eyes backward
· converge both eyes at the proper point in space
· use the focusing muscles of the eyes to rapidly bring things into focus
Children who don't have good visual skills may experience eye fatigue, headaches, double vision, and/or difficulty concentrating on near work. Visual perception also falls under the category of visual skills. Visual perceptual skills are needed to interpret and remember what is seen.
2) Auditory processing skills are used to differentiate and remember the sounds (phonemes) of language. Auditory skills are used to segment the individual sounds in a word or blend the sounds together. A child must be able to discriminate and remember sounds in order to learn their association with letters. For example, if a child is confusing the letter b and the letter d, this could be because she lacks the visual perceptual skills to notice and remember the difference in the shape and position of the letters or because she lacks the auditory skills to hear the difference in the quick burst of sound each letter represents.
3) Sequential processing skills enable us to recognize the proper order of things. Reading is done left to right, the number 10 comes before 11, "before" is first then comes "after," the letter "w" is before "x." In order to decode a word one must be able to tell the beginning from the end and sequence the sounds in proper order. To understand a story, one must be able to understand the order of events that occurred.
4) Simultaneous processing skills are needed to recognize and process information as a whole. Beginning readers move from decoding every word one sound at a time to recognizing familiar words on sight. In this case the simultaneous processing requires visual memory. Some children can decode words, but have trouble getting them into memory for later simultaneous processing. Other children may have a lengthy list of known "sight words," but have trouble with sequential decoding skills. These children may read well for awhile, until the words get too long and numerous to simply memorize them all by sight.
Can we help children develop skills which are missing?
...a growing body of research has demonstrated that brain development is an ongoing process that can be shaped and accelerated through the use of "targeted experience." ...the nervous system has a remarkable capacity to "rewire" itself in response to stimulation. By carefully targeting the signals the brain receives (through teaching, therapy, or play), existing brain pathways can be trained to function more smoothly, old blocks can be bypassed by the development of new learning pathways, and children can learn to do things they previously found impossible. - The Mislabeled Child by Brock Eide, M.D., M.A., and Fernette Eide, M.D.