Spelling: A Visual Skill

Approximately 1 out of every 4 children have trouble with learning and school performance due to a significant vision issue.

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Spelling: A Visual Skill Optometrist
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Have you noticed your child or student struggling with spelling in any of the following ways?

  • Illegible handwriting
  • Letters get confused such as ‘d’ and ‘b’
  • Many words are misspelled  
  • Poor Spacing 
  • Struggles to write on ruled lines
  • Writes slowly
  • Child gets very tired when spelling
  • Child tries to avoid writing entirely

If any of the above sound familiar, it’s possible the issue behind the spelling troubles are related to your child’s visual skills. The good news is that there’s an entire field of developmental optometry which can help your child improve his visual skills in order to yield improved spelling results.

How is spelling related to vision?

How is spelling related to vision?

Vision plays an essential role in the way we process and understand written language, including spelling. It's important to remember that our eyes aren't just passive cameras capturing information; they are actively working with our brains to make sense of the world around us.

Eye-Brain Coordination

Our eyes send visual information to the brain, which then interprets this data. This coordination is critical for spelling. When we look at a word, our brain needs to recognize the shapes of letters and put them into the correct sequence to form a word. If there's a problem with eye alignment or eye teaming, the information sent to the brain may be inaccurate, affecting our ability to spell correctly.

Visual Memory

Spelling also relies heavily on visual memory. We need to remember the shapes and orders of letters for countless words. Issues with visual memory can often lead to difficulties in spelling. For example, kids who struggle with visual memory might frequently reverse letters or mix up the sequence of letters in words.

Tracking and Scanning

The eyes also need to move smoothly across the text when reading or writing. This skill, known as tracking, is crucial for spelling. Poor tracking skills can result in missed or jumbled letters, making it hard to spell words correctly.

Up to 75% of School Vision Screenings Miss A Vision Problem (American Optometric Association)

Up to 75% of School Vision Screenings Miss A Vision Problem (American Optometric Association)

When a child has trouble with spelling it could be a frustrating experience for the parents, the teacher and of course for the child who is struggling. Taking your child or having a teacher advise a parent to take their child to a developmental optometrist for a specialized visual exam and assessment could be the key to helping this child improve his or her spelling skills and even excel in school performance. The developmental optometrist is able to detect if there are visual skills that require strengthening and can provide professional training to help the child maximize his or her visual system in order to treat the visual challenges that the child is experiencing when trying to spell.

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Which visual skills are involved with spelling?

Which visual skills are involved with spelling?

Spelling involves many skills including the integration of language, visual, and motor skills.

  • Hand-eye coordination: The ability to synchronize the movements of eyes and hands, essential for writing letters and words correctly.
    Focusing up close: The eyes' ability to clearly see objects at a short distance, crucial for reading and writing text.
  • Eye tracking: The eyes' ability to follow a line of text smoothly, aiding in reading words correctly to understand and memorize spelling.
  • Eye movement: The skill to move eyes quickly and accurately across a page, which helps in scanning and recognizing letters and words for spelling.
  • Fixation: The ability to hold one's gaze steady on a single point, useful for focusing on individual letters and words while spelling.
  • Visual processing: The brain's capability to make sense of visual information sent by the eyes, interpreting letters and their sequences, which is fundamental for spelling.
  • Visualization: The skill to form mental images, aiding in remembering the correct sequence of letters in words for accurate spelling.
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Common Questions

Visual skills encompass a range of abilities essential for processing visual information efficiently. Examples include visual acuity (sharpness of vision), binocular vision (the ability of both eyes to work together), eye tracking (following a moving object smoothly), accommodation (changing focus between distances), and visual perception (interpreting what one sees).
Yes, spelling is predominantly a memory skill. It involves the ability to recall the sequence of letters in words. However, visual skills also play a role, especially when recognizing word patterns or recalling how a word looks.
Vision plays a critical role in the learning process. Nearly 80% of information in the classroom is presented visually. If a child has visual deficits, it can hinder their ability to read, write, and even comprehend information. Issues like eye tracking problems or poor visual perception can affect academic performance. An eye doctor can identify such issues, and with the help of vision therapy, many visual-related learning challenges can be addressed.
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A developmental optometrist is experienced in working with children to train and strengthen their visual skills, enabling them to excel at spelling and other tasks with greater ease and efficiency, breaking down the barriers that previously caused them so much frustration when trying to spell. To schedule a developmental eye exam, you can reach out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit. Our team of eye care professionals is ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.

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