Visual Efficiency and Vision Problems You Can Not “See”

This post describes visual efficiency, including visual problems such as convergence insufficiency or other visual processing issues impacting functional tasks. These visual processing problems may present in ways that are not obvious but do lead to trouble with reading and learning. As a related resource, check out our blog post on types of eye specialists and specifically, behavioral optometrists.

Visual Efficiency

A child struggles with handwriting.  They work hard in school and can verbalize answers to spelling tests or spout off vocabulary meanings and math facts.  But when it comes to reading assignments, creative writing tasks, or writing a list of words on a spelling test, you notice it.

This child seems distracted in the classroom.  They resist homework.  In-class assignments are not completed on time and when he needs to silently read a passage and recall the details, he seems distrait.

Sometimes, these learning problems are an indication of a vision problem. Sometimes, the child is not complaining of trouble seeing and they have passed vision tests, yet there might be a hidden vision problem.

Visual processing and visual efficiency are hidden eye problems that might not seem obvious when a child goes about his day. A child who needs glasses for acuity will squint his eyes of complain about headaches or blurry words on the page.  A child with visual processing or visual efficiency difficulties may slip through the fuzzy visual cracks.

Visual perceptual skills are needed for so many functional skills. You’ll find easy and fun ways to work on visual perceptual skills through play here. 

Visual processing, visual efficiency, and learning including how vision is related to reading and writing.

What is Visual Efficiency

Lets start by discussing the differences between visual processing and visual efficiency.

Visual Processing
Visual processing is a large way to describe many visual skills. When a child has a problems with visual processing, they have difficulty taking in information and processing that visual information in order to make sense of it. 

Visual processing includes visual tasks such as laterality, directionality, form perception, visual memory, visual closure, and visual motor integration. These are the kids who have trouble with letter reversals, difficulty learning the letters of the alphabet, has poor comprehension skills, has poor recall of visual information, has trouble with writing spelling words and vocabulary, or has sloppy handwriting.

Visual scanning can be one of these processing skills impacting the retrieval of visual information.

Taking in and processing that information can include visual efficiency.

Visual Efficiency
Visual efficiency refers to the ability to effectively view visual information.  While visual efficiency refers to nearsightedness and farsightedness, it also includes problems with how the eyes move in order to focus on visual information:

  • Visual focusing
  • Visual tracking
  • Visual tracking
  • Eye teaming
  • Convergence insufficiency

Visual efficiency problems may present as squinting, complaints of blurred vision, inattention, looses place when reading, poor reading comprehension, moving head when reading, or skipping lines when reading.

You can see how the ability to effectively track, focus, use the eyes together, and converge on information plays a huge role in processing that information for perceptual information so it can be used functionally, in conjunction with motor tasks (visual motor skills).

These are the types of problem areas that often times present later in the elementary school years or when students are required to read a significant amount of information.  

Visual processing, visual efficiency, and learning including how vision is related to reading and writing.

What to do about vision problems

If a child is suspected of having problems in these areas, it is important to have them tested by an optometrist who is qualified to treat learning related vision problems.  Kids can overcome problems with visual processing and visual efficiency through help, tutoring, adaptations, modifications, and corrected vision problems.

Here is more information about strategies to address visual perceptual skills and handwriting. Also check out our resource on handwriting problems.

Visual Efficiency Activities

Because the visual processing skills are so closely related (taking in information, visual perception, visual efficiency, and visual motor skills), activities are often combining all of these areas, and involve functional tasks as well.

Play is a favorite occupation of kids, so many of these activities incorporate play as a therapeutic activity to develop visual efficiency and visual processing skills.

Visual Motor Integration Bilateral Coordination Activity

Eye-hand coordination activity with letters

DIY Lacing Cards for Bilateral Coordination

Visual Closure Bug Worksheets

Scooping Eye-Hand Coordination Activity

Practice “b” and “d” with sensory writing

Color shape discrimination Sort

Coin discrimination

Real toy I Spy game  

You will find MANY more visual processing activities on our Visual Processing Page.

Here are some fun ways to help with visual efficiency concerns:  

Visual processing, visual efficiency, and learning including how vision is related to reading and writing.

These Visual Processing and Visual Efficiency tools are perfect for building skills that are needed in reading, writing, and learning tasks:

Visual Processing Bundle

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

Visual efficiency visual processing and other vision problems

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