Attack of the Math Problems

If your child does well with math but balks at a sheet of math problems, take a good look at that page. Do the problems run together in tight rows and columns? It may be that the effect is visually overwhelming to your child, to the extent that she would rather be punished for missing homework than deal with a bewildering array of numbers.

When problems are too close together, your child with visual processing problems may not be able to tell which numbers go with which problems, and she may make mistakes because she's adding or subtracting the wrong things.

To see if this might be what's going on with your child, cut a window out of a piece of paper, just big enough to let one problem show through, and place it over the first problem on the page. See if your child responds better with just one set of figures to work out at a time.

You can also try putting a piece of paper under one row of problems so that she sees just those but not the rest of the worksheet. Folding the worksheet to expose just one row or column at a time is another option. Experiment until you find a combination that works for your child.

Math problems that involve borrowing or carrying over can add to the mess of a too-tight paper. Draw boxes above the problem to contain these little digits, or copy the problems to another sheet of paper with more space all around each problem. Watch as your child works to make sure he doesn't lose track.

Standardized Confusion

Standardized tests, with their problems on one sheet and answer bubbles on another, can present a real challenge to children with visual perception problems. Picking the right bubble from a sea of little circles — selecting the right row to go with the problem, the right column to go with the answer — is a visual challenge.

Encourage your child to put a piece of paper under each row of bubbles as he goes along to make sure the line coordinates to the problem, and to take his time and match the letter answers to the proper bubble. Do some practice sessions at home before tests come up at school and see where your child is having problems.

There aren't a lot of accommodations allowed in standardized testing, but if your child has an IEP, she should be able to get extra time to complete the exam. Children with this accommodation are often brought to a different room than their classmates, with fewer students and a teacher who can provide small amounts of assistance.

Out of Shape

Math problems that involve matching shapes, identifying shapes from different perspectives, or fitting shapes together may also be challenging for your child with sensory integration problems. The discrimination needed to visualize a shape and to understand how those shapes change in appearance as they change position may be something your child will develop later than his peers. If your child doesn't integrate proprioceptive and vestibular information well with visual input, it can be very hard to understand things with multiple dimensions; things are just what they look like and nothing more.

Your child's self-esteem may be damaged by difficulties that are hard for her peers and herself to understand. Be her biggest cheerleader, and make sure she knows that her struggles are not her fault — and that problems with sensory reception, interpretation, and integration have nothing to do with intelligence.

Money is often a difficult concept, too, particularly if it is being taught with worksheets showing drawings of coins. There may not be enough visual detail for your child to distinguish drawings of each coin from the others, and he'll make mistakes based on misreading. Even actual coins can be hard to tell apart. Your child may require a lot of practice and a variety of different strategies to finally get it.

The more you can demonstrate these concepts for your child in ways that involve other senses, the more likely it will be that she will understand them. But the understanding may take a long time to really stick. Be patient and tolerant.

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