Today, I delve into the fascinating relationship between these two conditions, shedding light on how visual processing disorder can contribute to vomiting episodes in children. By exploring this connection, we hope to provide valuable insights and support for parents navigating this unique challenge.

My 6-year old son has been having frequent vomiting up to several times a day for two years now. He would vomit during a car or plane ride, even BEFORE we get into the car. Strangely, he doesn’t vomit if it’s a motorbike ride or train ride. To make it worse, he would vomit after he read a book or watch youtube videos. We have met ENT doctor, gastroenterology doctor, ophthalmologists, and physical medicine rehabilitation doctor. There is nothing wrong with my son’s ENT-gastro-eyes, but he’s diagnosed with vestibular sensory processing disorder.

I will explain about vestibular sensory processing disorder in another post. Ever since he was diagnosed two years ago, we have been actively give him vestibular stimulation like play swings, get on slides, more outdoor times etc. He used to be scared with all those stimulations but after several months he excelled in all of them. The thing is the vomits still persists even though it becomes less frequent now. Little did we know that my son doesn’t have just vestibular sensory processing disorder but also VISUAL processing disorder.

Now let me rephrase what his doctors has explained to me :

Visual processing disorder occurs when the brain has difficulty receiving and interpreting visual stimuli effectively.

Now you might ask, what is the connection to vomiting?

While the relationship between visual processing disorder and vomiting may not be widely recognized, several studies and anecdotal evidence suggest a significant connection. Here’s how the two conditions interrelate:

1. Visual Overstimulation:
Children with visual processing disorder can be hypersensitive to certain visual stimuli, such as bright lights (youtube videos with fast pace), busy patterns (books like novels, comic books), or overwhelming visual environments. Exposure to such overstimulation can trigger a stress response in their bodies, potentially leading to nausea and eventually vomiting.

2. Vestibular Dysfunction:
Visual processing disorder is often accompanied by vestibular dysfunction, which affects the body’s balance and spatial orientation. This dysfunction can result in feelings of dizziness or motion sickness, leading to bouts of vomiting, particularly in situations involving visual motion or rapid environmental changes.

Let me me give you an example, when you sit in a car or on a plane, you can sense movement up and down, left and right, but your eyes see a static view, as if you are not moving at all. Your central nervous system receives conflicting messages from the sensory systems: the inner ear, eyes, skin pressure receptors, and the muscle and joint sensory receptors. People with functional vestibular system won’t have any issues with this.

People with visual processing disorder, have difficulties with visual tracking, depth perception, and visual sequencing. These undoubtedly can cause frustration, anxiety, and stress. These emotional states can have physiological effects, including gastric distress and vomiting episodes.

Frequent vomiting triggers anxiety and stress to my son. He would cry and beg me to help him stop the vomit since it makes his throat hurts. He often refuses to go out if he knows it has to involve get into a car. As the parents, it makes me worried sick knowing my son wouldn’t get enough nutrition due to his frequent vomit.

Anyway, lets look at the bright side. we are now understand the impact of visual sensory challenges on nausea and vomiting episodes. As parents, the bare minimum we can do is creating a supportive environment that minimizes visual triggers and seeks additional professional interventions (occupational therapy). This way, hopefully we could help children adapt, manage, and remediate their visual sensory issues, which also reducing vomiting incidents.

Do you have the same issue as me? Tell me your stories in the comment!

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