What is it?
Visual Perception refers the brain’s ability to make sense of what the eyes see. This is not the same as visual acuity, which refers to how clearly a person sees (for example “20/20 vision”). A person can have 20/20 vision and still have problems with visual perceptual processing.
Why is visual perception important?
Good visual perceptual skills are important for many every day skills such as reading, writing, completing puzzles, cutting, drawing, completing math problems, dressing as well as many other skills. Without the ability to complete these every day tasks, a child’s self esteem can suffer and their academic performance is compromised.
What are the underlying skills required for visual perception?
- Sensory Processing: Accurate registration, interpretation and response to sensory stimulation in the environment and one’s own body.
- Visual Attention: The ability to focus on important visual information and filter out unimportant background information.
- Visual Discrimination: The ability to determine differences or similarities in objects based on size, colour, shape, etc.
- Visual Memory: The ability to recall visual traits of a form or object.
- Visual Spatial Relationships: Understanding the relationships of objects within the environment.
- Visual Sequential-Memory: The ability to recall a sequence of objects in the correct order.
- Visual Figure Ground: The ability to locate something in a busy background.
- Visual Form Constancy: The ability to know that a form or shape is the same, even if it has been made smaller/larger or has been turned around.
- Visual Closure: The ability to recognise a form or object when part of the picture is missing.
How can you tell if a child has difficulties with their visual perception skills?
- The child has trouble completing puzzles, mazes or dot to dots.
- The child may have difficulty planning actions in relation to objects around him/her.
- The child has difficulty with spatial concepts such as “in, out, on, under, next to, up, down, in front of.”
- The child has difficulty differentiating between “b, d, p, q;”
- The child is noted to reverses numbers or letters when writing.
- The child often looses their place on a page when reading or writing.
- The child has difficulty remembering left and right.
- The child can forgets where to start reading.
- The child has difficulties sequencing letters or numbers in words or math problems.
- The child has trouble remembering the alphabet in sequence,
- Thye child has difficulty coping from one place to another (e.g. from board, from book, from one side of the paper to the other).
- The child has problems in dressing (i.e. matching shoes or socks).
- The child may have Ha trouble discriminating between size of letters and objects.
- The child has trouble remembering sight words.
- The child has difficulty completing partially drawn pictures or stencils.
- The child has difficulty attending to a word on a printed page due to his/her inability to block out other words around it.
- The child has difficulty filtering out visual distractions such as colourful bulletin boards or movement in the room in order to attend to the task at hand.
- The child has trouble sorting and organizing personal belongings e.g. may appear disorganised or careless in work.
- The child has difficulty with hidden picture activities or finding a specific item in a cluttered desk.
When you see difficulties with visual perception, you might also see difficulties with:
- Academic performance: The ease with which a student is able to complete academic tasks.
- Attention and concentration: Sustained effort, doing activities without distraction and being able to hold that effort long enough to get the task done.
- Self regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change one’s emotion, behaviour, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation in a socially acceptable manner.
- Behaviour: May avoid or refuse to participate in activities that require visual perceptual skills.
- Frustration: With precise eye and hand tasks.
- Avoidance: Preference to get others to perform tasks for them under their direction, rather than actually doing themselves (e.g. “Daddy, draw me a house”, or “build me a rocket”, with refusal to do it themselves).
- Organisation: May have difficulty keeping track of and organising belongings.
What can be done to improve visual perceptual skills?
- Visual cues: For example, use a coloured dot or sticker to show what side of the page to start writing on, or mark on spot on the inside of the child’s shoes so they know which foot to put them on (dots face inwards). I use felt tip red for right!
- Directional arrows: To help with direction or starting position (e.g. for letter formation).
- Graph paper: To help with word spacing and sizing.
- Highlight the line: To encourage correct line alignment.
- Paper copies: Provide the child what is to be copied on a piece of paper to put on their desk, rather than copying from the board.
- Alphabet strip: Place on the child’s table that they can refer to for correct letter formation.
- Eliminate clutter: Encourage the child to keep their desk clear of distractions and clutter.
- Position desk away from distractions: Sit the child’s desk in an area closer to the front to avoid the distractions of other students.
- Eliminate visual distractions: Remove as much of the visually stimulating classroom wall decorations as possible, especially near the child’s desk.
- Keep worksheets clear and simple: Avoid unnecessary decorations (e.g. place only one activity on a page.)
- Outline boundaries: Use a red marker to outline the boundaries for coloring, mazes or cutting tasks.
- Break visual activities into small steps: When working on puzzles, present one piece at a time, and cover unneeded pieces of the puzzle.
Activities that can help improve visual perception include:
- Hidden pictures games, in books such as “Where’s Wally”.
- Practice completing partially drawn pictures.
- Dot-to-dot worksheets or puzzles.
- Review work: Encourage your child to identify mistakes in written material.
- Memory games: Playing games such as Memory.
- Sensory activities: Use bendable things such as pipe cleaners to form letters and shapes (because feeling a shape can help them visualize the shape). The letters can then be glued onto index cards, and later the child can touch them to “feel” the shape of the letter.
- Construction-type activities, such as Duplo, Lego or other building blocks.
- Flash cards, with a correct letter on one side and an incorrectly formed letter on the other side. Have the child try to draw the letter correctly, then turn over the card to see if it is right. (Have them write in sand or with finger paint to make it more fun)
- Word search puzzles, that require you to look for a series of letter.
- Copy 3-D block designs
- Identify objects by touch: Place plastic letters into a bag, and have the child identify the letter by “feel”.