Visual perception is the process of extracting and organising information, giving meaning to what we see. It is required to perform everyday tasks, such as reading, copying information from a board or understanding symbols.
Components of visual perception include:-
- Eye-hand coordination (e.g. drawing precise straight or curved lines within a visual boundary).
- Figure ground (the ability to see an object or form when presented in a complex background with a lot of visual information at one time).
- Visual discrimination (is the foundation for where an object or shape is classified according to colour, form, pattern, size or position).
- Position in space (relates to understanding directional language concepts, such as in/out, up/down, in front of/behind/between, left/right, when relating to objects or shapes such as letters).
- Visual memory (ability to remember and recall objects, shapes, symbols, movements or a sequence of movements).
- Visual motor integration (ability to make sense of visual information and then use it appropriately when performing a motor task, such as writing)
- Visual closure (ability to visualise the whole of an object or picture when part of it is hidden or missing)
- Form constancy (ability to recognise forms and objects as the same in various situations).
If a child has difficulties with visual perception they might have difficulty:
- Completing puzzles or dot to dots.
- Planning actions in relation to objects around them.
- With spatial concepts such as “in, out, on, under, next to, up, down, in front of.”
- Differentiating between “b, d, p, q”
- Reversing numbers or letters when writing.
- Losing place on a page when reading or writing.
- Remembering left and right.
- Forgetting where to start reading.
- Sequencing letters or numbers in words or math problems.
- Remembering the alphabet in sequence,
- Coping from one place to another (e.g. from board, from book, from one side of the paper to the other).
- Dressing (i.e. matching shoes or socks).
- Discriminating between size of letters and objects.
- Remembering sight words.
- Completing partially drawn pictures or stencils.
- Attending to a word on a printed page due to his/her inability to block out other words around it.
- Filtering out visual distractions such as colourful bulletin boards or movement in the room in order to attend to the task at hand.
- Sorting and organizing personal belongings (e.g. may appear disorganised or careless in work).
- With hidden picture activities or finding a specific item in a cluttered desk.
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 reading from, or place a text a mark on stick on the inside of the child’s shoes so they know which foot to put them on (dots face inwards).
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 work that is to be copied on a piece of paper to put on their desk, rather than asking them to copy it 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, remove pretty borders on worksheets).
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.
What activities can help improve visual perception?
Hidden pictures games in books such as “Where’s Wally”.
Picture drawing: 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”.