Visual Perception

What is Visual Perception?

Visual Perception refers to 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. A person can have perfect vision and still have problems with visual perceptual processing. Good visual perceptual skills are important for many everyday 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 everyday tasks, a child's self-esteem can suffer and their academic performance is compromised.

Visual perception can be broken down into different categories including the following:

  • 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

Does your child have difficulties with any of the following?

  • Has trouble completing puzzles or dot to dots.
  • Has difficulty with spatial concepts such as "in, out, on, under, next to, up, down, in front of."
  • Has difficulty differentiating between "b, d, p, q;"
  • Reverses numbers or letters when writing.
  • Loses place on a page when reading or writing.
  • Has difficulty remembering left and right.
  • Forgets where to start reading.
  • Had trouble remembering the alphabet in sequence,
  • Has difficulty copying from one place to another (e.g. from the board, from the book, from one side of the paper to the other).
  • Has trouble remembering sight words.
  • Has difficulty completing partially drawn pictures or stencils.
  • Has difficulty attending to a word on a printed page due to his/her inability to block out other words around it.
  • Has difficulty filtering out visual distractions in order to attend to the task at hand.
  • Has difficulty with hidden picture activities or finding a specific item in a cluttered desk.

What Therapies for Kids can do

Our experienced Paediatric Occupational Therapists can assist by assessing your child for visual perceptual difficulties with the use of both standardised assessments and observation and discussion. They can suggest practical ways to prompt and present information to your child to suit their learning needs. Therapy may involve playing some of the following activities:

  • 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 visualise 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.
  • Flashcards 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 letters.
  • Copy 3-D block designs
  • Identify objects by touch: Place plastic letters into a bag, and have the child identify the letter by "feel"      

What you can do

Encourage your child’s visual perceptual development by incorporating some of the above games and activities into their day. It is also important to provide assistance and encouragement to ensure a positive experience and outcome. Finally. liaise with your child’s teacher to make sure strategies suggested by your OT are put in place in the classroom to optimise learning success.