Visual Motor Integration

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Visual Motor Integration for handwriting

Visual Motor Integration (*) (VMI) involves effective, efficient communication between the eyes and the hands, so that you are able to copy, draw or write what you see.

Kids who struggle to integrate or coordinate their visual systems and their motor systems may struggle with handwriting as well as with other school skills.

This page has been written to help parents understand what VMI is, and to help promote normal development. If you are concerned about your child's development, please contact your health professional!

Click on the quick links below to find some answers to your questions on this page.

The Two Foundations Of VMI

Effective coordination of the visual system and the motor system can only happen when the two foundations are well established.

The box below contains a breakdown of the skills inherent in each base.

A delay in any of these areas may affect VMI skills.

However, even if both bases are good, VMI can still be poor, as it is the integration, or coordination of the 2 skills that is important.

1) Visual Skills Foundation

The visual skills foundation is established through the development of:

  • visual perceptual skills
  • functional visual skills (such as eye tracking and convergence)
  • eye-hand coordination

2) Motor Skills Foundation

The motor skills foundation is established through the development of:

  • shoulder girdle stability
  • fine motor skills
  • eye-hand coordination

(links to pages with more information on each of these skills are listed in the activity ideas and resources at the bottom of this page)

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VMI or Eye-Hand Coordination?

Visual Motor Integration is more than simple eye-hand coordination, although there is a lot of overlap between the two skills.

Working on eye-hand coordination does help the visual and motor systems to work together, but there may be a subtle difference in the way they affect a child's written work.

Here is a brief description of the differences between the two.

Eye-Hand Coordination

Eye hand coordination requires the eyes to visually guide the movement. It does not usually involve visual perception per se.

- Hitting a ball with a bat
- Catching a ball
- Tracing a path between 2 lines

Visual-Motor Integration is more than eye-hand coordination.

In the Classroom:

Children with poor eye-hand coordination may struggle to start and stop the pencil in the space given, and may miss or overshoot the lines.

However, fine motor delays can also affect a child’s eye-hand coordination during paper and pencil tasks.

Visual Motor Integration

VMI involves visual perceptual skills – the ability to correctly perceive a form in order to correctly replicate it.

- correctly perceiving and copying shapes
- correctly perceiving and copying letters and numbers

In the Classroom:

Children with poor VMI often struggle to form letters well, and struggle to copy drawings.

Younger children struggle to draw shapes and numbers.

This 6 year old was unable to copy his name because of poor VMI.

Patterns don’t flow, and numbers and letters may be written in a jerky stop-start way.

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VMI and Handwriting

Does VMI affect handwriting?

Some studies have found VMI to be more important than either fine motor skills alone or visual perceptual skills alone in determining whether a child will have good handwriting (see References below).

Children need good visual-motor integration to be able to copy basic shapes (diagonal lines, circles, squares, triangles, intersecting lines) before they are able to learn to form their letters correctly.

Visual motor integration delays may cause a child to struggle to copy numbers and letters correctly. The child’s handwriting may seem disjointed and lacking in flow. Handwriting may require lots of conscious effort, out of proportion to the task.

If you suspect a VMI delay, a referral to an occupational therapist would be in order. An OT would assess VMI skills (probably using the Beery or the DTVP-2) and then administer a battery of other tests to see what factors are hampering the child’s VMI skills. Getting to the root of the problem is essential!

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Activity Ideas and Resources

I have divided these activity ideas and resources into those that work on either the visual or the motor foundation, and those that work specifically on coordinating the visual AND motor skills.

Please note that these activities are designed to promote your child's normal development and are not a substitute for therapy. If you are concerned about your child's skills, please contact an occupational therapist!

Just follow the links to these free activity resource pages on my site and have fun with your child as you build their skills!

Free Activity Resources for Visual Skills

Free Activity Resources for Motor Skills

Integrating Visual and Motor Skills

Although eye-hand coordination and visual motor integration have a somewhat different effect on your child's handwriting, as I described above, many eye-hand coordination exercises and activities can still help to improve your child's visual-motor skills.

I have thus included them in the selection below.

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(*) Technically Speaking...

Visual-Motor Integration (with a hyphen between "visual" and "motor" is the technically correct way to write this term. Ditto for Eye-Hand Coordination.

However, more people search for these terms WITHOUT a hyphen between the words, so this article was written without the hyphen in order to reach and meet the needs of these searchers.

Professionals, please forgive this deliberate technical "error"!

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1) Daly, C.J., Kelley, G.T., Krauss, A., “Relationship between visual-motor integration and handwriting skills of children in kindergarten: a modified replication study.” AJOT, 2003, 57(4):459-642. Abstract can be viewed here.

2) Wiid, Julie, “Visual-Motor Integration (VMI) and Graphomotor (handwriting) Problems as a Barrier to Learning” Read the PDF article here.

3) Relationship Between Visual-Motor Integration, Eye-Hand Coordination, and Quality of Handwriting by M-L Kaiser, J-M Albaret, and P-A Doudin, 2009. Read the PDF article here

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