Visual Perceptual Skills

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What are visual perceptual skills and why are they important?

Visual perceptual skills are the skills that a child uses to make sense of what he or she sees.

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers to help you understand more about them.

Why Are They Important?

Making sense of what you see is vital for school skills such as reading, writing and math, as well as life skills such as reading signs and maps, finding objects in a busy space, and taking part in hobbies or crafts.

Recognizing letters and numbers, matching shapes, recognizing a face, finding a toy in a messy cupboard, reading a road sign – these are all examples of how visual perception can be used in everyday life.

Real Life Visual Perception

When visual perception has not developed properly, the child may still learn to read and write, but it can take a lot of cognitive effort and may slow down the learning process.

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What Are the Different Skills?

There are many areas of visual perception and sometimes teachers and professionals differ in the terms they use to describe various visual perceptual tasks.

This list is not comprehensive, but should cover the skills most commonly referred to within the school environment.

Each visual perceptual skill has its own page of information and activities you can do at home, so just click on the link to find out more!

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How Do We Use Visual Perception in Everyday Life?

Visual perceptual skills develop from infancy, as the baby learns to focus on and interact with the environment.

Giving your baby and toddler lots of opportunities to move and play indoors and outdoors will help the eyes learn to focus, to track moving objects and to locate objects in the environment.

Here’s an example of how visual perception works in everyday life.

Picture a little boy spotting some movement on a flower at the other side of the garden. His eyes spotted the movement and his brain has decided that the information is worth noticing.

Using the information from his eyes, his brain processes that the interesting object is a little distance away and not close by, and the little boy gets up to walk closer.

As he gets closer, his brain processes the shape and detail of the moving object and matches it up against the information already in the brain and makes a match – it is a butterfly! Excited now, the little boy keeps moving closer.

On the way, still watching the butterfly, he steps around the toys he left lying on the grass. His peripheral vision noticed the cars and his brain processed this information and enabled him to step around them.

As he walks, he can see the butterfly getting closer and closer. His eyes send information in 3 dimensions (depth perception) and his brain will process the information and tell his body when to stop so the butterfly does not get squashed.

The little boy spends some time admiring the butterfly’s pretty wings. His visual discrimination and figure-ground perception skills enable him to identify colors, shapes and patterns on the wings and to spot the butterfly’s compound eyes. His visual perceptual skills make this possible.

Oh! The butterfly has decided to fly away. The little boy’s eyes work together to track its flight path up and over the garden wall.

Inspired, the little boy runs inside and draws a lovely picture of the symmetrical wings of the butterfly, using his visual memory of what he has seen. His mom writes out the word “butterfly” and our little chap copies them down.

I hope you noticed the word "processing" - I had to use it a lot!

Visual perception is all about your brain PROCESSING what you see, helping you make sense of it and then directing your actions accordingly.

With poor visual perceptual skills, the boy may not have been able to spot the butterfly, identify the butterfly as a butterfly, or recognize the colors and shapes on the wings.

He may even have accidentally squashed it by coming too close.

Poor visual perception would also have made it challenging for him to remember and draw what he had seen, and it would have been very hard for him to copy the letters out.

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Develop Your Child's Visual Perceptual Skills!

How can parents help their child to develop good visual processing skills? Here are a few tips:

1) Do Lots Of Gross Motor Activities

Gross motor activities give the eyes lots of opportunities to track movement, change focus, and experience depth and spatial perception.

Hand-eye coordination activities are great for boosting visual motor skills as well as general visual perception.

Bean bag games are great for visual tracking, and there are some other fun hand eye coordination ideas on that page.

2) Use a Variety of Visual Perceptual Activities To Develop All The Skills

Expose your child to a variety of activities to develop the different skills. Jigsaw puzzles are popular, but they don’t develop all the visual perceptual skills that a child needs.

These pages on my site contain some simple activity ideas to help you:

3) Limit Screen Time

Although there are many fantastic apps and games that can develop some visual skills, they often do not work on the full range of visual perception skills that your child needs.

In addition, because they are sedentary and the screen tends to stay the same distance away from the eyes, the visual system is not being challenged to adapt and develop the way it would be if your child was playing a pegboard game on the floor.

4) Don't Depend on Worksheets

The best way for a child to develop visual perceptual skills is through play!

Expose your toddler and preschooler to simple, hands on activities and only introduce worksheets once visual perceptual concepts are being mastered.

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What If My Child Has Problems?

Good visual perception depends on the brain getting accurate information from the eyes, before it can be processed. You may need to have your child’s eyes tested by a behavioral optometrist, who will check much more than just 20/20 vision.  Read more about what a behavioral optometrist does.

Or your child may have a visual processing disorder – an occupational therapist, remedial teacher or educational psychologist should be able to do the necessary assessments to identify the specific visual perceptual skills with which your child is struggling.

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What Resources Do I Use?

Most of the activities on my website use everyday objects and regular toys.

Just click on the image alongside to see a variety of fun ideas you can easily do at home with your child!

From Rattles to Writing is a book about encouraging your child's normal development from birth to 5 years. There are some helpful sections on visual motor development that you may find helpful. Read my review of the book here.

PFOT stock a great range of visual perception products, and kindly allowed me to compile my favorites on their site.

Take a look - these items make great gifts as well as boosting your child's skills!

Exclusive Offer to OT Mom Readers
Use the coupon code OTmom
and get 15% off your order of $35 or more at PFOT
This is an affiliate link and if you purchase something through my link, I will earn a small commission which helps to support my site!

Thank you for visiting my site! I hope you found this page helpful!

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