Vision Perception is the ability to interpret, analyze, and give meaning to what we see. These skills help us recognize and integrate visual stimuli with previously stored data to form a stable, predictable, familiar world. In other words, vision perception allows us to understand, not just see.
In school, visual perceptual skills are particularly important. Without good perceptual skills, we could not recognize words we’ve already seen, tell the difference between a p and q, sequence the order of letters when spelling, visualize reading content for comprehension, determine left from right, scan a busy worksheet, mentally manipulate objects in math, conceptualize relationships in science, and connect other sensory stimuli to our visual construct, such as the sound of a keyboard to a piano.
Visual perception skills are generally broken down into distinctive subcategories based on their analytical function. These subsets of skills do not work in isolation but operate in combination with each other for efficient visual function. Whether considered separately or collectively, these skills are critical to learning.
Visual Discrimination–the ability to determine exact characteristics and distinctive features among similar objects. In reading, this skill helps children distinguish between similarly spelled words, such as was/saw or then/when. Children with poor visual discrimination will often confuse words.
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Visual Memory–the ability to remember for immediate recall the characteristics of a given object or form. Children with poor visual memory may struggle with comprehension. They often subvocalize as they read because they must rely on auditory input to help them compensate. They may have difficulty remembering what a word looks like or fail to recognize the same word on a different page. They may also take longer copying assignments because they can’t retain information long enough to transfer it from the board to their page.
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Visual Sequential Memory–the ability to remember forms or characters in correct order. This skill is particularly important in spelling. Letter omissions, additions, or transpositions within words are common for children who struggle with this skill. They often subvocalize as they write. Recognizing and remembering patterns may also be a problem.
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Visual Spatial Relations–the ability to perceive the position of objects in space, both in relation of object to each other and to one’s own self. Two important considerations in spatial relationships are laterality, understanding left and right on one’s own body, and directionality, understanding left and right on other objects. Children with poor spatial development can have difficulty with spatial concepts such as left and right or up and down. They may struggle with following a line of print left to right during reading and evidence frequent letter reversals and poor spacing during writing. If they don’t have a good understanding of their body’s position within space, they may struggle with gross motor function, often misjudging distances, bumping into things, having poor ball skills, and exhibiting a general awkwardness in their movements.
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Visual Figure Ground–the ability to perceive and locate an object within a busy field without getting confused by the background or surrounding images. This skill keeps children from getting lost in details. Children with poor figure-ground become easily confused with too much print on the page, affecting their concentration and attention. They may also have difficulty scanning text to locate specific information.
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Visual Closure–the ability to visualize a complete whole when given incomplete information or a partial picture. This skill helps children read and comprehend quickly; their eyes don’t have to individually process every letter in every word for them to quickly recognize the word by sight. They may also confuse similar objects or words, especially words with close beginning or endings. This skill can also help children recognize inferences and predict outcomes.
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Visual Form Constancy–the ability to mentally manipulate forms and visualize the resulting outcomes. This skill also helps children recognize an object in different contexts regardless of changes in size, shape, and orientation. Children with poor form-constancy may struggle to recognize objects when turned a different direction or viewed from a different vantage point. They can fail to recognize words they know that are presented in a different manner, i.e., written on paper, in a book, or on the board.
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Parents: If your child has difficulty with these activities, it could indicate he/she has an undetected vision problem. Talk to your family eye doctor or contact a developmental optometrist for further evaluation. To locate a doctor in your area, go to covd.org.