What are Visual Perceptual skills?
Visual perceptual skills enable us to make sense of and interpret what our eyes are seeing. More specifically, visual perceptual skills involve the brain’s ability to process and give meaning to visual information, thereby empowering us to understand and interact with our surroundings.
Visual perception is a broad skill area that can be broken down into several categories, including visual memory, visual attention, and visual spatial awareness.
Signs of challenge in this area include...
Confusing similar-looking letters or numbers (i.e., M & N, b & d)
Letter or number reversals when writing
Requires extra time to recognize familiar words
Difficulty distinguishing between similar forms, such as a square and rectangle
Displays confusion and fatigues quickly when looking at busy visual displays
Difficulty recognizing a word or object if it is only partially shown
Frequently loses place on the page when reading/writing
Struggles to find objects in a drawer
Why is this important?
Visual perceptual skills enable a child to apply meaning to that which is seen, which is essential in a child’s ability to function in and interact with their environment. Strong visual perceptual skills are crucial for success with academic tasks, such as reading and handwriting, as well as with activities of daily living, such as locating a shirt from within a closet and assigning shoes to the correct feet.
Additionally, visual perceptual skills facilitate social relationships with peers, as this skill area is necessary for understanding concepts of personal space, as well as the position of one’s body in relationship to others. Moreover, visual attention skills allow engagement with peers by enabling children to filter out background visual stimuli and better attend to a conversation or activity (i.e., puzzle) completed with a peer.
Lastly, visual perceptual skills also act as a foundation for visual motor tasks that require the integration of visual input with motor output, including cutting with scissors and copying letters and numbers. Overall, visual perceptual skills are foundational in minimizing frustration and maximizing success and independence across academic, home, and community contexts.
How can ot help?
Occupational therapists frequently work one-on-one with children to strengthen visual perceptual skills through targeted yet engaging interventions, such as hidden picture games, navigating through an obstacle course, and copying building block designs from a model.
Additionally, occupational therapists may implement strategies that can be carried over at home or in the classroom to maximize success. For example, an occupational therapist may recommend use of visual cues (i.e., a colored sticker) to act as a reminder for which side of the page to start reading or writing on, or reduction in visual clutter on a worksheet (e.g., present one math problem on a page at a time).