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Building Visual Perceptual Skills

What is Visual Perception?

Visual perception refers to the skills our brain uses to process and make sense of the things that we see. Visual perceptual skills help us to understand the world around us and are essential for learning, play, and self-care tasks. We need visual perceptual skills for reading, handwriting, crafts, copying from the board, completing puzzles, navigating our environment, finding the clothes we want to wear, and so much more.

Visual Perceptual Skill Activities

Figure Ground is the ability to identify items when the background is busy or crowded.  We use figure-ground to find an item we are looking for in a junk drawer or our matching shoe from a pile. You can work on figure-ground by completing word searches, color-by-number pictures, or Where’s Waldo books.

Form Constancy is the ability to recognize that two shapes are the same even if they are different sizes or in different positions.  This helps us recognize letters even when text is in a different font or reading another person’s handwriting.  You can practice form constancy by doing tangram puzzles, scavenger hunts, or placing shapes into a shape sorter.

Spatial Relationships are the ability to understand how objects in our environment relate to one another. It helps us to understand if a chair is in front of, behind, or under a table, identify letter reversals, and perceive that we are standing too close to another person. You can work on spatial relationships by completing obstacle courses, playing Simon Says, and building with blocks.

Visual Closure is the ability to “complete” a shape in our head when we are only able to see part of it.  We use visual closure to find matching socks in a laundry basket, draw the second half of a picture, and read and comprehend quickly.  You can work on visual closure by completing dot-to-dots, directed drawings, and puzzles.

Visual Attention is the ability to pay attention to the information we see while disregarding the details we don’t need. Visual attention helps us to locate objects in the room, recognize letters, and play games like Battleship and Connect 4.  You can work on visual attention using mazes, Guess Who, and puzzles. These activities will require your child to pay attention to small details, focus, and refocus on the information that is important in order to complete successfully.

Visual Discrimination is the ability to notice and distinguish objects based on their characteristics.  Visual discrimination helps us distinguish between letters and words and recognize the difference between words that look similar like “cat” and “cot”. You can work on visual discrimination with “Find The Difference” Activities, sorting objects by shape, size, or color, making patterns, or imitating a structure with blocks or legos.

Visual Memory is the ability to remember the information we see and recall it later.  This is especially helpful when copying sentences from the board, remembering sight words, spelling, or writing down homework in a planner. You can work on visual memory using I Spy books and memory-matching games.

Michele Miles, Occupational Therapist, West Knoxville, TN.