What is visual perception?

It refers to the brain’s ability to make sense of what the eyes see. In order to function in our world we need to integrate our senses including sight, sound, touch, smell, balance and movement. We use our eyes to assist us function in the world around.  Visual perception is our ability to integrate all our senses in order to accurately identify, locate, process and organize visual information from the environment around us. It is an important aspect of vision that contributes to the way we see and interpret things. By the time a child reaches grade 1 most are able to integrate their senses which is important as approximately 75% of classroom learning is visual. What is interesting is that many children who experience visual perceptual difficulties have 20/20 vision but find organising and making sense of what they see difficult as it is not the same as visual acuity, how clearly a person sees.

Why is it important?

Good visual perceptual skills are important for most every day skills such as reading, writing, completing maths problems, drawing, cutting, buttoning up their shirts to finding matching socks. If these issues aren’t addressed they may lead to decrease in academic performance, attention and concentration, self regulation and behaviour issues, frustration, avoidance of certain tasks, and difficulty with organisational tasks.

All children are different but the following are some examples of tasks that a child with visual perceptual issues may find difficult:

  • Discriminating between certain numbers or letters such as “b, d, p, q;”
  • Building puzzles or completing ‘dot-to-dot’ activities;
  • Spatial concepts such as “in, out, on, under, next to, up, down, in front of;”
  • Copying from one place to another (from board, book, one side of the paper to the other etc.);
  • Following left and right directions;
  • Sizing and spacing letters and numbers;
  • Finding matching shoes;
  • Finding a place on a page when reading or writing.

There are many fun games and activities that can be done to improve and develop visual perceptual skills including:

Classroom ideas:

Cat Start: Get the children to draw a cat in the margin of their books where the head uses the top line, the body, the middle and the tail the lower line to show which lines letters and numbers start and end.

Direction Help: Draw a dot, star, heart etc on the child’s wrist to remind them which hand is right or left to help with direction. This can be used for shoes to ensure that they put them on the correct foot.

Dot Copying: Use a dot to show the children where to start forming the letter or number when tracing.

Alphabet strip: Copy the letters of the alphabet or numbers onto a strip and laminate and place on their desk to help remind them how form their letters and numbers correctly.

Clear Desk & Surrounds: Encourage children to keep their desk and surrounding area clear of distractions and clutter.

Seating Arrangements: position the child’s desk facing away from windows and open doors, preferably towards the front of the classroom to avoid distractions.

Activity Steps: Break visual activities into small steps such as when working on puzzles, give them one piece at a time and leave the rest in the box.

Verbal explanations: tell them what you are doing as you are doing it so the child can see it and hear it at the same time.

Limit written tasks: decrease the amount of written tasks that they are required to complete. Find other ways of testing their understanding such as getting verbal feedback.

Oral Tests: Let the child verbally give you the answers rather than purely through writing.

Activities that can help improve visual perception include:

Find an object: find hidden pictures in books such as “Where’s Wally” or play “Spot the Difference” game.

Building Blocks: Encourage children to build structures using blocks such as Lego, or wooden blocks.

Mystery Object: Select a number of different objects with varying textures and sizes and put them in a drawstring bag. Ask the children to tell you what the objects are by feeling each.

Dot-to-dot worksheets or puzzles.

Memory games: Playing games such as Kim’s Game or Memory Cards.

Sensory Activities:

  • Sandpaper Letters & Numbers: write letters on cardboard using glue then sprinkle sand on top. Get children to trace the shape using their fingers.
  • Walking Letters & Numbers: Using chalk draw very large letters and numbers on cement/other floor surfaces and get the children to walk along the letters as they would write them.
  • Air and Water Letters & Numbers: Get children to draw very big letters and numbers in the air, on each others backs, or on their desks using water and a paintbrush.