Therapy for Visual Perception at Play Works

What is visual perception?

Visual perception refers to the brain’s ability to make sense of what the eyes see. This is not the same as visual acuity which refers to how clearly a person sees (for example “20/20 vision”). A person can have 20/20 vision and still have problems with visual perceptual processing.

What are the building blocks necessary to develop visual perception?

  • Sensory Processing: Accurate registration, interpretation and response to sensory stimulation in the environment and the child’s own body.

  • Visual Attention: The ability to focus on important visual information and filter out unimportant background information.

  • Visual Discrimination: The ability to determine differences or similarities in objects based on size, color, shape, etc.

  • Visual Memory: The ability to recall visual traits of a form or object.

  • Visual Spatial Relation Ships: Understanding the relationships of objects within the environment.

  • Visual Sequential-Memory: The ability to recall a sequence of objects in the correct order.

  • Visual Figure Ground: The ability to locate something in a busy background.

  • Visual Form Constancy: The ability to know that a form or shape is the same, even if it has been made smaller/larger or has been turned around.

  • Visual Closure: The ability to recognize a form or object when part of the picture is missing.

What other problems can occur when a child has difficulties with visual perception?

When a child has visual perception difficulties, they might also have difficulties with:

  • Academic performance: The ease and skill with which they can complete academic tasks.

  • Attention and concentration: Sustained effort, doing activities without distraction and being able to hold that effort long enough to get the task done.

  • Self regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change one’s emotion, behavior, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation in a socially acceptable manner.

  • Behavior: They may avoid or refuse to participate in activities that require visual perceptual skills.

  • Organization: They may have difficulty keeping track of and organizing belongings.

 What can be done to improve visual perceptual skills?

  • Visual cues: For example, use a colored dot or sticker to show what side of the page to start writing on or reading from, or place a text mark on stick on the inside of the child’s shoes so they know which foot to put them on (dots face inwards)

  • Highlight the line: To encourage correct line alignment.

  • Eliminate clutter: Encourage the child to keep their desk clear of distractions and clutter.

  • Eliminate visual distractions: Remove as much of the visually stimulating classroom wall decorations as possible, especially near the child’s desk.

  • Outline boundaries: Use a red marker to outline the boundaries for coloring, mazes or cutting tasks.

  • Break visual activities into small steps: When working on puzzles, present one piece at a time and cover unneeded pieces of the puzzle.

 What activities can help improve visual perception?

  • Hidden pictures games in books such as “Where’s Wally”.

  • Picture drawing: Practice completing partially drawn pictures.

  • Dot-to-dot worksheets or puzzles.

  • Memory games: Playing games such as Memory.

  • Sensory activities: Use bendable things such as pipe cleaners to form letters and shapes (because feeling a shape can help them visualize the shape). The letters can then be glued onto index cards, and later the child can touch them to “feel” the shape of the letter.

  • Construction-type activities such as Duplo, Lego or other building blocks.

  • Copy 3-D block designs

Why should I seek therapy if I notice difficulties with visual perception in my child?

Therapeutic intervention to help a child with visual perception difficulties is important to:

  • Improve ability in and persistence with visual tasks.

  • Ensure the child is able to engage in/complete academic tasks.

  • Help the child to complete self care tasks, such as putting shoes on the right feet.

  • Avoid the child becoming disengaged in an academic environment due to difficulties completing visual activities (e.g. writing, cutting, drawing).

  • Avoid frustrations experienced by parents, teachers and children when a child is struggling to remain engaged in academic activities.

  • Help maintain and develop a positive sense of well being.

Sarah McDonnell