Today we are going to take a look at a part of child development that you may not be familiar with. What is visual perception? Why is it important? What can you do to help your child who may have visual perceptual challenges? Keep reading to get answers to all these questions.
Let's dig in!
Visual Perception Definition
Visual perception can be defined as the process of our brain understanding what we see and interpreting it. An easy way to remember this is that visual perception is the brain making sense of what the eyes see.
This is NOT the same as how well a child or person sees. Visual acuity, while important, is something completely different from visual perception.
What is the Process of Visual Perception?
Visual perception begins when light hits your retina. Your eye is able to distinguish between colors, patterns, and structures, or shapes. When the light hits the retina, this sends an electrical signal to the brain, specifically to the cerebral cortex. This signal travels through from the rods and cones in your eye to the optic nerve and the thalamus.
Visual perception not only needs eye development but cognitive development to build visual connections from memories.
Visual Perception Development
Visual perception develops as part of visual-motor development and is particularly important for future hand function.
By about 4 months old, a baby will use its vision to guide its hand to grasp or reach for objects.
The visual-motor skills needed for grasping and to begin using the fingers for grasping developments around 6 months old.
As a baby grows, its visual-motor skills develop and mature which allow it to eventually manipulate smaller objects, modify movements based on how much they think something weighs, adjust grasp based on size, shape, or surface, and guides them in manipulating objects for play and social interaction.
Eventually, this development leads to academic needs such as grasping a pencil or using scissors while holding the paper (bilateral coordination).
For specifics on visual-motor development, you can download my free Visual-Motor Development Checklist here (you will need to enter your email address to receive this free download, you can unsubscribe at any time).
Visual perception specifically refers to the ability to interpret what the eyes are seeing. This skill includes 3 sub-categories of visual cognitive abilities, spatial perception, and object perception.
These skills develop and mature as a child is exposed to different experiences, especially through play.
Visual Perception Struggles in Children
What does it look like when a child might be struggling with visual perception?
Here are a few red-flags:
- Not lining up math columns correctly (horizontally or vertically)
- Writing off the page
- Poor spelling
- Poor eye-hand coordination (throwing or catching skills)
- Poor organization skills
- Slow handwriting speed and illegible handwriting
For more visual perception red-flags, check out FREE HANDOUT from Miss Jaime O.T.
If you suspect your child or student struggles visual perception, rule out any physical issues with the eyes first by taking your child to an optometrist. Be sure to also ask that they receive a binocular vision exam.
Then ask to talk to an Occupational Therapist or your child's physician to ask for an Occupational Therapy evaluation to address any visual perception concerns.
Visual Perception and Occupational Therapy
Visual perception is an important skill for reading, math, language, and social skills. Children who have difficulty with visual perception can often benefit from Occupational Therapy services.
An Occupational Therapist works with all ages, but specifically with children who struggle in areas of child development that impact their every-day life. This can include visual perception struggles.
Occupational Therapists (OT) are specially trained to look for the underlying reasons that a child could be struggling in the classroom or with every-day life skills.
An Occupational Therapist will use a standardized test or assessment to check for visual perception struggles. This could include:
- Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration
- Test of Visual Perceptual Skills – 4th Edition
- Developmental Test of Visual Perception – 3rd Edition
Occupational Therapists will use these evaluations and assessments to discover what may be causing a child's visual perception challenges and then create goals and a plan of care based on those goals.
Occupational Therapy Assistants are also able to treat children with visual perceptual challenges by working on activities that will address these underlying skill deficits.
These activities may often look like “just play”, but that is because play is the best form of learning for children. Both OTs and OTAs are specially trained to choose the right types of activities or “play” that will address the goals they have chosen for your child or student.
Visual Perception Activities
The most important thing you can do to encourage visual perception is to just let your child PLAY.
Play is how a child learns and explores the world. Allowing ample playtime and exposing your child or student to as many experiences as possible is the best way to encourage visual perception skills.
Other more structured activities can include:
- Board games that focus on letters
- Memory games
FUNctional Visual Perception Workbook for Children
As therapists and teachers, we are always looking for new ways to work on functional skills. We also struggle with keeping clear and concise data on our student’s performance. It’s hard to monitor progress using standard puzzles, games, and toys because of the demands of each activity are different.
How do we keep therapy sessions and classroom lessons fun and fresh while also maintaining enough consistency with the tasks to track progress?
Is my student making progress?
How do I know for sure?
Are there other skills I should be addressing?
Are you spending hours searching for seasonal and fresh activities for your students?
Do you wish for a go-to printable resource that addresses multiple kinds of visual perception and is it easy to track progress?
I have! That’s why I’m so excited about the launch of the FUNctional Visual Perception workbook.
There are activities for all seasons, holidays, hobbies, and more. It’s easy to choose similar activities with different themes for consistent work on specific targeted skills.
This digital workbook is also perfect for parents to use at home to extend visual perception activities that your child's therapist may be working on in sessions.
Visual Perception – An Overview from Science Direct
Occupational Therapy for Children and Adolescents 7th Edition
For more resources, check out the links below.