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Visual Perceptual Skills

One of the many areas of vision that I learned about and studied is the visual perceptual skills. These skills are a subcategory of the Visual Information Processing skills and can be thought of in a similar relationship to “vision” like in the sense that these are controlled by the brain.

Just like every processing skill that we develop and need in our daily lives, it is always possible to have a deficiency. So it is important to understand what each skill does and why it is important so if a child or adult is struggling, we can work our way back to the skill that is lacking or deficient and work on it and avoid misdiagnosis with ADD or ADHD.

And when I say “work on it” I mean to treat with vision therapy which has an incredibly high success rate for many disorders without the use of any surgery or medication.

So here’s the list of Visual Perceptual skills and a few examples of the role that they play in your daily life.

Visual Discrimination: the ability to see and notice fine details and discriminate between very similar looking items.

  • May have problems distinguishing letters or words and this can slow down reading and decrease comprehension.

  • Problems can lead to difficulty distinguishing between p and q, or b and d. This can slow reading and decrease comprehension and learning or new material.

Visual Closure: Allows one to perceptually close an incomplete object, letter, or word. This is a vital skill to have for quick and efficient reading as we often don’t “read” or “decipher” every letter in a word. Those with good visual closure can “scan” a word, know what it is by closing the rest of the information in their mind, and take in the information faster as they are able to move on to the next bit of text quicker.

  • Problems can present in children being slower readers and/or less comprehensive readers, as well as having difficulty with writing and math.

Figure Ground: ability to find and maintain focus on a single item when it is within a busy background

  • May have problems finding a desired topic on a school board and may miss notes. Copying from the board could be affected as the child would have difficulty finding where they left off on the board.

  • May feel overwhelmed by or have trouble finding an item in a grocery store or shopping isles.

  • May have problems finding a tool or item in a busy area, even if the area is clean and organized.

  • Problems can lead a child to have a difficult time finding something specific on a page.

Visual memory: The ability to recognize or recall previously presented visual information.

  • Trouble visualizing what is read – Poor reading comprehension and poor spelling

  • May have trouble with mathematical concepts.

  • May have poor comprehension and recall of material that is visually taught or presented.

  • Problems can lead to a decrease in comprehension from what is seen in a lecture in class to problems remembering what they have read in a book or calculated in math or science classes.

Visual sequential memory: the ability to remember what is seen in a specific order.

  • May have problems taking notes from the board and problems with comprehension with reading.

  • May also have problems in various areas of mathematics.

  • Problems can also affect reading speed, and reading comprehension.

Visual-Spatial awareness: Ability to know the positioning of other items in space in relationship to each other.

  • May arise as problems with relating two objects to each other. Copying information and drawing can be affected.

  • Handwriting may be poor and may not stay on the lines or be an appropriate size for the space provided.

  • Sense of directions may be difficult as well when discussing up, down, right, left, to the side of, on its side, and other direction relating terms or phrases.

  • Problems can lead to difficulty judging how far something is from oneself and from other objects. This can also be problematic even if something is verbally described to them or if it is read.

Form Constancy: the ability to recognize a figure for what it is even if there is a difference in its presentation’s size, shape, or form.

  • A good example of this is knowing that a letter is the same letter even if it is in a different font or even orientation. Problems could arise is a student is taking notes from the board as they may have a hard time quickly distinguishing was is written.

  • They may also have problems understanding basic math concepts of size, magnitude, and position.

Visualization: the ability to recall visually presented material and manipulate these images mentally – basically creating mental pictures. This skill required visual memory and takes it to the next level of applying and manipulating what we’re seeing visually.

  • This skill plays a large role in writing, spelling, math, and music.

  • Before a child can write anything, they must first visualize the letter of the word. Having a difficult time even seeing what it looks like in your mind makes every following task difficult as well.

Visual sequencing: Ability to put things in a certain order and maintain that order

  • May have problems with the concept of ordering items such as first, second, third, and last.

  • May have problems with repeating or creating patterns.

  • May have problems with daily activities as they face challenges explaining what they are doing in order.

I hope this helped break them all down and provides some examples of their importance and things to look out for. Remember, if you or someone you know is having problems with any of these areas, they are all treatable by a developmental optometrist who performs Vision Therapy.

Remember also that vision is MUCH more than just 20/20. As a developmental eye doctor, I can’t help but always want to educate people on the 17 Visual Skills and all the ones that are specifically needed just to read. And when it comes to learning, 80% of what children learn is take in visually. So it is vital to their academic success and success in everyday activities, as these are not problems children outgrow, that they have well developed visual information processing skills including the visual perception skills here on this page.

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