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The Ultimate Guide to Visual Perceptual Skills in Children

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Visual Perception is the ability for the brain to process what one is seeing through the eyes.

It is how we give meaning to and make sense of the things we see.

It is a cognitive process happening that occurs in the brain.

Can a Child with 20/20 Vision Have Problems with Visual Perception?

Yes! Children with perfectly good visual acuity (20/20 vision) can have visual perceptual deficits.

That’s because visual perception is DIFFERENT than visual acuity, which is the clarity in what your eyes can see.

Visual acuity problems include nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. These are all issues that can cause blurry vision, and the treatment will typically be prescription glasses.

An occupational therapist will recommend that a child be seen by an optometrist to rule out visual acuity deficits before approaching treatment for visual perception issues.

What are Examples of Visual Perceptual Skills?

There are multiple processes simultaneously occurring in the brain constantly to make sense of what we see.

The following are the visual perceptual skills an OT will assess for competence in:

  • Visual Discrimination - the ability to notice differences and similarities in visual details such as size, orientation, color

  • Visual Form Constancy - the ability to recognize a form such as shapes, letters, objects, etc. even when they are presented in a different way such as another orientation, size, color, texture, or environment

  • Figure Ground Perception - the ability to zone in to visually find a specific item when there are other items or distractions around

  • Visual Closure - the ability to identify an object, letter, etc. as a whole despite missing details Essentially "filling in" those missing parts in one's mind to recognize the item

  • Visual Memory - the ability to retain visual information in one's mind so that the next time they are presented with the same information, they will remember what it is and so that if one is reminded of the item, he/she can recall a memory of it

  • Visual Sequential Memory - the ability to remember visual information in a particular sequence *This is important for efficient reading as it retains letter sequences for words in one's mind.

  • Visual Spatial Skills - the ability to calculate, understand, and REMEMBER the space between objects and how they relate to each other

  • Position in Space - the ability to calculate and understand the occupation of space of particular objects and how that changes with a change in position or orientation

  • Visual Scanning - the ability to move the eyes in a smooth pattern while taking in the visual information, such as while searching for something or reading

  • Visual Tracking - being able to focus and follow a moving object across ones visual field

When one of them is not working efficiently, an individual will struggle with everyday tasks that might, otherwise, seem simple.

What are the Symptoms of Poor Visual Perception in a Child?

  • Illegible handwriting

  • Inability to find objects in a crowded area

  • Poor reading skills

  • Struggling to catch a ball

  • Trouble with mazes

  • Difficulty with puzzles

  • Wandering eyes during visual tasks

  • Frustration during vision tasks

  • Inability to copy notes from the blackboard

  • Struggling with recognition of objects, letters, or pictures in different environments or orientation


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