Improving your Child’s Visual Perception Skills

Visual perception skills are needed in daily routines such as reading, dressing and many other activities. Here are some tips to help our children overcome their visual perception challenges.

Visual perception is the brain’s ability to receive, organise and interpret visual information.  It is required in our daily routines such as reading, writing, dressing and many other activities. Children with visual perception difficulties may struggle to complete puzzles and mazes, recognise letters, and organise their belongings. Poor visual perception may also cause avoidance of related tasks and difficulties in academic performance. Our occupational therapist Chen Ling-Chieh shares some tips on how we can help children overcome their visual perception challenges. 

Several visual perceptual skills work together to help us distinguish the differences and similarities between objects. For instance, when dressing, we use visual perceptual skills when looking for which T-shirt to wear while looking through the cupboard, differentiating the front and back of the T-shirt, and putting it on correctly.  

Activities at home and in school that tap into visual perception skills include: 

  • Reading and writing 
    • identifying letters or words regardless of whether they are typed or handwritten; writing alphabets with equal spacing and keeping the words or sentence on the line; differentiating similar alphabets such as ‘b’ and ‘d’, ‘p’ and ‘q’. 
Photo credit: lasav 69 
  • Activities of daily living 
    • looking for toys in a box or a T-shirt when it is folded; matching a pair of chopsticks; squeezing toothpaste on the toothbrush accurately; putting on a shirt.  
Photo credit: Scott McNiel 
  • Outdoor activities 
    • climbing stairs of different heights; catching a ball. 
Photo credit: Anete Lusina 

Helping children to overcome visual perception difficulties 

Here are some activities and strategies that may help children to overcome their visual perception difficulties in daily life.  

  • Multi-sensory activities  
    • Provide children with hands-on activities to feel and understand different concepts. For example, when teaching the alphabets, let children touch and feel the differences in each letter through activities such as writing them with shaving foam, bending pipe cleaners to form the letters or writing in sand and finger-painting. 
Photo credit: RODNAE Productions 
  • Activities of daily living 
    • Mealtime: place plates randomly on the dining table and get child to use cutlery to pick up food from the plates; get the child to scoop the chicken on the white plate or strawberries on the red plate. 
    • Playtime: draw out the patterns of Lego blocks on a piece of paper; complete partially drawn pictures; look for specific toys in the box; circle out specific items on the flyer. 
    • Dressing: match the same pair of socks with clear pictures or patterns; look for a specific folded T-shirt with a clear graphic in the cupboard. 
Photo credit: diaryofapmpmom.com 
  • Outdoor activities 
    • locate and point out the same signs; identify a signboard that is partially covered, etc. 
  • Gross motor activities  
    • provide children with a great number of opportunities to practise eye-tracking and build up spatial relation and depth perception skills. For example, climbing up and down stairs; catching and throwing a ball; playing Hopscotch, frisbee and jumping rope. 
  • Environmental modifications  
    • adjust tasks according to the child’s abilities when necessary. For example, limit distractions and use high contrast colours. When setting up the desk and dining table, try to avoid using tablecloths or placemats which can be visually confusing. Use different colours for different routines. For instance, use a black background when playing with colourful toys, and a plate in another colour to serve food. 
Photo credit: visitsingapore.com  

Cover photo credit: Shutterstock 

References: 

  1. Erhardt, R. P., & Duckman, R. H. (2005). Visual-perceptual-motor dysfunction: Effects on eye-hand coordination and skill development. In: M. Gentile (Ed.), Functional visual behavior in children: An occupational therapy guide to evaluation and treatment options (2nd ed., pp. 171–229). Bethesda, MD: The American Occupational Therapy Association 
  1. Gentile, M. (2005). Functional Visual Behavior in Children: An Occupational Therapy Guide to Evaluation And Treatment Options (2nd ed.). Bethesda, MD: The American Occupational Therapy Association. pp. 171–229. 
  1. Lee, S. (2006). A frame of reference for reversal errors in handwriting: A historical review of visual-perceptual theory. School System Special Interest Section Quarterly, 13(1), 1–4. 
     
  1. Swaminathan M, Jayaraman D, Jacob N. Visual function assessment, ocular examination, and intervention in children with developmental delay: A systematic approach. Part 1. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2019 Feb;67(2):196-203. doi: 10.4103/ijo.IJO_524_18. PMID: 30672469; PMCID: PMC6376809. 
  1. Jayaraman D, Jacob N, Swaminathan M. Visual function assessment, ocular examination, and intervention in children with developmental delay: A systematic approach – Part 2. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2021 Aug;69(8):2012-2017. doi: 10.4103/ijo.IJO_2396_20. PMID: 34304167; PMCID: PMC8482894. 
  1. Ego A, Lidzba K, Brovedani P, Belmonti V, Gonzalez-Monge S, Boudia B, Ritz A, Cans C. Visual-perceptual impairment in children with cerebral palsy: a systematic review. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2015 Apr;57 Suppl 2:46-51. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.12687. PMID: 25690117. 
  1. Kurtz, L. A. (2006). Visual perception problems in children with AD/HD, autism, and other learning disabilities. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 
  1. Goswami, U., Wang, H. L. S., Cruz, A., Fosker, T., Mead, N., & Huss, M. (2010). Language-universal sensory deficits in developmental dyslexia: English, Spanish, and Chinese. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 325–337 
  1. Ditzinger, T. (2021). Illusions of seeing. Exploring the world of visual perception. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.