What is Visual Perception?

by | May 26, 2020 | 0 comments

You may have heard the term ‘visual perception’ mentioned in relation to your child’s difficulties or may just be wanting to learn more about what this means. Contrary to popular belief, vision (or visual acuity) and visual perception are not the same thing. For some children with 20/20 vision, visual perceptual difficulties may still be an issue, whereas some children who need to wear glasses to correct their vision may not have any visual perceptual difficulties. While these are both related to the visual sensory system, vision and visual perception are distinct from one another. 

In this blog, we will take a little look at what visual perception is and what skills are involved in visual perception. We will also look at some of the signs of visual perceptual difficulties and take you through some of our top tips and strategies for supporting children with visual perceptual difficulties. 

What is visual perception? 

Visual perception relates to our ability to accurately perceive and respond to visual information. That is, the way in which our brain makes sense of and responds to the things that we see. There are many skills which influence the way in which we process and react to visual information, including: 

  • Visual Tracking – the ability to focus your eyes on a target. 
  • Visual Discrimination – the ability to notice differences between similar objects. 
  • Visual Spatial Relations – the ability to perceive where objects are in space. 
  • Visual Closure – the ability to infer information from a partial image to make a whole. 
  • Visual Memory– the ability to recall visual information from memory. 
  • Visual Figure Ground – the ability to find objects in a busy background. 
  • Visual Form Constancy – the ability to recognise the same information in different contexts. 
  • Visual Motor Integration – the ability to coordinate our visual and motor systems. 

Why is visual perception important? 

Visual perception is essential for planning and organising information and movements, for understanding, processing, and retaining information, for reading, writing, and drawing, and for hand-eye coordination. Without well developed visual perceptual skills, a child will likely experience difficulties across the board in their self-care, learning, and play skills. These difficulties can impact on a child’s self-esteem and confidence and may cause a child to withdraw from or become avoidant of activities which they find challenging. 

What are the signs that a child might be struggling with their visual perceptual skills? 

While each child is different and will therefore present differently, there are some tell-tale signs that a child may be experiencing visual perceptual difficulties: 

  • Difficulties with reading and spelling – may confuse similar words (e.g. ‘saw’ & ‘was’). 
  • Scruffy handwriting and poor letter formation – letter tails may be detached or awkward. 
  • Inaccurate copying of shapes, letters, and numbers – letters and numbers may be reversed. 
  • Difficulty differentiating between similar looking items. 
  • Difficulty understanding and memorising visual information. 
  • Difficulty seeing things which seem obvious to others. 
  • Difficulty remembering ‘lefts’ and ‘rights’. 
  • Poor motor coordination – especially hand-eye coordination skills. 
  • Difficulty understanding written instructions. 
  • Avoidance of challenges and demands. 

How can I support a child with visual perceptual difficulties? 

Children with visual perceptual difficulties likely struggle with everyday tasks such motor coordination, self-care, play, and learning. Here are some of our top tips for supporting a child with visual perceptual difficulties: 

  • Highlight important information in a text. 
  • Use multi-sensory activities to help with learning new skills. 
  • Use wide-lined paper or tactile lines to support with writing. 
  • Highlight on the writing line to support with correct word placement. 
  • Avoid visually busy worksheets. 
  • Minimise visual distractions while working. 
  • Cut out a space in a piece of card big enough for one line of text, to support with reading. 
  • Use a pen or lolly stick to guide reading. 

What activities can I try to promote visual perceptual skills? 

There are plenty of activities to practice at school or at home to help promote visual perceptual development: 

  • Play ‘I spy with my little eye’. 
  • Complete treasure hunts around the house. 
  • Complete obstacle courses for visual planning. 
  • Complete ‘spot the difference’ activities. 
  • Complete puzzles
  • Place items on a tray and remove one at a time, asking child to recall what is missing. 
  • Complete ‘where’s wally’ type activities. 

We hope this blog has helped you to understand a little more about this topic. If you are concerned about your child’s visual perceptual skills, your child may benefit from consultation from a developmental optometrist or occupational therapist for assessment. If you have any questions about this topic, or would like to book a free consultation to discuss your concerns, please contact info@seirrah.co.uk. For more tips and information, join our Facebook support group at Seirrah Therapies. 


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About the Author

Joanne Harries

Joanne Harries

Clinic Manager

Joanne is a friendly, positive, and outgoing Highly Specialist Paediatric Occupational Therapist & Sensory Integration Practitioner, with a real passion and drive for supporting children, young people and their families with everyday activities and challenges. Joanne Works in a professional manner at all times and it is her aim to make a difference to the lives of the individuals and families she supports.

Joanne has previously supported and help to set up Occupational Therapy services to; a children’s therapy company, secure setting for adults with complex needs, and specialist schools for Autism. Joanne’s experience of various diagnoses and working within teams of professionals also extends to complex behavioural difficulties.

Joanne has extensive experience of assessment and report writing, with a particular interest in assisting individuals, families, and Solicitors with SEN Tribunals. Joanne is available to provide assessment, consultancy and training to families, schools, Solicitors and parent support groups, remotely, in the South Wales clinic, across the UK and Internationally.

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