The Importance of Visual Perceptual Skills on Performance

Guest Authored By Heather Fite, MS, OTR/L

Sight: the faculty or power of seeing. But there is more to sight than just seeing something; we also need the ability to understand what we are seeing. This is called visual perception. With visual perceptual skills, we are able to put faces to names, recall pictures from stories, and understand what we are reading.

Each human has seven different visual perceptual skills:

  1. Visual Discrimination – The ability to determine exact characteristics and distinctive features among similar objects or forms; i.e., seeing the differences between two letters, like “b” and “d” or “n” and “u.”
  2. Visual Memory – The ability to immediately recall the characteristics of a given object or form;
    i. e., being able to recall a sight word you’re trying to learn.
  3. Spatial Relations – The skills which assist in understanding the relationship between objects and recognizing underlying concepts; i.e., it helps us to understand directional concepts such as up, down, and next to.
  4. Form Constancy – The ability to mentally manipulate forms and visualize the resulting outcomes;
    i. e., seeing the similarities between two objects despite them being different sizes, orientation, or color.
  5. Sequential Memory – The ability to remember forms or characters in correct order; i.e., remembering a telephone number.
  6. Figure Ground – The ability to perceive and locate a form or object within a busy field without getting confused by the background or surrounding images; i.e., finding a pen amongst other objects within in a drawer.
  7. Visual Closure – The ability to visualize and complete whole ideas when given incomplete information or a partial picture; i.e., recognizing that a pen is a pen, even when you only see half of it in the drawer.

Without these skills, navigating the world around us becomes a lot more difficult. A child may have more difficulty with reading, writing, or math. They may have a difficult time recalling what they read in a book or what their teacher said. A child may also struggle to learn money management, how to sort items, and how to remain organized when completing a busy homework worksheet.

If your child has good vision but still struggles to complete one or more of these activities, it might be time to get their visual perceptual skills assessed. The good news is that once the assessment is completed and you have answers, there are a lot of fun at-home activities that a child would enjoy and that will work on each one of these skills. If you have more questions, please reach out to your child’s occupational therapist.