More Than Meets the Eye: Visual Perception

We are visual beings.

How we assess our environment, learn new skills, or consume entertainment is primarily through our eyes. We rely on our visual system so heavily that many times we don’t need our additional senses (touch, taste, hear or smell our surroundings) to know what’s going on.

So, if our kids overlook important visual details (like putting on a matching pair of socks), or can’t recall what they saw (“Where did you put your backpack?”), or have trouble discriminating between numbers and letters, it can be very concerning to us as parents. About 75% of classroom activities rely on the visual system.

In our throwback post, we learned that visual perception is the total process responsible for receiving and interpreting what we see. It involves visual-receptive (how our eyes move and focus on an object) and visual-cognitive components (how we interpret visual information).

When your child’s visual processing is compromised, we’re quick to assume that they need glasses/contacts or other visual aids. Although that may be the case, other factors can play a role as to why they’re seeing things differently.

All I See is U: Visual Perception and How it Affects Handwriting

When it comes to handwriting, we have found that vision is one of the most overlooked and underestimated systems in children. We’ve been taught that if a child has 20/20 vision, they do not have a visual issue that will affect their academic performance. But in truth, children who have difficulties processing and perceiving what they see still quietly struggle in school. 

Visual perception is the total process responsible for receiving and interpreting what we see. This allows us to make accurate judgments within our environment such as size, configuration, and spatial relationships of objects.

To do this, our visual-receptive components and visual-cognitive components must work efficiently. If one of these areas is compromised, it will affect how a child understands and responds to visual information.

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Can’t Touch This…

Full disclosure: I hate hate HATE the feel of certain textures.

I hate them so much so that I will find ways to avoid touching them. I will never play in mud. I refuse to clean out a pumpkin. The thought of kneading dough or mixing raw meat with my hands freaks me out. I will use a fork and knife to eat BBQ ribs or chicken wings because the feel of the sauces of my fingers genuinely stresses me out. 

As odd as this is, I’m not the only one. We may know kids that can’t stand the tags on shirts, the feel of sand on their hands, or when paint or glue get on their skin. Why? It’s an overresponsive tactile system. 

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“It’s a Fine Motor Issue…”

Dissecting Fine Motor Skills

A common reason that children are referred to OT is for “fine motor issues.” However, it usually isn’t just a fine motor issue. There could be other factors involved.

What are fine motor skills? They are the coordinated movement that involves the use of fingers, hands, and arms. This includes:

  • Reaching
  • Grasping
  • Object manipulation (buttoning a button or putting coins in a piggy bank)
  • Tool usage (eating utensils and writing utensils)

These skills develop at birth and work with other areas of development, such as vision, touch, and postural and proximal strength/stability.  

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