Visual Processing Skills
There are a number of specific visual processing skills that make up the ability to process visual information.
In the event that any of these visual skills are under-developed, it is important to understand that these skills are usually learned, so they can also be developed. This is done through vision therapy. The aim of vision therapy is to help a child develop their ability to process visual information accurately and quickly, rapidly and accurately process visual information, store this information in the correct sequence to recall later when needed, and then work with the hands or other parts of the body to reproduce the information (handwriting, reading out loud etc.)
Visual Spatial Skills
Spatial awareness is fundamental for visual processing. It is the ability to make decisions about the world in relation to ‘me’. These skills are also sometimes referred to as laterality and directionality.
It is the ability to understand “where I am”. From here, a child will learn the position of other things in relation to themselves. Once a child understands their own position in space, only then does “where is it” take on meaning.
For a good visual processing, spatial awareness and directional responses need to be accurate and automatic.
Usually, a child learns the ability through natural growth and development. A child will start to relate to the “sidedness” on their own body (right/left awareness), and then start to project this understanding of direction onto the processing of direction.
Examples include “to my left” and “below / above me”. This then is further developed into translating these concepts to coded information such as “b, d; p, q; 6, 9; on, no; was, saw; 21, 12; etc.
Children with poor visual spatial skills will exhibit a poor automatic knowledge of their own right and left, show reversals of letters, number and words, have difficulty setting out a page of writing, and have difficulty organising themselves in space and time.
When a child struggles with visual analysis skills, they often find it difficult to learn the alphabet, the basic concepts of math, they confuse similar words or words with the same beginnings, have troubles with spelling and often have trouble remembering words from one sentence or page to another.
Visual Analysis Skills
Visual analysis skills are used to recognise, remember and manipulate visual information. The ability to make judgments of size, shape, position, and distance (basic math concepts). The ability to visually inspect detail and then to reproduce (copy) the form involves the use of visual analysis skills to plan the copy movements.
Visual analysis skills include:
Visual form constancy. This is the ability to differentiate and recognise forms, and to visualise objects in different spatial orientations (i.e. recognising the same word written in different fonts/italics/bold etc.)
Visual attention. This is the ability to focus on a visual task for an appropriate length of time.
Perception speed. This is the ability to perform visual processing tasks rapidly with minimal cognitive effort.
Visual memory. This is the ability to retain and recall visually presented information (i.e. copying from the board). This is vital to remember and recognise letters, numbers, and words.
Visual Motor Skills
Visual motor skills are best understood when thinking about the task of handwriting. A child needs to be able to see and then reproduce information (i.e. copying from the board) using both their visual and motor abilities.
Visual motor skills are commonly referred to as hand-eye coordination. An infant starts to develop these skills when they first start to see, reach and grab objects like a mother’s finger or nose. Children continue to develop these skills, building blocks and colouring in, to eventually learning complex tasks such as catching a fast-moving ball.
A reduced visual-motor ability is often seen in children with messy writing, difficulty copying written work accurately, and a reluctance towards ball sports.