AOPT Health Blog
Pediatric Occupational Therapy: What is Visual Perception?

Visual perception skills are very important when it comes to a child's learning and deficits can cause challenges for your child in school as well as in daily tasks.

What is Visual Perception?

Visual perception is a broad term used to define how the brain processes visual stimuli. It is what allows a person to recognize and identify shapes, objects, and colors, as well as judge the size, configuration and spatial relationships of objects.

Visual perception skills are broken down into the following categories:

  1. Form Constancy refers to the child’s ability to identify or sort objects, shapes, symbols, letters, and/or words, despite differences in size or position.
  2. Visual Memory involves the integration of information with previous experiences. It allows the recognition of visual stimuli presented previously.
  3. Visual Sequential Memory is similar to visual memory in that it allows us to store and retrieve information when necessary or useful, but it specifically assists in recognizing and recalling information in series or sequence.
  4. Visual Discrimination is the ability to detect subtle nuances of stimuli for matching and categorization.
  5. Visual Closure is the capacity to identify objects from incomplete presentations.
  6. Figure-Ground refers to the ability to differentiate between foreground and background.

Why is Visual Perception Important?

Visual perception is all about your brain PROCESSING what you see, helping you make sense of it and then directing your actions accordingly. A child’s ability to make sense of what they see helps them in reading, writing, and math, as well as life skills such as finding objects on a messy table or reading road signs. It doesn’t mean that a child can’t learn to read, write, and function with visual perceptual deficits, but their brain is taking on a heavier load to process the information coming in, which can slow learning and affect a child’s behavior.

Signs and Symptoms

Some signs that your child may need help with their visual perceptual skills include:

  • Frustration with precise eye and hand tasks
  • Difficulty completing puzzles, mazes, or dot-to-dot games
  • Dressing – difficulty differentiating right from left shoes, or remembering the sequence of dressing
  • Difficulty recognizing sight words
  • Avoiding activities that challenge visual perceptual skills
  • Avoiding certain tasks and having others perform the task for them under their direction (e.g. “Daddy, draw me a house.”)

How Can Occupational Therapy Help?

Following an evaluation, the occupational therapist can help interpret the functional implications of the vision problem for the child and his or her parents, caregivers, and teachers. Understanding where the defictis are, and how it shapes your child’s perception, is the first step to helping address the issue. Specific interventions may include:

  1. Organizing the environment to reduce visually competing information, which may include modifications to lighting, classroom modifications, and seat positioning.
  2. Implementing compensatory strategies. For example, for poor visual attention strategies might include placing a black mat under a worksheet to increase contrast, drawing lines to group materials, or reorganizing worksheets.
  3. Exercise, games, and activites that challenge the specific visual perceptual skills.

Here at Advanced Orthopedic Physical Therapy, we have the environment and resources to provide developmentally appropriate treatment sessions and home programs to help your child develop visual perceptual and motor skills to promote optimal performance. If you have any concerns about your child’s developement we would like to offer you the option of scheduling a free screen.


Schneck, C. M. (2009). Visual Perception. Occupational Therapy Interventions: Performance Areas.
Tseng, M, H., & Chow, S. M. K. (2000). Perceptual-motor function of school-age children with slow handwriting speed. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 54, 83-8
Dankert, H. L., Davies, P. L., & Gavin, W. J. (2003). Occupational therapy effects on visual-motor skills in preschool children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57, 542-549.

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