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What is Visual Perception?

Written By: Jamie McKimmy

“My child’s vision is fine, he/she seems to have 20/20 vision”

This is the common statement and misunderstanding given by many parents who aren’t aware of the difference between visual acuity and visual perception. Just because a child has great visual acuity (20/20 vision) doesn’t mean he or she has great visual perceptual skills.

Below is a simple chart outlying the differences between visual acuity and visual perception:

Visual Acuity

  • Clarity or sharpness of vision at both near and far distances

  • Poor visual acuity can result in a decrease in fine motor coordination and safety.

Visual Perception

  • Sensory and cognitive process that organizes perceived visual information.

  • How one's brain processes visual stimuli.

  • Poor visual perception can result in poor behaviors and performance in school and daily tasks.

  • Visual perception consists of many different subsets (figure ground, visual memory, visual sequential memory, visual closure, visual attention, visual discrimination, form constancy, visual spatial relations)

As you can see from this chart visual perception is SO important! If a child cannot process what they are seeing, they cannot make sense of what is going on around them. This can lead to having difficulty with school subjects, as well as, life skills. However, this does not mean your child cannot learn all of these skills, his or her brain just has to work a lot harder to understand and process information. This can slow learning and affect behavior in the classroom and home environment.

If you are still questioning if your child may have visual perception difficulties here are some common symptoms that they would benefit from getting an evaluation by an occupational therapist and possibly a comprehensive vision specialist:

  • Difficulty differentiating left and right sides of body (especially when dressing)

  • Frustration with precise hand and eye movements

  • Difficulty with puzzles or mazes

  • Difficulty recognizing sight words

  • Difficulty with handwriting

  • Difficulty tracking objects

  • Avoiding difficult tasks or asking others to do things for them

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