Visual Perception: Discrimination

Visual perception child with glasses

We know that children require vision exams. When we think of vision exams, most of us picture children looking at the classic letter chart with the big “E” and maybe having their eye doctor flip between two lenses while the child tells them which is clearer. If your doctor declares them to have “20/20 vision”, all is good, right? Some parents are surprised to find out that visual acuity (eyesight) is not the only way to measure visual health. There is also visual perception, which is the way you INTERPRET what you see. As occupational therapists, we are able to assess and treat visual perception deficits. 

*If you have concerns about your child’s vision, we always suggest that you first consult with your child’s optometrist or ophthalmologist.*

We are going to do a blog series that focuses on 7 specific skills comprising visual perception: 

Knowing which specific skill area(s) within visual perception your child struggles with will aid in choosing appropriate and effective treatment activities. In addition to occupational therapists, there are also specialized optometrists called developmental optometrists (also called behavioral optometrists) who evaluate and treat all of the skills above.

First, let’s chat about visual discrimination. Broadly, visual discrimination is the ability to spot similarities and differences in the things that we see, whether in pictures, on physical objects around us, or on a screen. It is especially important when learning to read and write. Children who struggle with visual discrimination skills might fail to see differences between similar-looking letters (b/d, p/q, or 5/S) and words (won’t/want, car/cat, or ran/ram). They also might frequently lose their place while reading. If you think your child might have a problem with visual discrimination, it is best to first have them seen by their optometrist or ophthalmologist to rule out other possible issues.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Check out our super affordable Visual Perception packet in our Etsy store or our Teachers Pay Teachers store!
  • Do “Spot the Difference” puzzles with your child. These can be found online, in some newspapers, and in children’s magazines. Try this book for young children ages 3-4 years or this book for children ages 5-8 years.
  • Find and complete age-appropriate jig-saw puzzles that feature your child’s favorite animal or character. These 9-piece puzzles would be perfect for children ages 2-4 years. These 24-piece puzzles would be a hit with children ages 3-5 years, and children ages 5-8 years will love these 60-piece puzzles.
  • Do word searches! There is a huge variety available. Start simple and slowly work your way up to more difficult word searches with more letters. If your child is 4-6 years old, try this beginner’s word search book. Try this word search book if your child is 6-10 years old.
  • Play a game of good, old-fashioned dominos, like this set.
  • Sort your coin jar to make a pile for each type of coin (pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters).
  • Play Picture Bingo– Try this set.

What are your favorite activities to address visual discrimination? Let us know in the comments. Stay tuned for our next visual skill post– Visual Memory!

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