Visual perception refers to the brain’s ability to interpret what the eyes see. This differs from visual acuity, which indicates the strength of a person’s eyesight. Someone with 20/20 vision can still have problems with visual processing and their brain’s ability to effectively recognize what they see.
As a child grows, his or her visual perception will develop as the environmental demands become more complex. Some of the building blocks important to developing visual perception include sensory processing, visual attention, visual memory, spatial relations, figure-ground discrimination, and visual closure.
Kids use visual perception at school, at play, and at home for all kinds of tasks from reading to copying from the board to completing puzzles and more.
Visual perceptual skills include:
Visual discrimination, or the ability to determine similarities and differences between figures and forms. Kids use this skill on worksheets and activity books where they have to look at a set of similar pictures and find the one that’s different. Visual discrimination comes into play as children learn to recognize letters and numbers and is important for sorting and matching tasks.
Visual closure is the ability to complete an unfinished figure or shape by “filling in the blanks’ visually. This skill is important as kids learn to read and learn to complete puzzles by figuring out what is missing.
Figure ground is how kids are able to distinguish between a visual stimulus and a competing visual background. When kids look in the junk drawer for a pencil or search in the toy box for a certain action figure, they are using this skill.
Visual memory is the ability to recall or remember a specific image. This is how kids are able to copy sentences from the board, remembering a word (or several words) at a time. Visual memory also helps kids form letters consistently and contributes to letter recognition and reading.
Form constancy is the skill that allows kids to recognize forms, shapes, letters, and other objects regardless of differences in their size, orientation, and other details. When kids are able to recognize the letter “a” – in any font or size – they are relying on form constancy. This is also how kids know that a square is a square whether it is small, large, blue, or green.
Spatial relations is how we perceive objects in relation to one another. It refers to how kids understand visual concepts like near, far, above, and below. This skill comes into play for handwriting tasks, particularly alignment and spacing
Visual Sequential Memory is the ability to capture and retain sequences of letters, numbers, or symbols. This skill is a precursor to reading and recognizing words as well as spelling and other memorization tasks like remembering phone numbers and addresses.