Occupational therapists are frequently asked what the difference between visual perception and eyesight is. Vision plays a significant role in the way we interact with our environment and how we learn.
Visual acuity refers to how clearly a person sees. Vision is more than just eye sight and how clearly we see. A person can have “20/20” vision but also have difficulty with visual perceptual skills.
Visual perception refers to the brains ability to make sense of what the eyes see. All of the body’s sensory experiences contribute to visual perception including sight, sound, touch, smell, balance, movement and muscle control contribute to visual perception. Visual perception is important for many different school tasks including reading, writing, cutting, copying from the board, visualizing past experiences, giving/getting directions, navigating the playground, and eye-hand coordination. The sub-areas of visual perception include the following:
Visual discrimination: The ability to see differences and similarities in shapes, patterns and objects.
Form Constancy Perception: The ability to identify, sort and name the same objects, shapes and symbols despite differences in their size, shading, texture and/or position.
Figure Ground Perception: The ability to distinguish an object/word/letter/number from a busy background. It requires the eyes to focus on and identify specific objects/words/letters/numbers between others.
Position in Space Perception: The ability to understand and perceive the position of an object in relation to one’s own body.
Spatial Relationships Perception: The ability to perceive the position of two or more objects in relation to oneself and to each other. It includes the ability to identify left and right on one’s own body and apply it to objects.
Visual Closure Perception: The ability to identify an object, shape or symbol from an incomplete presentation.
Visual Memory: The ability to recall or reproduce a number/letter/object/figure that has previously been seen for a short period of time i.e. to remember what has been seen.
Occupational Therapists frequently work on visual perceptual skills to facilitate improved visual motor and fine motor skills. Activities to promote improved visual perceptual skills include puzzles, finding hidden pictures, Where’s Waldo, “I SPY” (figure ground), bingo (visual scanning), memory card game ( visual memory and matching), and block design duplication (visual-spatial relations). Visual perception plays an important role in how a child learns and interprets his or her environment.