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Visual Perception and Academic Success

girl-with-fruit-on-eyesGetman, a renowned behavioural optometrist, defined vision as a learned ability to understand things which cannot be heard, touched, smelled or tasted. He distinguished vision from sight which, according to him, is simply a response to light and from acuity which refers to light’s clarity, and stated that vision enables the child to interpret the world. In his pyramidal schema of learning, the foundation comprises of motor learning from which develops vision or visual perception. If the foundation is solid, vision will be too, thus enabling higher level functions — to wit, cognition.

The importance of visual perceptual skills in academic success is conceded by many, among them Frostig and Horne, who believed that reading would not be possible without adequate visual perception.

Problems of visual perception are noted in the following component areas. A few examples are given in each to illustrate its specific nature.

  1. Visual (object) discrimination. This refers to the ability to recognize the nature of objects. The child who experiences difficulties in this area is unable to recognise shapes, sizes, colours or other dimensional aspects of objects, letters or numbers.
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  2. Form discrimination. This is defined as the ability to perceive differences among and positional aspects of objects. The child having a problem in this area is unable to distinguish between similar geometric shapes such as a square, a rectangle and a diamond, or similar letters such as /b/ and /d/ or /m/ and /n/, or words such as /pan/ and /pen/ or /the/ and /they/ or /hose/, /house/ and /horse/.
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  3. Foreground-background differentiation. This skill involves the ability to focus on selected objects and screen out or ignore the irrelevant ones. The child experiencing a difficulty in this area is unable to recognize an object which is surrounded by others. For example, the child cannot locate a ball in a picture of several toys, or a word in a word-find puzzle.
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  4. Spatial relations. This relates to the ability to recognise the positioning of objects in space in relation to one another and to the observer. The child with a manifest problem in this area is unable to perceive the position of objects in relation to each other or to himself/herself. For example, the child is unable to place the letter /f/ in the alphabet, the number /9/ in relation to /0/ and /10/, or see each word in a sentence as a separate entity, or know in which direction objects or other children are in relation to his/her desk.
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  5. Visual closure. Also referred to as visual analysis and synthesis, this is the ability to recognise an object from partial or limited stimulus or to form a “gestalt”. The child with a difficulty in this area is unable to perceive “whole-part” relationships in partially visible stimuli. Thus, the child may have problems in forming a gestalt, that is, recognizing objects when they are partly hidden. Similarly, even when the whole is visible, it is not recognised because the child is engrossed in its individual parts.
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  6. Visual sequencing. This refers to the ability to see objects in a particular sequential order. The child with a difficulty in this area is unable to perceive the order of stimuli in which they appear. For example, the child has problems in arranging pictures of events in the sequence in which they are presented, in copying the alphabet or numbers in the correct order, or in seeing the order of letters in words such as /was/ and /saw/
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Characteristically, according to Hayes, the child with visual perceptual problems (1) attends poorly to visual tasks such as silent filmstrips, art work and copying; (2) tends to reverse, invert or rotate letters, numbers, words and forms; (3) may complain of eyes bothering him/her; (4) does not seem to attend to visual cues such as punctuation marks in reading, process signs in mathematics; (5) is lacking in observational skills; (6) tends to skip words or lines; (7) cannot locate information easily; (8) generally enjoys auditory tasks; and (9) is a good talker.


Edublox offers multisensory cognitive enhancement programs, effective in improving a variety of cognitive skills including visual perception.
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