What are Visual Perception Skills?

Visual perception

Visual Perception is not the ability to see, but rather the ability of the brain to interpret what our eyes see.

It relies on the ability to focus our attention selectively and screen out irrelevant information, match and distinguish between objects, the ability to recognise that despite changes in size, or orientation objects are the same and the ability to remember visually presented information including the order in which it was presented.

Through touch, movement and vision children learn to recognise the shape, size and positional characteristics of objects that make them unique (visual form perception) and they can tell the difference between objects, which differ (visual discrimination). They learn to focus visually on selected details of the environment and to screen out irrelevant information (figure ground). They learn about relationships between spatial positioning of objects to each other and to themselves (spatial relationships) and they learn that when objects appear to change size or shape due to changes in position, they are still the same (size and shape constancy).

As children learn letters in the early grades, they rely heavily in visual information for guidance movement and self-correction. Before learning to produce a motor pattern to form a shape, number or letter, a child needs an image or idea of what the desired form looks like. Visual information is important for developing this idea (or image), which is than used for determining the correct motor pattern to be produced, and for comparison with the result of self-correction.

Visual perception overlaps with other areas such as attention and memory, problems in these areas may contribute to a child’s ability to process visual information.

Visual Discrimination

This refers to the ability to identify objects, which are the same as each other. An example would be to recognise that a letter 'a' can look different if different fonts are used, but it is still an 'a'. Visual Discrimination is the ability to detect similarities and differences in shape, colour, pattern, size, sequential order and orientation. The child with poor visual discrimination abilities may demonstrate an inability to recognise, match and categorise.

Visual Memory and Visual Sequential Memory

This refers to the ability to hold a visual representation of stimuli in your head once the stimuli itself has been removed. If attention is very poor the item is difficult to commit to memory. Visual Memory can be described as the ability to retain and immediate recall of visual stimuli. It involves some degree of visual discrimination and is highly effected by poor visual attention.

Visual Form Constancy

This involves the ability to recognise an object regardless of its colour, size, shape, texture and context in which it appears. Children with visual form constancy difficulties often have difficulty using capital letters correctly and tend to be slow at recognising shapes and words and consequently are often slower at reading tasks

Visual form constancy is the ability to recognise that the word 'the' is the same in the text book and black board as well as in the homework book.

Visual Spatial Relations

This refers to the ability to distinguish between objects and the ability of the observer to perceive the position of 2 or more objects in relation to each other.

Visual Figure Ground

This refers to the ability to focus on selected details of the environment and to screen out irrelevant information. Children with figure ground difficulties appear easily distracted, they may have difficulty shifting attention and they occasionally report feeling dizzy when presented with visually cluttered environments or pictures. They can also sometimes rub their eyes or blink with visual stress.

Visual Closure

This refers to the ability of the brain to perceive an object when only part of it is shown. Children with difficulties in this area have difficulty understanding abbreviations and completing jigsaws or puzzles.

If your child has visual perception difficulties contact an Occupational Therapist. Occupational Therapists work with the functional difficulties experience by children who have poor visual perception skills for example - coping from the board at school, writing on the line, writing words too close together and so forth.


As with all activities involving children, please take great care to ensure all sharp objects are moved out of reach, and that parental supervision is available at all times. Some activities suggested make use of small objects that may cause a choking hazard for young children. Keep small objects out of reach of young children!

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While the information contained within the site is periodically updated, no guarantee is given that the information provided in this website is correct, complete, and/or up-to-date. The information contained in this website and the accompanying resources is strictly for educational purposes. Therefore, if you wish to apply ideas contained in this website and the accompanying resources, you are taking full responsibility for your actions. This does not replace Occupational Therapy and all activities should be under the guidance of an experienced therapist.

OT Therapy does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. The author and publisher of OT Therapy shall in no event be held liable to any party for any direct, indirect, incidental or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of this material.

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