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Visual Perceptual Processing

“Perception is an active process of locating and extracting information from the environment and learning is the process of acquiring information through experience and storing information. Thinking is the manipulation of information to solve problems. The easier it is to extract information (perceive) the easier our thinking process becomes.” (Forgus)

Visual information processing refers to the visual cognitive skills that allow us to process and interpret meaning from the visual information that we gain through our eye sight. Visual perception plays an important role in spelling, mathematics, and reading. Visual perceptual deficits may lead to difficulties in learning, recognizing, and remembering letters and words, learning basic mathematical concepts of size, magnitude, and position, confusing likeness and minor differences, mistaking words with similar beginnings, distinguishing the main idea from insignificant details, and poor handwriting.

Visual perceptual processing is subdivided into categories including visual discrimination, visual figure ground, visual closure, visual memory, visual sequential memory, visual form constancy, visual spatial relationships, and visual-motor integration.

Visual discrimination is the ability of the child to be aware of the distinctive features of forms including shape, orientation, size, and color. Visual discrimination, figure ground, and closure problems may result in a person confusing words with similar beginnings or endings and even entire words.

Visual figure ground is the ability to distinguish an object from irrelevant background information.

Visual closure is the ability to recognize a complete feature from fragmented information.

Visual memory is the ability to retain information over an adequate period of time. Obtaining maximum information in the shortest possible time provides for optimal performance and is essential for reading comprehension and spelling. Dysfunctions in visual memory may cause prolonged time in copying assignments, difficulty recognizing the same word on the next page, and difficulty retaining what is seen or heard.

Visual sequential memory is the ability to perceive and remember a sequence of objects, letters, words, and other symbols in the same order as originally seen.

Visual form constancy is the ability to recognize objects as they change size, shape, or orientation.

Visual spatial skills refer to the ability to understand directional concepts that organize external visual space. These skills allow an individual to develop spatial concepts, such as right and left, front and back, and up and down as they relate to their body and to objects in space. A visual spatial deficit may contribute to poor athletic performance, difficulties with rhythmic activities, lack of coordination and balance, clumsiness, reversals of forms and letters, such as ‘b’ and ‘d’ and words such as ‘on’ and ‘no’ and ‘was’ and ‘saw,’ and a tendency to work with one side of body while the other side does not participate.