Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning – Part 4

Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 4, Handwriting With KatherineIn our previous articles, we discussed the first six skills in the Visual Perceptual Skill Set:

·      Visual Attention
·      Visual Discrimination
·      Position in Space
·      Visual Spatial Relations
·      Visual Memory
·      Visual Sequential Memory
·      Visual Form Constancy
·      Visual Closure
·      Figure Ground



It was apparent that these skills set the stage for our ability to pay attention to our tasks, to understand the relationship between our bodies and space, and to use our memory for literacy development.


We will continue on our journey of discovery by taking a look at the final three visual perceptual skills:

Visual Form Constancy, Visual Closure, and Figure Ground.


7. Visual Form Constancy is our ability to “mentally turn and rotate objects in our minds and picture what they would look like.”  It allows us to recognize forms, letters, or objects regardless of their size, color, or position in space (upside down, sideways, or inverted).

a. Children who have difficulty with visual form constancy will often exhibit these signs:

(1) Difficulty mastering the alphabet or numbers.

(2) Difficulty with reading familiar letters or words when presented in a different style of print (as in books or on the computer).

(3) Difficulty recognizing familiar objects when viewed from an angle or other than an upright position.

(4) Difficulty transitioning from manuscript to cursive letters.

(5) Difficulty judging the size of an object regardless of the distance away from him.


b. Activities that enhance visual form constancy include:

(1) Multi-sensory activities for learning the alphabet provide the child with visual models for different “views” of the same object.  Shapes, colors, and manipulatives provide visual and tactile input that contrubutes to the recognition that one object (a letter or number) is the same despite orientation and/or characteristics.

Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 4, Handwriting With Katherine
Grocery store excursions can be more fun when they become learning experiences!

(2) Copying shapes or designs using pegboards or parquetry kits provide the visual-motor movement that encourages the development of visual form constancy.

(3) Practice this skill during every day activities such as reading signs at the grocery store, identifying letters in books or magazines using different fonts, or looking through labels on clothing or toys.



8. Visual Closure is our ability to view an incomplete form and visually fill in the missing details in order to identify it.   This is an abstract problem solving skill that involves many of the skills listed above.

a. Children who have difficulty with visual closure will often exhibit these signs:

(1) Tendency to leave out parts of words or entire words, as well as failing to complete portions of worksheets.

(2) Inability to copy a familiar form if he cannot see the entire picture.

(3) Difficulty with dot-to-dot activities or puzzles.

(4) Difficulty with self-editing of his handwritten material.

(5) Difficulty with spelling.


Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 4 Handwriting With Katherine
Art is a wonderful medium for enhancing visual skills!

b. Activities that enhance visual closure include:

(1) Stencils, coloring, and model activities provide opportunities to construct a “whole” from a collection of “parts.”

(2) Matching word sizes to boxes drawn in the same shape, or worksheets that ask the child to find hidden shapes among the overlay of various shapes, provide opportunities to visually recall the “end product” in order to find the correct answer.

(3) Playing with different text fonts, either or the computer or in print, provides visual recognition of the same letter in various designs.



9. Figure Ground Discrimination is our ability to identify shapes and objects that are “hidden” within a “busy” environment.  It allows us to reach into the silverware drawer and select the proper utensil although they are not sorted by type.   It also gives us the skill to attend to the activity at hand without being visually distracted by the environment surrounding us.

a. Children who have difficulty with figure ground will often exhibit these signs:

(1) Difficulty filtering out visual distractions in the room (e.g., items hanging from the ceiling or busy bulletin boards).

(2) Difficulty sorting and organizing personal belongings, appearing to be careless or disinterested in his personal space.

(3) Tendency to “over attend to details and miss the big picture.”

(4) Difficulty locating friends or relatives in a crowded room or playground.

(5) Difficulty with reading a book or copying words or sentences from the board, often skipping over words or paragraphs.


b. Activities that enhance figure ground include:

(1) Finding words in the dictionary or in the newspaper, as well as locating them on signs in the environment, provides “every day experience” that enhances carry-over skills.

(2) Tracing, mazes, word searches, and dot-to-dot activities assist in encouraging the eyes to locate and maintain focus on a specific point on the paper while utilizing visual-motor movement to enhance the memory of the skills.

(3) Hidden pictures, puzzles, and arts and craft activities, as well as sorting clothes from the laundry, provide excellent opportunities for the eyes to locate and maintain focus upon a sought-after object.


Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 4, Handwriting With Katherine


Our vision is so important to our ability to learn about ourselves and our world around us that, in the words of Dr. David Hubel,  without visual stimulation,  we could not recognize the “patterns and contours of the world around” us.


Thank you so much for joining me on this journey of discovery to unlock the secrets of our Visual Perceptual Skills!  And, as always, thanks for reading!



Did you miss Parts, 1, 2, or 3?  You can catch them here!


Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 1, Handwriting  With Katherine
Part 1: The Cotton Ball Game is an excellent “attention-getter!”


Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 2, Handwriting With Katherine
Part 2: Problems with balance can sometimes signal poor body awareness skills.
Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 3, Handwriting With Katherine
Part 3: Sometimes children will appear bored when they are struggling with poor memory skills.











Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who owns and operates a clinic that specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills.  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.



Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; the Wellness For Life:  Cape Cod blog; or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.
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