Vision: The Starting Point of Learning

Visual skills develop at their own pace. Skills like saccades and tracking are not yet fully developed in three- to five-year-old’s, making the “earlier is better” scholastic calendar challenging for every child.

Vision: The Starting Point of Learning

By Robert Constantine, OTR/L

  

Introduction by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget he is someone today. “

Stacia Fauscher

September is an exciting time for me. School programs are starting to get into their groove, setting up a fresh palate upon which students, teachers, parents, and therapists can create new adventures, paint exciting ideas, and draw up plans for a positive literacy experience. And this is the month that I like to share resources designed to guide educational staff toward helping their students work on the developmental skills they need today for literacy – and handwriting – success. I have an exciting schedule of informative posts lined up for us.

Today I’m presenting a guest post about a developmental skill I feel is perhaps the most important aspect of learning: vision skills. Robert Constantine, OTR/L, has dedicated his work’s mission toward educating therapists, teachers, and parents about the visual system in the interest of improving client outcomes. He has developed a presence in both the occupational therapy and the vision field through his continuing education courses and his social media platforms. Thank you, Robert, for joining our team and sharing this informative post and resource about vision skills and the importance of vision exams.

Vision: The Starting Point of Learning

I am excited to do a guest blog for Handwriting with Katherine. I am Robert Constantine, an occupational therapist since 1997 (no comments please!). I have spent a lot of time as a neuro and brain injury specialist where I developed an interested in vision and its relationship to function and therapy outcomes. In 2012, I had the unique opportunity to work in an optometry office, where I learned about the importance of eye movements and near vision focusing in school.

During my work in the optometry office, I learned two things very quickly:

  1. Vision affects everything we do. It is our furthest reaching sense and it gives us the most information about our environment.
  2. Eye movements and near vision focusing problems are holding back too many kids!

Now, I am on a mission to talk to as many therapists, teachers, and parents as possible about vision and share what I have learned! Here are some of the basics…

What is an age-appropriate vision expectation?

Academic standards continue to ask more of our youngest students. Reading and writing expectations for kindergarten students are common throughout our school systems, even as therapists continue to argue that these academic standards may not even be age appropriate. These tasks place a heavy demand on a child’s near vision skills. It is actually normal for children between 3 and 6 to be farsighted (hyperopia) making near vision tasks more challenging during this young age.

The age appropriate visual system

Visual skills develop at their own pace. Skills like saccades and tracking are not yet fully developed in three- to five-year-old’s, making the “earlier is better” scholastic calendar challenging for every child. Many parents are not getting eye exams for their children before they enter school for the first time, mistaking vision screenings by pediatricians or school nurses as sufficient evidence that their little one’s eyes are ready for the challenge of school. Eye exams are vital links for uncovering the hidden visual problems of our students. These problems can be the root cause for difficulty with learning and handwriting mastery. When it comes to eye exams, there are three lessons that are important for us to learn:

Lesson one: The complete eye exam

Only an optometrist or ophthalmologist has the skills to perform a complete eye exam that insures a child’s eyes are ready for school. In a child, a dilation is always part of the complete eye exam, not just to get a good look at the back of the eye but also to help tell how hard the eyes are working to keep things clear. The skilled eye doctor has no problem getting an accurate glasses prescription on any child, even when they are not verbal or do not know their letters, by using a procedure called retinoscopy.

For the school-based therapist, when a vision related learning problem is suspected, the Vision Therapy doctor may be able to help. These specially trained doctors offer services to improve eye movements and near vision focusing that could be at the root of poor academic performance. The College of Optometrists in Vision Development’s website shares important information about the 17 vision skills that impact learning and a link to help you locate a board certified optometrist near you who is qualified in vision development, vision therapy, and vision rehabilitation skills.

Lesson two: Eye Exam Frequency

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that infants receive their first eye exam around 6 months of age to determine if an infant is at risk for eye or vision disorders. This exam is considered so important that the AOA, in cooperation with Infantsee, a public health program, provides an initial eye exam at no charge, no matter the parents’ financial status or access to medical care, for infants between the ages of 6-12 months. After this first exam, the next recommended exam is at 3 years old, or on a schedule determined by the child’s optometrist. Starting at school age (age 5), all children should have an annual eye exam. Just as their bodies are changing, so too are their eyes growing and changing.

Lesson three: 20/20 is not enough

Good acuity does not mean good vision. Vision is a dynamic process that includes the 17 skills mentioned above, two of which are the important binocular vision skills needed for handwriting mastery: near vision focusing and the ability of the eyes to move together accurately. When these skills are not well developed, a child may get headaches, see double, and even have behaviors that look like ADHD. Every pediatric eye exam should include an assessment of these binocular vision skills.

The Therapist’s Role

Just as visual skills begin to develop early on, an assessment of those skills should begin during those same years. The early intervention therapist is in the unique position to teach new parents about the importance of their child’s vision and the importance of eye exams. But many EI therapists have a difficult time finding the information they need to share with their parents. I have put together a group of tools for the early intervention therapist that includes a narrated power point discussing the development of vision from birth to 5 years old. It includes information to share with parents about eye exam frequency, an informational webpage on childhood vision pathologies with hyperlinks to explore the causes and prognosis of the most common problems, and a helpful glossary of vision related terms and more. This kit is a valuable collection of tools that can improve any therapist’s basic understanding of the visual system.

School Days!

Photo is the property of
Handwriting With Katherine

For school-based therapists, vision problems may be linked to many of your students’ handwriting and reading challenges. As you observe and assess their handwritten work, some initial symptoms of vision-related problems may appear as:

• poor letter spacing,
• “floating” letters that sit above or below the lines,
• different sized letters
• letter reversals
• poor far-near copying skills

Vision motor integration and visual perception problems that are uncovered during a handwriting assessment are, as the name implies, vision-related concerns. It is important to make sure the child completing these assessments has had an eye exam, as undiagnosed vision problems can affect the results.

I have some help for the school-based therapist, too. A vision toolkit for pediatric therapists with a narrated power point full of videos of treatment ideas, a narrated power point on my recipe for reversals, and lots more. There are also some easy strategies that can be employed during an initial assessment that can help you form a basic understanding of your students’ vision skills:

ASSESS EYE MOVEMENTS: Checking the tracking and saccade accuracy of your students will give you an idea of how well their eyes are working. A quick check of near point of convergence can tell you if they are seeing double when working up close.


HAVE A LOOK AT THEIR GLASSES. Are they dirty (yes…they are)? Do they slide down their nose when looking down to write? If so, they are losing the benefit of the glasses as the lenses are not in front of the eyes when they look up, causing possible copying errors.


ASK YOUR STUDENTS WHICH HAND IS THEIR LEFT AND WHICH IS RIGHT. Poor left-right awareness is frequently associated with letter reversals. Those children with laterization problems may also delay picking a dominant hand.

As therapists, we are also responsible for sharing the importance of vision with our teachers and parents. Every child needs an eye exam every year.

My Vision Platforms

Photo is the property of
Vision Rehab OT

My passion for spreading the word about vision has grown into the development of educational platforms where professionals can access resources easily and in a venue that is easy for them to use.


• I have a webpage at Vision Rehab OT where I share my blog, books, and wide array of courses.


• My Facebook group can be found at Vision Rehab OT .

• And for you visual learners, check out my YouTube Channel: Vision Rehab OT .

But that’s not all. I also conduct three live continuing education courses for PESI :


Visual Rehab After Neurological Events: Seeing the World Through New Eyes – All about assessing vision skills and treating vision problems associated with stroke, TBI, and concussion.

Innovative Vision Rehab Strategies for PTs, OTs, & SLPs: Don’t Let Vision Limit Your Patient’s Progress – For all of the therapists treating adult patients with eyes! This is about understanding vision and how it is affecting your patient outcomes.

Vision Techniques for Eye Movement Disorders Associated with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia & Other Neurological Disorders: Hands-on Assessments and Treatments for Children and Adolescents – The pediatric course that I started presenting nearly three years ago. Its updated and lots of fun!!

visionrehabot@gmail.com

You can always email me at visionrehabot@gmail.com with that “I have this one kid…” question. I like those challenges.

Thanks, Handwriting with Katherine, for helping me spread the word about the importance of vision.

Robert Constantine graduated from University of Alabama in Birmingham in 1997. He developed an interest in vision while working as the clinical specialist in brain injury for the West Florida Rehabilitation Institute, in Pensacola, Florida. He had an opportunity to work at an optometry office where he learned the techniques used in optometry to improve near vision focusing and ocular motor problems that affect academic performance. He continues to provide vision rehab services to both children and adults at the Pearl Nelson Center, working closely with several optometrists in his community. He has completed training in sports vision and was a member of the High-Performance Vision Associates, working with a team of optometrists assessing the visual skills of elite athletes. He has developed drag racing specific glasses in use by many NHRA drivers. He is also a member of the Neuro Optometric Rehab Association, having attended clinical level 1 and 2 trainings. Robert has lectured on binocular vision assessment and treatment for several years to thousands of therapists and teachers.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts 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 author 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.

The Handwriting is Fun! Blog is published and is the property of Handwriting With Katherine.

Another look at Eye-Care Professionals

Vision skills are essential foundations for literacy, as well as the mastery of play and life skills.  Early detection of vision problems can set the stage for enhanced learning potential and the discovery of life-threatening diseases.  There are different types of eye-care professionals, each committed to a particular facet of vision skills.  It is important to understand the roles they each play in your child’s overall eye health.

One of my most popular blogs describes the roles of eye-care professionals, as well as important information about vision skills.  I share it here with you again as a resource for parents, teachers, and therapists.  Just click on those beautiful eyes to read it!

A Vision and Eye-Care Professional Primer for Occupational Therapists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures that are marked the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website. All others must provide a link to the originating source.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts 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 author 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.

 

 

A Vision and Eye-Care Professional Primer for Occupational Therapists

A Vision and Eye-Care Professional Primer for Occupational Therapists

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

 

Vision Facts to Guide Assessment and Treatment:

childs eyes - aroni- by Bessi pixabay

The visual sense is the primary way in which we understand what we see.  It is “our most far-reaching sense” and the one through which we obtain 75-85 percent of what we learn about ourselves and the world around us.  (1, p. 3)   Vision as a term is most often confused with that of eyesight.  However, the terms are not interchangeable.

 

Eyesight consists of our level of visual acuity and our ability to recognize contrasts.  It is a measure of our distance vision and does not effectively determine the efficiency of our near vision skills.  It is also an indicator of eye health.

 

Vision is comprised of 17 skills, one of which is eyesight.  (2)  The measure of 20/20 eyesight and a healthy medical condition of the eyes does not entail the complexity of the visual system.  “In addition to clear vision, an individual must have the ability to use his or her eyes for extended periods of time without discomfort, be able to analyze and interpret the incoming information, and be able to respond to what is being seen.”   (1, p. 6)

 

Visual Brain Journey thru the cortex
The Visual Brain

Vision does not occur in the eyes but in the brain.  The eyes are actually a part of the brain and act as the sensory receptors that collect light and transmit it to the visual brain (3) to “form a model of our world, to identify objects and events, to attach meaning and significance to them, and to establish their causal relations” for the ultimate production of adaptive behavior.   The visual brain is influenced by the brain’s visual pathways and includes the vision that is used for action and that which is utilized for perception. (4)  Neurons devoted to visual processing in the brain account for about 30 percent of the cortex with millions of optic nerve fibers carrying information from the retina to these areas.  In contrast, touch and hearing are represented by 8 and 3 percent of the brain’s cortex, respectively, with each auditory nerve carrying 30,000 signals.  (5)

 

Models of vision have been developed that emphasize vision as a learned process and one that organizes and manipulates space.   It is the sensory system through which we understand the information collected through our other senses.  It a movement pattern and is developed through the use of our motor skills, much like walking and talking.   Vision provides the brain with accurate translation of the information collected through our eyesight.  (1, p. 6)   Therefore, vision plays a key role in learning and can influence the quality of learning through visual efficiency and visual information processing.  Visual efficiency comprises the process of visual acuity and refractive error, accommodation, vergence, and ocular motility.  Visual information Processing involves the higher level brain functions that include the non-motor aspects of visual perception and cognition, and their integration with motor, auditory, language, and attention systems. Deficits in either of these aspects of vision can result in some form of learning problem.  Proper diagnosis of learning related vision problems therefore requires comprehensive evaluation of visual efficiency and visual information processing skills.  (6)

 

vision assessment schedule by hooptometristUndetected vision problems can affect a child’s ability to learn in school by interfering with his ability to see clearly, interpret what he sees, and use his eyes to guide movement.   Although vision screenings are performed by pediatricians and school nurses, their tests are designed to assess for visual acuity and do not reflect how well the eyes focus up close, track, or work together.  Occupational therapists are in a key position to detect the common signs and symptoms that indicate a potential vision problem in these areas and that may be the cause of a reading, learning, or motor performance need.  An efficient OT evaluation will include a vision screening that checks visual acuity, eye teaming, eye movement control, and visual motor integration.  Therefore, it is important to understand and recognize the five most common symptoms that can identify a person is in need of a vision assessment by a developmental optometrist.

 

  • Frequent loss of place when reading
  • Slopping handwriting
  • Eye fatigue or headaches after reading
  • Avoidance of close work
  • Attention problems (7)

 

In addition, it is important for occupational therapists to inform parents and teachers about the importance of early detection of vision-related problems by sharing visual behavior checklists (8) and resources about vision assessments (9) and vision therapy (2).   Equally as important as recognizing early symptoms and sharing information about visual problems, occupational therapists should have a solid understanding about the areas of expertise for those professionals who specialize in eye care.

 

Eye-Care Professionals Guide

Maintaining eye and vision health relies upon regularly scheduled assessments that can alert us and our doctors to the presence of eye diseases and vision disorders.  The early detection of these conditions depends upon the selection of the appropriate eye-care professional to address these specialized areas.  There are four areas of expertise and levels of training that define the providers that address eye and vision health.  (The following was adapted from References 10, 11, and 12.)

 

  • Ophthalmologists (MD) are medical or osteopathic doctors who have completed college and at least eight years of additional medical training. They are licensed to practice medicine and surgery and specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease.  Ophthalmologists diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform eye surgery, and prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.  In general, they use medical and surgical methods to treat eyes diseases and vision disorders.
  • Optometrists (OD) are Doctors of Optometry and the primary health care professionals for the eye. Optometrists complete a pre-professional undergraduate education at a college or university followed by four years of professional education at a college of optometry.  Following graduation, optometrists have the option to complete a one-year residency for additional training in a specific area of practice.  They are licensed to examine, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures.  They are trained to perform eye exams, prescribe and dispense corrective lenses, detect certain eye abnormalities, and prescribe mediation for certain eye diseases.
  • Developmental Optometrists (FCOVD) provide vision care based on the principle that vision can be developed and changed. They are health care professionals who obtain board certification from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) to provide specialized services in behavioral and developmental vision care, vision therapy, and vision rehabilitations.  Developmental Optometrists specialize in the treatment of functional vision problems, including difficulties with binocular vision, eye movements, and depth perception, as well as visual deficits following brain injuries and are skilled in the use of lenses, prisms, and optometric vision therapy.   They perform functional vision tests to determine underlying vision deficits.
  • Opticians are technicians trained to design, verify, and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other eyesight correction devices. They provide services through prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists or optometrists.

 

A downloadable version of this resource is available at the Handwriting is Fun! Resource Page.

 

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists,  she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs.  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; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts 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 author 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.
Photos are the property of the photographers at Pixabay or authors on specific online sites.  Their use should include the link provided with the pictures.
References:
  1. Scheiman, Mitchell. Understanding and Managing Vision Deficits a Guide for Occupational Therapists. 3rd ed. Thorofare, NJ: Slack, 2011. Print.
  2. “Vital Visual Skills -.” COVD.org. College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.covd.org/?page=Visual_Skills>.
  3. Hubel, David H. “Eye, Brain, and Vision.” Eye, Brain, and Vision. David Hubel, n.d. Web. 24 June 2015. <http://hubel.med.harvard.edu/book/b8.htm>. Text Publication: Henry Holt and Company, May 15, 1995
  4. Milner, A.. David, and Melvyn A. Goodall. “The Visual Brain in Action.” Assc.org. The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.theassc.org/files/assc/2367.pdf>.
  5. Grady, Denise. “The Vision Thing: Mainly in the Brain.” Discover Magazine. Discover Magazine, 01 June 1993. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://discovermagazine.com/1993/jun/thevisionthingma227>.
  6. Garcia, Ralph P., O.D., Steven B. Nicholson, O.D., Leonard J. Press, O.D., Mitchell M. Scheiman, O.D., and Harold A. Solan, O.D. “Optometric Management of Learning-Related Vision Problems, 2nd Edition.” Clin Exp Optometry Clinical and Experimental Optometry 89.6 (2006): 403-04. Aha.org. American Optometric Association, 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.aoa.org/documents/optometrists/CPG-20.pdf>.
  7. Hong, Carole L., OD, FCOVD. “Vision Screenings & When to Refer for a Developmental Vision Evaluation: What Every OTR Should Know.” PediaStaff. PediaStaff, Inc., 26 May 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.pediastaff.com/blog/qa-ask-the-expert-vision-screenings-when-to-refer-for-a-developmental-vision-evaluation-what-every-otr-should-know-3592>.
  8. Collmer, Katherine J., M. Ed., OTR/L. “Resources for Handwriting/Writing Development.” Handwriting With Katherine. Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.handwritingwithkatherine.com/resources.html>.
  9. “InfantSEE: A Public Health Program for Infants | Helping Infants to Establish a Lifetime of Healthy Vision.” InfantSEE. Optometry Cares – The American Optometric Association, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.infantsee.org/>. InfantSEE®, a public health program, managed by Optometry Cares® – the AOA Foundation, is designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes an essential part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life.
  10. Mischio, Greg. “What’s the Difference between Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist?” Vision Therapy Center. Vision Therapy Center, 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.thevisiontherapycenter.com/discovering-vision-therapy/bid/75509/What-s-the-difference-between-optometrist-vs-ophthalmologist>.
  11. “Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician.” Difference between an Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician — AAPOS. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/132>.
  12. “About COVD.” COVD. College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.covd.org/?page=About_Us>.

 

 

 

 

In”sight” Into Handwriting Struggles

In”sight” Into Handwriting Struggles

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

Visual Perception and Learning

One of the most important skills involved in learning is Vision.  Vision is our ability to “see color, detect motion, identify shapes, gauge distance and speed, and judge the size of faraway objects….(it) is more than recording what meets the eye:  it’s the ability to understand, almost instantaneously, what we see.  And that happens in the brain.” (1)

The eye and its relationship to the brain is complex.  The brain “learns” about our environment through the information we receive with our eyes and the visual experiences we have had in the world.  Movement experiences help the brain to understand speed, balance, and distances as it separates movement that happens outside of our body from that which happens when we move our head.  Experiences that gather information about directional concepts, such as back and front, up and down, right and left, provide the brain with information that distinguishes objects from their backgrounds, as well as those that are far from the ones that are near.  This is the brain’s Visual Perception.  It uses these perceptions to guide our movements and reactions.  As information is transmitted via light that passes through the retina, the brain sorts out the relevant information and uses “short cut assumptions” about their meaning – the smaller item in the horizon is farther away than the larger one.  All of this in the blink of an eye.

Dstorted Visual Perception
If our vision skills are inefficient, our brains receive faulty information about what is “true.”

However, as powerful as the brain is, it can be fooled by its own “misperceptions.”    The brain relies upon the information it has gathered from the moment a baby first opens his eyes and it begins the visual perceptual process of  “converting light into ideas.” (2)   This visual experience turns on the learning process and vision continues to foster it throughout our lives.  When our visual skills are efficient, our brain interprets the world and our experiences efficiently.  However, when our visual skills are inefficient, the brain utilizes inaccurate information to form “misperceptions” about what we see.  Our vision tricks our brain, sort of like an Optical Illusion, by providing it with a knowledge base that is not accurate.   And like a computer, “garbage in becomes garbage out.”

Visual Perception and Handwriting

Vision is a collection of 17 skills that children need to succeed in school.  Visual Perception is just one of them.  But, as with the other 16 vision skills, it plays a key role in the learning process – and that includes handwriting mastery.  Visual Perception Skills allow children to:

  • understand directional concepts such as top-to-bottom and left-to-right;
  • recall correct letter formations quickly;
  • recognize letter formations in different contexts, such as in their workbooks, in a book, or on the board;
  • align their letters and words correctly on their paper;
  • locate letters and words on a page or on the board; and
  • complete handwritten work in a legible and timely manner.

When a student is struggling with these areas of handwriting mastery, chances are there may be a visual culprit behind it.  When extra practice doesn’t seem to work, it’s wise to collect some information that will provide some in”sight” into the problem.  A quick vision review can help determine if a visit to a medical professional is warranted.  It is easy to conduct a vision review at home or in school simply by observing a child’s “behaviors:”

kids playing outside kids pages com

  • how he buttons his coat
  • how he holds a book
  • how he walks down the hall
  • how he plays on the jungle gym

As you observe his movements in everyday life situations, you can use these handy vision checklists to uncover behaviors that indicate the possible existence of a vision problem:

Click here for a free downloadable handout for parents and teachers!
************”How is vision related to learning?”************ Click here for a free downloadable handout for parents and teachers from Sensory Solutions, Inc.!

Vision Red Flags Checklist
***Spotting Red Flags Vision Checklist!*** Click here for a free downloadable checklist for teachers and parents from Handwriting With Katherine!

If you find that you’ve checked two or three of the items on a checklist, it would be wise to consult with your child’s pediatrician about a referral to a Developmental Optometrist.

 What is a Developmental Optometrist?

What’s a Developmental Optometrist?  And why should you seek a referral to one?  In order to answer these questions, it’s important that we first discuss the distinction between the three significant members of an “Eye Team:

  • Ophthalmologist: This is a Medical or Osteopathic Doctor who is trained and specializes in eye and vision care.  They diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform eye surgery, and prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses.
  • Optometrists: This member of the Eye Team has a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree and provides vision care, with services ranging from eyesight evaluation to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes.  They also prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses.
  • Opticians: The third member of the team fills prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists and optometrists.  They are trained to design, verify, and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight.

A Developmental Optometrist is an OD who has undergone further study and training to provide eye care that specializes in proper visual development.  They are trained to evaluate and treat underdeveloped skills such as eye focusing, tracking, and binocularity.  They may also provide vision therapy services to treat conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye), convergence insufficiency, and eye focusing difficulties.  They usually join the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), and after passing rigorous testing, conducting extra research, and publishing case studies, they can become a fellow of the COVD and obtain the title FCOVD.

Their specialized training in vision assessment and rehabilitation provides Developmental Optometrists with the skills to address a child’s visual development and to determine if their educational struggles are vision-related.  They are the key link between efficient visual perception and learning.

So, if your handwriting “struggler” is:

  • In"sight" into Handwriting StrugglesStumbling or walking into walls or furniture in a familiar environment;
  • Having difficulty with movement sequences, such as Simon Says;
  • Walking on his toes frequently;
  • Holding her crayons or pencils awkwardly, sometimes switching hands;
  • Leaning on his hand, resting his head on the table, or leaning close to his work at his desk; and/or
  • Rubbing her eyes or forehead, putting her hands over her eyes periodically during close work, or squinting or blinking frequently,

then visual perceptional “misperceptions” may be standing in the way of handwriting success.  And often, these same “misperceptions” are the underlying causes of school difficulties in general.

Isn’t it worth taking a look into our Vision Handouts?  You just may find a new perception there!

As always, thank you for reading!  I hope you will share your comments, experiences, and suggestions with us!

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/LKatherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation
 
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; on any guest blog posts 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.

(1) http://discovermagazine.com/1993/jun/thevisionthingma227

(2) http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/brain-facts-myths/how-vision-works

 

Vision Skills: Can you see them?

 

Vision Skills: Can You See Them? www.handwritingwithkatherine.com
It is important to protect your child’s vision!

 

The next time you are sitting among a group of children, take a look around and see if you can pick out those who have a vision problem.  Now, setting aside eyesight, as it is only one of the 17 visual skills we use each day, don’t count those wearing glasses.  They are obviously living with a visual issue.  But, what about the others?
 
 
You may be surprised to learn that about 25% of children are experiencing a vision problem, with 11.5% of teenagers living with an undetected or untreated vision issue.   But, when you surveyed the group of children, were you able to tell which of them needed help?  Don’t feel badly.  I wouldn’t be able to pick them out that easily either.  Vision skills can be “invisible” and difficult to detect.  But, if you have just a small bit of information, you can uncover the behaviors that indicate that a vision problem may exit.  These are the “Vision Red Flags.”  And we are going to chat about them right now!

 

FIRST, THE REASONS WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT VISION HEALTH!

 
Simply put, we should discuss vision health because approximately 80% of the learning that a child does occurs through his eyes.
1.  Reading
– plays a key role in learning through the gathering of information.
– requires efficient visual skills to see both near and far clearly, and to switch between the two effectively (e.g., copying from the board).
– demands efficient eye movements to follow a line of print or scan a page for information.
– demands that a reader interpret and accurately process the information he is seeing (visual perceptual skills).
2.  Handwriting

Basic Strokes - Universal Handwriting Program
Basic Strokes – Universal Handwriting Program

– plays a key role in learning through the communication of knowledge and ideas.
– requires efficient visual skills to learn and remember letter and word formations.
– demands accurate spatial awareness to produce a legible product.
– requires good posture to facilitate a fluid handwriting style.
3.  Everyday Activities
– require efficient coordinated eye movements for using our two hands together to tie our shoes or to write in a notebook.
– demand accurate tracking and scanning skills to play sports, video games, or work on the computer.
–  require good visual perceptual skills to help us navigate our environment, drive a car, or ride a bicycle.
– demand good visual attention skills for following a schedule, participating in school and work, or to remember information we have read.
 
Vision skills can work well only if we have taken the time to “see” if they are in good working order.

NEXT, THE WAYS THAT WE CAN SPOT VISION PROBLEMS!

Vision Red Flags Checklist
A free Vision Red Flags Checklist!

 

 

It is simple, really!  Spotting the red flags that indicate the possibility of a vision problem can be done just by watching a child “in action.”  Observe him as he participates in his normal activities:  eating, dressing, reading, writing, and playing.  As you do, note if you observe any of the following behaviors:

 
 
 
Does he:
– stumble or walk into walls as he explores familiar environments?
– appear awkward during running or climbing activities?
– have difficulty with coordinated movement sequences (e.g., Simon Says or playing soccer)?
– walk on his toes frequently?
– have difficulty recognizing right/left, up/down directions (on himself or in games)?
– hold a crayon or pencil awkwardly, at times switching hands?
– apply too much or too little pressure on a coloring or writing tool?
– lean on his hand, rest his head on the desk, or lean in close to his work?
– rub his eyes or forehead or put his hands over his eyes periodically during close work?
– appear to be looking through you or avoiding eye contact during activities he enjoys?
 
Also take a look at his eyes for these movement behaviors:
 – Does one or both of his eyes drift in or out, either consistently or inconsistently?
– Do you observe fast movements of his eyes, either with or without engagement in a movement activity?
– Is there tearing or redness of the eyes?
– Does he demonstrate excessive blinking or squinting?
 
If one or more of these behaviors exist, especially these last movement behaviors, it would be a good idea to have his vision assessed by a developmental optometrist to determine their source.
 
And just so you can record your observations, I’ve included a free download on my website, “Vision Red Flags Checklist,” that can be used by parents, teachers, and caregivers during everyday activities!
 
It is important to note that school vision screenings routinely check children’s distance vision – what we refer to as 20/20 on the eye chart.  This exam is used to refer children for glasses if they complain of blurry far-away vision and/or can’t eye-charts All About Visionsee the board from the back of the room.   For most pediatricians, this is the same situation. 
Children’s vision, to be accurately assessed, should have the attention of a developmental optometrist.
 
For more information about the importance of vision assessments, when your child should receive them, and the free vision assessment available to ALL children ages 6-12 months, please click here:  InfantSee.
 
Well, folks, I hope that this information has helped you to SEE the hidden value of efficient vision skills!
 
As always, thanks for reading!  I look forward to your comments and hope to see you next time!
 
Katherine
 

 

 

The Handwriting is Fun! Blog is published by and is the property of Handwriting With Katherine.

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures above that are the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.

Pictures that provide a link to their source should include the link provided with the photo to give proper credit to their owners.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts 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 author 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.


 

Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning – Part 3

Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 3, Handwriting With Katherine        In our previous articles, we discussed the first four 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, as well as to understand what our bodies can do and how we can manipulate them through space.

 

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

Visual Memory and Visual Sequential Memory.

 

5.  Visual Memory is our ability to recall and store visual details in our short-term memory for use during automatic tasks such as handwriting, reading, and math.  It allows us to recognize the differences between the shapes and sizes of letters, to remember sight words, and to comprehend what we have read.  Visual memory is often described as a process by which we see an object in our “mind’s eye” and then retrieve a memory of that object in order to mentally identify it.

 

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

(1)  Difficulty keeping up with his peers during handwriting tasks, needing to frequently “think about” the formation of the letters that form a word.

Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 3, Handwriting With Katherine
Sometimes children will appear bored when they are struggling with poor memory skills.

(2)  Difficulty copying from the board or a book, frequently losing his place and stopping to find the location of the last word he has written.

(3)  Demonstrates diminished comprehension after reading an age-appropriate story.

(4)  Difficulty following verbal directions that include over two-steps, usually only performing the last step that was provided to him.

(5) Demonstrates boredom and/or confusion during class or home work, tending to act as thought he was not interested in the task.

 

b. Activities that enhance visual memory include:

(1) Memory games, either board games or on-the-spot activities, provide “exercise” for the brain’s short-term memory.  Memory games can be constructed with everyday household items, such as feeding utensils, family photos, or crayons. Have the child look at them, name them verbally, and write them down, if he can.  If he is a beginning writer, have him draw a simple picture of each to enhance his memory.  Then, hide the items under a cloth and ask him to list them without using his vision.

(2) Copying pattern designs provides opportunities for children to use their visual short-term memory as they remember the colors or shapes that comprise the design.  Manipulatives, such as beads or blocks, enhance the development of visual memory by adding visual-motor input.

(3) Ask questions frequently that require the use of short-term memory, such as “What equipment did you use on the playground today?”  It also helps to reinforce any written directions with verbal ones, asking the child to repeat them to you to ensure that he has understood and remembered them.

 

6. Visual Sequential Memory is our ability to remember a series of numbers, letters, or objects that have been presented visually and to recall that sequence accurately.   We use this skill every day as we recall phone numbers or spell words such as “their” and “there.”

Sequential Memory I can teach my child
Story Sequencing is a fun way to enhance visual sequencing memory skills!

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

(1) Difficulty remembering the alphabet or numbers in sequence.

(2) Difficulty sequencing letters in familiar words or numbers in a math problem.

(3) Difficulty copying from the board or a book without frequent errors.

(4) Difficulty recalling the sequence of events in a story or a familiar activity.

(5) Difficulty performing math problems.

 

 

 

b. Activities that enhance visual sequential memory include:

(1) Word search puzzles require a child to remember the sequence of letters that comprise the spelling of the word that he is locating on the page.

(2)  Board games that use numbers, letters, or words, such as bingo, provide opportunities to recall the shapes of letters and sequence of numbers or words.

(3) Movement games, such as Duck-Duck-Goose or Red Light-Green Light, require the child to remember the sequence of activities that comprise the rules of the game, as well as provide motor movement to enhance the development of memory skills.

 

 

Once again, it is clear to “see” that our vision skills are key facets in learning and literacy.

 

In the words of vision experts, 80% of what you perceive, comprehend and remember depends on the efficiency of the visual system.  And that makes vision an important detail to never overlook!

 

Please join us for the final segment in our journey of discovery as we unwrap the secrets of the Visual Form Constancy, Visual Closure, and Figure Ground skills!  Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Did you miss Parts 1 and 2?  You can get them here!

 

Part 1:  The Cotton Ball Game is an excellent "attention-getter!"
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning, Part 2

Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 2 Handwriting With Katherine
“Look Again” App for Visual Perceptual Skills

In our previous article, we discussed the first two 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 important details while we filter out those that are not needed to complete our task.

 

In this article, we will discover the importance of the two skills that provide us with a sense of space and how we relate to our bodies and objects within that space:   Position in Space and Visual Spatial Relations.

 

3.  Position in Space is a skill that develops from our own body awareness.  As a child learns about his left and right, top and bottom, front and back, he is able to transfer that information to the position of objects outside of himself.  He can recognize the difference between verbal directions that ask him to “place it on top” or “put it under” the table.  He is able to determine the difference between the letter “d” and the letter “b,” as well as the words “was” and “saw.”

 

a.  Children who have difficulty with position in space will often exhibit these signs:

(1)  Appears clumsy during moderate movement activities, such as walking down the hall, playing ball, climbing on playground equipment, or with activities that involve rhythm.   Frequently falls out of his chair without provocation and appears to be “clowning around.”

Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 2, Handwriting With Katherine
Problems with balance can sometimes signal poor body awareness skills.

(2)  Difficulty maintaining his distance from others or the walls, frequently bumping into them as he attempts to stand in line.

(3)  Demonstrates the inability to cross midline during fine and gross motor tasks by switching hands for use on the right or left of his body, not using his non-dominant hand to support the paper during handwriting tasks, or rotating his body when writing in order to avoid crossing midline.

(4)  Difficulty with fine motor activities, dropping his pencil frequently, or having trouble with age-appropriate clothing fasteners.

(5)  Difficulty applying the appropriate amount of pressure on pencils and feeding utensils or doesn’t seem to pay visual attention to those tasks.

 

b.  Activities that enhance position in space include:

(1)  “Simon Says” and “Hokey Pokey” continue to be two of the best fun activities to enhance body awareness in young children.  Using terms and directions such as left arm, right leg, move to the right or left, will provide a verbal link with the visual-motor input, creating a movement pattern and a memory of directional terms relative to his body (laterality).  Strugglers would benefit from hand-over-hand assistance from behind to direct movements.

(2)  Hide-and-Seek activities can be utilize movement with hidden objects scattered around a room or with visual input as in “I Spy” or hidden pictures books.  Again, it is important to use directional terms that create the visual image of object placement, such as on top of the bed, under the chair, on the left side of the page, in order to develop the concept of direction relative to objects outside of our body (directionality).

(3)  Obstacle courses, inside or out, can be created that include crawling, climbing, rolling, and hopping to provide the child with proprioceptive input that builds awareness of how one’s body works and how it can manage the manipulation of the space around it.

 

4.  Visual Spatial Relations is our ability to determine the placement of one object relative to another using our vision alone.  This allows us to judge distances during gross and fine motor activities (e.g., running or handwriting) and to reproduce objects when presented with a picture or model (e.g., copying from the board or a drawing).

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

Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 2, Handwriting With Katherine
Visual Spatial strugglers will find age-appropriate block patterns a difficult task.

(1)  Difficulty understanding verbal directions, such as “stand behind Joey.”

(2)  Difficulty performing gross motor activities as part of a team or in a group without frequent crashing into others or inaccurate aiming of the ball toward the intended target.

(3)  Difficulty with dressing activities, often attempting to don a coat or sweater backward or upside down or consistently placing shoes on the wrong feet, even after practice and with visual guides, such as a red lace in the right shoe.

(4)  Difficulty copying patterns with activities such as Legos or copying familiar words from the board in class.

(5)  Difficulty with fine motor tasks such as mazes or word searches, frequently returning to the same incorrect routes or missing letters as he scans the page.

 

b.  Activities that enhance visual spatial relations include:

(1)  Hopscotch, leap frog, and bean bag toss games are fun movement activities that encourage the development of spatial distances and the moderation of body movement to “hit the target.”  Be sure to begin with slow movements, working toward speed only after the child is able to perform the tasks efficiently.

(2) Arts and craft activities that include a visual model and/or written directions (depending upon the child’s skill level) work well to enhance fine motor spatial relations as the child manipulates his hands while he uses his vision for comparison.

(3)  Step-by-step written directions, such as a recipe, can help a more advanced skill learner to organize his visual input and to manage a 2-D space as he returns his eyes to the page after performing a step in the task.

 

Once again, it isn’t difficult to “see’ the important role that vision plays in our ability to understand our bodies, how they work, and the ways in which they manipulate the space around us.

 

Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning, Part 2, Handwriting With Katherine
It’s important to have a child’s vision assessed by a developmental optometrist.

 

In the words of  Mitchell Scheiman, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO, “Vision is our most far-reaching sense.”

And that makes it an important one for learning!

 

Please join us for our next segment as we discover the wonders of Visual Memory and Visual Sequential Memory skills.  Thanks for reading!

 

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

 

Did you miss Part 1?  You can catch it here!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning – Part 1

Vision skills allow us to make sense of our bodies – how they work alone and how they work within the world around us.

Vision takes the lead in action-pro-action-and-reaction and is a cognitive skill developed in the brain.  In fact, our eyes are actually extensions of our brain.  Dr. David Hubel, and his collaborator, Dr. Torsten Wiesel, dedicated their research to discovering the ways that the brain processes information.  This journey lead to Hubel’s writing that Anatomy of the Eye Hot Air BalooningThe retina is part of the brain, having been sequestered from it early in development but having kept its connections with the brain proper through a bundle of fibers – the optic nerve.”   He hails the retina’s role in Visual Information Processing as one that “by translating light into nerve signals, it begins the job of extracting from the environment what is useful and ignoring what is redundant.  No human inventions, including computer-assisted cameras, can begin to rival the eye.”   And so, as we begin our discussion on visual information processing, we will soon discover for ourselves the profound effect that the work and writings of Dr. David Hubel and his coworkers had on our realization and understanding of the key role that vision plays in learning.

The skills we use to process visual information are often labeled as “Visual Perceptual Skills.”  This complex set of cognitive skills allows us to gather information and integrate it with our other senses.  This set includes:

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

Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning Part 1 Handwriting With Katherine

Learning takes place when an experience is registered as

(1) a new one or one that has been dealt with previously,

(2) a positive or negative interaction,

(3) one that is desirable to repeat,

(4) one that needs adaptation in order to be effective or pleasurable, and/or

(5) one that can be recalled, reproduced, or adapted for use again in the future.

Learning requires the ability to gather information, manipulate it, store it, and recall it automatically.  The process of visual perception, when it is efficient, provides us with the platform for doing just that.  As we discuss each of the 9 Visual Perceptual Skills, we will begin to develop our understanding of the significance of vision’s role in learning.

In this article, we will begin our journey of discovery with the first two skills:  

visual attention and visual discrimination.

1.  Visual Attention is “important for selecting and inhibiting visual information over space and over time.   It is a diverse et of operations that interact with other perceptual, motor, and cognitive systems.  As our eyes perceive the endless stream of information coming from our bodies and the environment, the brain operates a filter that helps us to focus on what is immediately important.  Visual attention is necessary for handwriting and the development of other higher-level visual perceptual skills and it needs to begin its development early in a child’s visual processing journey.

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

(1)  Frequent fidgeting and/or cannot remain seated.
(2)  Often runs or climbs excessively or appears restless.
(3)  Appears not to be listening or fails to follow through with instructions.
(4)  Is easily distracted by external stimuli such as other children talking in the back of the room.
(5)  Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as handwriting or reading.

b.  Activities that enhance visual attention include:

(1)  Blowing through a straw encourages the eyes to pull together and work more effectively at close range.  The Cotton Ball Game is one that has the child blow through a straw to move a cotton ball toward

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

a target, with or without visual guidance, such as masking tape from start to finish lines.  Whistles and blowing bubbles have the same effect and can include gross motor movement in their use, such as running to pop the bubble or marching to the whistle’s tune.

(2)  Balloon toss or tennis are excellent games to train the eyes to focus on a moving target.  Be sure to remind the child to try and maintain eye contact with the balloon as it travels away from and back toward him.

(3)  “I Spy,” hidden pictures, and memory games encourage the use of scanning and sustained focusing skills in close work tasks.  It is important to allow a struggling child to use his finger to search for hidden objects or to use his verbal skills to remember what he has seen in memory games.  As he becomes more proficient at the task, have him ease away from the “helping strategies.”

2.  Visual Discrimination is our ability to recognize the subtle differences and similarities between two visually represented forms in order to determine if they match or belong to a different group of forms.  This skill provides us with the perception of shape, size, and form for learning subjects such as handwriting and reading.

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

(1)  Difficulty matching items of clothing such as socks or shoes.
(2)  Determining the difference between sizes of objects during sorting activities or the sizes of letters and numbers during handwriting tasks.
(3)  Difficulty detecting errors in handwritten work, such as letter reversals.
(4)  Difficulty matching pictures to verbal instructions, during yoga practice for example.
(5)  Frequently placing objects in the inappropriate place, such as the wrong cubby in school even though each is clearly marked with a name.

c.  Activities that enhance visual discrimination include:

(1)  Sorting games that involve activities of daily living, such as laundry or silverware from the dishwasher, will add a touch of “reality” to the game and enhance the likelihood for building memory and carryover to other educational activities, such as handwriting.

Sorting laundry is a “fun-ctional” visual discrimination activity!

(2)  Puzzles provide an excellent opportunity for a child to recognize differences (size, flat sides) and to use his visual skills as he manipulates them to match the correct “holes and spaces.”

(3)  Legos, Lincoln Logs, or tangrams provide visual and tactile activities using a picture to copy and shapes to manipulate in order to reproduce the picture into a 2- or 3-D object.

As you can “see” from this introduction to the visual perceptual skill set, it covers quite a bit of how we learn, as it starts right out with our ability to pay attention to the task and to details.  The eye is amazing, with the retina actually being a part of the brain.

In the words of Dr. Hubel, “The retina is part of the brain, having been sequestered from it early in development but having kept its connections with the brain proper through a bundle of fibers – the optic nerve

Please join us next week as we continue to explore the “rest of the visual perceptual skills story” with Position in Space and Visual Spatial Relations.

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

Pictures above that are the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.

Pictures that provide a link to the originating source should include the link provided with the photo to give proper credit to their owners.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts 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 author 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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