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.”
(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.”
(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).
(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.
(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.
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!
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.