How Do Visual Discrimination Skills Develop?
Developing visual discrimination skills begins with naturally occurring situations and opportunities that happen every day!
When I walk around the neighborhood with my young grandchildren, especially the 2-5 year-olds, it takes a long time! I am sure that you have noticed that children stop and investigate every leaf, stone, flower, twig, or strange article on the sidewalk. They will touch, feel, smell, and sometimes try to taste items of interest. We often discuss what they see and talk about items they inspect.
Sometimes they make “collections.” The children are “taking in” their environment. They try to make sense of it, organize and interpret the information that has been explored, and give it meaning.
Visual Discrimination is a General Title.
- As young children encounter animals and insects, they look at the creature’s features and learn to identify them as cats, dogs, ants, ducks, etc. They use visual discrimination skills!
- When you and your child are outside, explore nature! Observe the size, shapes, color, and texture of grass, trees, insects, plant, rocks, etc. Use words that describe the object. Say, “Look at the big tree.” “feel the wet grass.” “Touch the soft flower.”
- Ask your child to find two items or shapes that are the same. Question your child, “Why do you think they are the same (match)?” Listen to the child’s reasoning. Talk about it.
- Sort toys together! Ask your child to help you to sort socks in the laundry. Suggest that your child sort drawing tools. (e.g., crayons, pencils, markers, chalk) Sort the Lego toys and the building blocks! Children visually process information from the time they begin to dee shapes and lines.
Why is Visual Discrimination Important for Reading?
Visual Discrimination is important because if a child is unable to distinguish the letter “b” from the letter “p,” he will incorrectly read the word “bat” as”pat.”
Similarly to the trained eye, it seems easy to identify letters like “h, n, r,” but to a child learning to read and write, these letters all may look ‘about the same.’ These skills need to be taught and practiced.
Some readers require extra practice to read, sequence, and remember the letters that make up words (blending). They may also need extra teaching to recall the formation of the letters (graphemes) when spelling a word (segmenting) or writing a story. Isn’t it amazing how much a young child learns?
Visual Processing and Auditory Processing are foundation skills that your child will build on when reading and writing. Reading programs like JOLLY PHONICS build on prior knowledge outlined in an EARLY LITERACY Overview for Parents and Teachers.
Visual Discrimination activities like sorting by size, shape, and color strengthen a child’s observational skills. These tasks provide opportunities for the brain to interpret and process visual information.
Visual Discrimination “is a general term for visual skills that require the ability to detect specific features of an object, to recognize it, to match, or duplicate it, and to categorize it.” (The FREE Dictionary by Farlex)
Visual Discrimination: Figure-Ground
A figure-ground activity like “Finding Waldo” challenges the brain to search for a hidden picture among lots of visual images. Play games like “I Spy.” (e.g., I spy with my little eye, something that is round.” Ask the children to brainstorm things that they see that are round.
If the item is not guessed, add a second clue. (e.g., I spy with my little eye, something that is round and has numbers on it.” Continue adding clues until a child guesses the correct object.
Go on a scavenger hunt! These activities help your child develop the ability to visually find and name shapes and objects amid background images.
Visual Discrimination: Visual Memory
You will know that visual memory skills are developing when the child knows that a chair is a chair, no matter how you flip it or turn it.
Symbols for letters and numbers may look similar, but they have different meanings as you turn or flip them! (e.g., p, d….. b, q)
Identifying and naming colors and shapes helps children develop visual discrimination skills, e.g., visual memory. Consider how important this skill is when you learn to read.
A reader needs to connect letters and sounds and then remember the sequence of sounds to blend the letters to read a word. (i.e./m/-/o/-/n/-/s/-/t/-/er/ = monster). He also needs to connect the sound to the letter when spelling words (i.e., chop = /ch/-/o/-/p/) and remember the letters (and word shapes) that make up sight words!
Visual Discrimination: Spacial Relations
While you are playing with your child, the concept of spatial relations is developing. Just watch your little one having fun tracking mazes, copying Lego patterns, following directions (e.g., put your hands on your head, crawl under a chair, put your name on top of the page) or reading an analog clock.
Other activities to develop spatial relations include leapfrog, hopscotch, setting the table, board games, and construction games. (e.g., building with Lego, Lincoln Logs, making forts)
Visual Discrimination: Visual Closure
As you and your child simple to more complex puzzles, match pictures to the shadow or outline or complete a letter (or form) to match the one beside it, you are working on visual closure.
You don’t have to process every letter individually to recognize the word by sight quickly when you read. Visual Closure is the ability to recognize a letter, number, or object without seeing all of the word or item. Some great early storybooks play with this! (i.e., “Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell)
Visual Discrimination: Visual Sequencing
Visual Sequencing skills develop as you play with colored blocks. Place the blocks in a pattern or sequence. (e.g., using COLOR: red, blue; red, blue; or using SHAPES: square, triangle, triangle, circle; square, triangle, triangle, circle… etc.) Ask your child to complete the pattern or make a row just like yours… matching patterns.
Challenge them: Show your child how you complete two rows…and then change one (or two) objects in the second row… Ask your child to “Find the blocks that do not belong. Can you fix the pattern so that it matches the top row?”
Draw a set of 3-6 simple pictures that show how to build a snowman, make a sandwich, or get dressed. Ask your child to put the pictures in the correct sequence and tell what is happening.
“Without accurate visual perceptual processing, a student would have difficulty learning to read, give or follow directions, copy from the whiteboard, visualize objects or past experiences, have good eye-hand coordination, integrate visual information with other senses to do things like ride a bike, play catch, shoot baskets when playing basketball, or hear a sound and visualize where it’s coming from. (like the siren on a police car).“
- Have fun playing games and visually identifying and naming objects ass you come across them! Sort and classify. Look at shapes, outlines, colors, and sizes. Talk about likeness and differences. Follow directions for crafts. Create structures. Enjoy books. Wow! Learning is fun!
- Once again, remember to provide numerous and varied learning opportunities because children do no all learn at the same time or in the same way. Each child is different, and children develop at varying rates. Some children will quickly grasp and enjoy an activity, while others need repeated learning opportunities. To learn more, check out Visual Processing Explained.