Understanding form discrimination and using occupational theory to cope

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Form discrimination comes under visual discrimination, in which a child faces problems in identifying or sorting letters, symbols, shapes, or words. The discrimination ability can hinder even with a slight difference in the size of the word, object, or shape. With the form discrimination, orientation changes, but the form remains constant.

A child facing form discrimination may have trouble visualizing outcomes when playing a puzzle. Form constancy is one of the basic requirements that a child needs to possess to read, write or participate in various daily and school activities.

Suppose you are unsure about your kid’s specific type of discrimination. In that case, you can refer to and read our types of visual discrimination article for a better understanding of your kid’s exact type of visual issue. 

Why is form discrimination significant?

Form discrimination is one of the basic requirements that a child needs to possess to read, write or participate in various daily and school activities. The skill of form discrimination is necessary for kids to understand that the words they read and learn may have differences in the looks, sizes, shapes, or color, be it in the books, magazines, hoardings, and any other place. They need knowledge of discrimination for doing necessary activities.

visual form discrimination depiction

Form constancy is not exclusively related to alphabets or words. A kid without form discrimination can easily identify a slide, be it in real life or a picture book or with black and white ink, but a child with form discrimination will find it difficult to process this. Kids with form discrimination issues can have problems in schools while reading and copying from the board, reading from a book, etc. This problem will hinder their daily life activities at home or outside too. 

Common giveaways of form discrimination in kids:

  • Difficulty in detecting letters, numbers, shapes, especially when they are rotated.
  • Difficulty in processing and identifying different shapes with similar looks like a rectangle and square or a circle and oval.
  • Problems with identifying letters, shapes, and numbers with different fonts.
  • Difficulty in recognizing words that may be presented in vertical form. 
  • Issues with identifying similar letters like p and d or a and o.
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How to deal with form discrimination? 

After finding out about form discrimination in your kid, you can either try activities at home and see or monitor the child’s changes or consult a specialist who has ample knowledge in the field. Consulting a specialist can give you an accurate report on your child’s issue. The most common thing that works for form discrimination is occupational therapy.

Occupational therapy:

Occupational therapy is a branch of medical health care that deals with adults and kids with cognitive, sensory, or physical problems. According to aota.org, Occupational therapy is one such platform that can greatly help your kid tackle their form discrimination problems.  

In an occupational therapy session, a professional will test your kid’s skills and see where the child is lacking. The lacking area then gets all the attention. The professional then start making a schedule and activities that can help your child overcome their problem. The activities are usually fun and do not require a lot of time.

Each occupational therapy session is tailored according to your child’s needs. They access the situation and develop individual plans, strategies, and activities.

Few interventions that you might find in your occupational theory session for form discrimination:

  • Implementing compensatory strategies that change according to your kid’s areas of issues. It can start by focusing on black and white print medium to color and finally real-life things and objects for form discrimination.
  • Organizing and changing the environment to reduce visually competing information so that the child doesn’t get distracted. Some examples might include classroom modifications, lighting, seat positioning, etc.
  • Exercises, activities, and games that challenge the form discrimination skills.
  • One thing that occupational therapists revolve their therapies around is – fun. They do not wish to make it feel like a task or work. Kids should overcome their form discrimination problem with fun activities and games. 

Who does occupational therapy?

According to kidshealth.org, professional levels, that practice occupational therapy is:

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Occupational therapist (OT): An OT is a person who can suggest, implement and form a report and activities list for your child with form discrimination. An OT has a 4-years bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from an Occupational therapy program. With experience and knowledge, an OT can be trusted with your kid’s issues.

Occupational therapist assistant( OTA): An OTA is a professional who will carry out the activities and exercises planned and prepared by the occupational therapist. An OTA works and monitors your kid’s progress and informs the Occupational therapist, who then changes the activities accordingly.

OTs and OTAs work in different settings, including schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private practices, and children’s clinics.

How can I find an occupational therapist?

If you have decided to find and consult an OT for your kid’s form discrimination, you can follow any of the steps to keep in mind the state you reside in. Your kid can get free occupational therapy through the social service or NHS, depending according to your location and situation:

  • You can contact a nearby hospital to provide you with further assistance regarding your issue. Ask them to give you referrals for the same.
  • If the nearby hospital is not your option, you can contact your paediatrician to know your options. They can refer you to a specialist.
  • Instead of googling, you can ask your kid’s school nurse or guidance counsellor about good OTs near your area. Since they already know your kid’s issues and nature, they can recommend someone accordingly.
  • You can do your research and visit The American OT association website to find your state’s occupational therapy association.
  • You can search and ask your local council for Occupational therapy.
  • To check whether an occupational therapist is registered and qualified, you can visit the Health & Care Professionals Council (HCPC) website. This is a required step that you must-do if you are planning on taking a private Occupational therapist. 

Note to remember- A public government-aided medical professional clinic might have long waiting periods. If there is an urgency with the form discrimination issue, we would suggest going with a private professional. 

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Few form discrimination activities that you can try out before visiting an occupational therapist.

Shape constancy reinforcement activities:

  • If a busy room makes it difficult for your kid to point out the shape, you can collect a few items and place them on a tray. Then try asking and pointing out different objects.
  • Use a picture book and ask your toddler to find a square in the book. This will help them in understanding shapes in a busy place.
  • You can use a shopping catalogue or magazine and ask them to circle an object of a certain shape. This will help them in noticing and understanding colorful objects which will make real-life form findings pretty easy in the future.

The number and letter constancy reinforcement activities:

  • Play I spy with your kid. While having their breakfast, ask them to look at the cereal box and find out the word you are currently focusing on.
  • Take your kid on a walk and ask them to determine the number you are currently teaching. To increase the difficulty, you can make them find out four to five digits or words simultaneously.

Worksheets specifically designed for form discrimination can work efficiently for your kid’s progress.

Look and understand your kid’s patterns and try to help by giving them practical activities. If your kid suffers from form discrimination, you should consult an occupational therapist to help your kid overcome form discrimination very efficiently. Along with the professional therapy sessions, you can try including some activities on your own at home to help speed the process. These difficulties are not life-long issues and can be overcome with consistent efforts and patience.


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