Understanding visual discrimination among toddlers and strategies to improve these skills

Last Updated on February 16, 2023 by Editorial Team

When your child starts to perceive new objects or things around him, he visually discriminates the things – patterns of the items, sizes, shapes, and colors. This activity of perceiving and understanding tangible and intangible objects and ideas is called Visual Discrimination. If your child cannot visually discriminate things, there is no need to fear as it is a learned activity, and with few strategies, you can cope with visual discrimination. According to scholarwithin.com,”  These different areas of perception are learned skills, so they can improve.” Visual discrimination is an umbrella term that has a lot of detailed parts that focus on each specific discrimination issue.

Significance of visual discrimination:

Visual discrimination is necessary because if a child cannot recognize ‘b’ and ‘p,’ he will read bat as pat. Kids will have problems with blending (letters that make words). They would find spelling a word or letter formation hard. If a kid wants to read prints, it is essential to learn visual discrimination. Visual discrimination can differ from kid to kid, but the basic process is the same. Their ability to understand similarities and differences between objects will help them interpret the environment around them better. Here is a video explaining visual discrimination through letters, shapes and figures:

Kids may have the following issues when it comes to visual discrimination:

  •         They can confuse symbols and shapes in maths.
  •         They tend to reverse numbers when writing.
  •         Kids can find learning sight vocabulary hard.
  •         Copying from the board can be challenging for them.
  •         They cannot quickly identify textures and shades in a picture.
  •         Jigsaw puzzles might be challenging for them.
  •       Issues with comparative language (example. longer than, shorter than)

Essential strategies to keep in mind:

Note: It always helps to target what issue your little one has and focus on that. We will discuss detailed strategies for each case later in the article.

  • Start with one sorting attribute (i.e., blocks by color, blocks by size).
  • Add two sorting attributes (i.e., sort blocks by color and size).
  • Ultimately add different attributes (i.e., sorting by color, size, shape).
  • Play find the difference that you can easily find in a newspaper or a storybook.
  • You can start with puzzles of simple nature and increasing the difficulty.
  • Ask them to sort cutlery by keeping spoons, forks, and butter knives in a separate group. Increase the challenge by asking them to sort dessert spoons, soup spoons, and so on.
  • Parents can use a magazine and ask them to circle five words from an article.
  • Playing bingo can be a good exercise. It will help kids to differentiate numbers.
  • Gather different objects of the same colors, keep one object of a completely different color family, and then ask your tot to pick the odd one out. Increase the difficulty by adding the odd piece with the same shade or looks the same.

Under visual discrimination, there are various subtopics. Let us look at each one and try to find one that resembles your kids’ issue:

1. Visual perception- Figure-ground perception

Figure-ground perception helps kids to filter important information from non-important ones. They should know what and where to focus on—for example, reading a to-do homework pin from the busy memo board. It is a crucial skill to learn maths, daily life skills, and maintain attention.

Strategies to improve ground perception:

  • Play ‘I see something’- tell your kid to find a blue octopus in the toy box.
  • Take a big jar of mixed color beads and ask him to pick out blue ones kindly.
  • Engage your kids in a game of pick-up sticks and bingo.
  • Engage them to play jigsaw puzzles, or word find puzzles.

Ask them to find all the letters that start with P in a storybook. If your kid is a little old, you can ask him to refer to a newspaper article.

2. Visual perception- Memory

Visual memory is a skill that helps kids recall what an object looks like. The ability to remember what a kid sees allows him to form strong long-term memory from short-term memory. This skill is necessary to do daily activities like remembering where their pants are kept or what soap to use while bathing.

Strategies to improve visual memory:

  • Start by playing simple matching games with matching cards. You can later increase the difficulty by adding more cards.
  • Ask your kid to look at a picture, try talking with him about the picture, and then hide the image. Ask him to recall the details of the picture and what he saw. You can again increase the difficulty by showing a busier picture.

3. Visual perception- Form consistency

Form consistency is a visual perception aid that helps kids notice that an object will stay the same even if it is bigger, smaller, opposite, black and white, or multicolour. For example, a circle will remain a circle despite it being a little one, a big circle, or a red-colored circle. Kids who have problems with form consistency usually tend to write reverse letters or numbers.

Strategies to improve form consistency:

  • Play ‘Perfection’ that requires them to match the same shape and colors.
  • Use shape sorters to help them identify.
  • Matching pictures to objects like a picture of ball and lollipop both are circle in nature

4. Visual discrimination- sequential memory

Sequential memory is the skill of remembering a sequence of an event or object in the right occurring order. Apart from using it in maths, science, and copying from the board, sequential memory will help a kid in daily life. For example, A kid will remember what steps to take while brushing or how to start wearing clothes from undies to tee shirts- in that sequence.

Strategies to improve sequential memory:

  • Create a fun game of moment pattern like wave 2x, jump 1x and clap 3x. Ask your toddler to repeat the same moment in the same pattern.
  • Read them a cute comic strip, later cut the strip, and ask your kid to put it back in the original sequence.
  • Play with them- Mastermind, Loopz, or Simon. These store-bought games can improve the sequential memory of your child.

5. Visual perception- Closure

This visual skill lets a child know what a partially hidden object looks like. Even if the thing is hidden, the child can understand the item by seeing the visible part. For example, a half-hidden monkey will still remain a monkey, and the child should recognize it.

Strategies to improve visual closure:

  • Take a sharpie and hide an animal by drawing thick stripes. Ask your kid to recognize the animal. If you don’t want to ruin your kid’s book, draw stripes on clear plastic and use that clear sheet to hide and unhide the animal.
  • Click close-up pictures of animals, lamps, their toys and ask them to identify the object. These exercises can quickly help your kid to overcome the problem of visual closure.

6. Visual discrimination- Spatial relationships

A spatial relationship is a visual discrimination ability where a kid quickly perceives two objects in relation to each other. For example, a kid should understand what ‘stands in the middle line’ or’ sit before Jenny’ means. Having spatial relationship problems can cause issues with motor skills or body awareness.

Strategies to improve the spatial relationship:

  • Let the child clean the table and dusting the living room corner. This will help the child to know objects and how to maneuver them.
  • Play obstacle courses that will force your kid to move over, under, up, down an object helping the child know the object’s relationship to his body.
  • Building projects that come with instructions can be a good exercise as the instructions tell what piece to glue together or where to put it.
  • Origami can be an excellent way to teach your kid spatial relationship as it has steps, and he needs to move the crafting paper.

7. Visual discrimination- Visual tracking

The ability to control the eye moments by using vision and eye muscles together in sync is called visual tracking. There are two types of tracking- switching your focus between two objects and maintaining your focus on a moving object. Visual tracking is essential for reading flawlessly. When your kid reads, their eyes stay at a word and then make a small jump to read further. If he doesn’t learn visual tracking, it can make him miss sentences or skip words.

Strategies to improve visual discrimination:

  • Play catch the ball or hit the ball. This will improve the visual tracking skill of your child.
  • Ask them to spot objects when they are in moving in a car.
  • Increase the catch’s difficulty by asking him to run while catching the ball.

Few things to keep in mind:

Kids get frightened if you put pressure on them. Try to teach them about visual discrimination through playing. Don’t make this activity a stressful obligation. Playing will keep them busy, and they will learn quickly without knowing. Give them different and new games to play, kids have a really short concentration span, and they get bored very quickly, so applying variety will keep them happy. Be happy even if their progress is slow; they are kids, so each kid has a different learning curve. Be patient. Lastly, all the above activities are useful for playing, learning, and tackling vision discrimination, but we advise you to get a doctor’s opinion on the problem. They can run few practice tests, and it will become easier to find out where the real problem lies.

We hope this article helped you in understanding visual discrimination. The tools and strategies provided can be beneficial if carried out regularly. Parents should tell their child’s teacher about their kid’s visual discrimination issues. Telling their educator will be beneficial for them as the teacher can teach your kid accordingly. Keep tracking your kid’s progress and consider taking professional help whenever needed.

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