Visual Information Processing
Visual information processing (VIP), or visual perceptual processing, is a set of skills we use to gather visual information from the environment and integrate them with our other senses. This process also incorporates integration with our past experiences and development so that we can derive meaning and understanding from what we are experiencing.
Visual information processing is important in learning. Without visual information processing we would not be able to accurately learn to read, copy form the board or book, visualize objects or past experiences, remember things visually, have good eye-hand coordination, integrate visual information with our other senses (like how ice-cream might feel, taste, look and smell) or hear a sound and be able to visually recognise where it is coming from (like a police car), just to name a few.
The skills required to accurately interpret what is seen and the how the information is processed involves: ocular motor skills, visual motor skills, visual analysis skills, visual spatial skills and visual auditory skills.
Ocular Motor Skills, are important in reading. The process of reading involves fine eye movements. The eyes must work smoothly and effortlessly together to track and focus to allow accurately reading.
Symptoms of Eye Tracking Problems:
- Frequently losing their place when reading
- Skips lines when reading
- Requires the use of the finger to keep their place
- Short attention span
- Excessive head movements
- Poor reading comprehension
Visual Motor Skills, or commonly known as eye-hand coordination, involves the coordination of visual perceptual skills with gross-motor movement and fine-motor movement. It is the ability to integrate visual input with motor output. A simple example is catching and hitting a ball or tying shoe-laces. It is essential in learning.
Symptoms and signs of Visual-Motor Weakness:
- Poor handing and drawing skills
- Can’t stay on the line when writing
- Poor organization
- Does not recognise mistakes
- Excessive, tight or inadequate pencil grip
- Close working distance
Visual Analysis Skills, or visual discrimination, is used to identify, sort, organise, store, extract and recall visually presented information. It is the ability to take in visual information, remember it and then apply it later.
These visual skills help different small differences in letters, numbers and words, to understand meaning from words, to visualize a story and be able to see the puzzle as a whole without getting lost in the details. Difficulties in this skill is shown in poor spelling, comprehension and expression of ideas.
Subsets of visual analysis skills involve: figure-ground, visual memory, visual closure, visual form recognition, visual speed and span, visual sequential memory.
- Figure-Ground – the ability to locate and perceive an object within in a busy background without getting confused by the surrounding images. A classic example is in the ‘Where is Waldo’ picture books.
- Visual Memory – the ability to recall characteristics of a given object or form. This skill helps children remember what they have read.
- Visual Closure – the ability to visualise a complete picture when one is not given all the details and clues. This skill helps children in reading and comprehension, when they don’t need to process each letter individually in every word for them to recognise the word.
- Visual Speed and Span – the rate and amount at which information is being handled in visual processing. This skill helps children with copying words of the board quickly with only a few glances.
- Visual Sequential Memory – ability to view and then recall a sequence of numbers, letters or objects in the order they were presented. This skill helps children remember phone numbers and in spelling.
Visual Spatial Skills are used to understand directional concepts and to organize our visual space . Where do we project ourselves relative to the world?
Visual spatial skills require observing an object, then accurately reporting its relationship in space relative to your own self. This skill can be divided into bilateral integration (awareness and use of body sides of the body separately and together) laterality (knowing ones left and right) and directionality (understanding of other people/objects right and left).
In a classroom environment, information is usually presented with a direction. For example, when reading and writing, the direction is from left to right. Writing also begins from the top of the page to the bottom. Letters also can have different orientations (b, d, p, q, was/saw). This can be difficult for children to discriminate.
Weakness in this skill is evident in children with:
- Poor coordination and balance (clumsy)
- Reverses letters and numbers when writing or copying
- Difficulty learning right and left
- Struggles with activities involving rhythm
- Rotates body when writing or coping
- Does not use non dominant hand for support when writing or copying
Visual Auditory Integration, is when visual information is linked when information that is heard. It is the ability to see a word and say it aloud, or hearing a word and writing it down.
This skill is important in learning to spell, read, memory and comprehension.
Symptoms of Auditory-Visual Integration problems:
- Poor spelling ability
- Troubling to read phonetically
- Instructions and directions need to be constantly repeated
- Difficulty relating symbols to their relevant sounds
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