It is one thing to see something, it is another to understand and interpret what is seen. This means that a person can see clearly and still not understand or interpret what he or she sees.
Visual perception is the ability to interpret and make sense of what is seen with the eyes. It is only when you make sense of what you see that you can take a decision or act accordingly.
How many times have you seen an object and did not know what it is or could not make sense of it? Many times I guess.
How many times have you seen an object that has been shown to you severally but still did not know the name or could not even remember seeing it before? I guess very few times or none at all.
The first scenario is normal. How would you know something you have not seen or at least read about before? However, imagine the second scenario playing out every now and then. How would you feel? Well, that scenario is an example of what a visual perception problem looks like.
Some signs and symptoms of visual perception problems in children include:
- Difficulty seeing the difference between similar objects, shapes and letters.
- Difficulty remembering things they have seen before.
- Poor reading comprehension (reading a passage without understanding it). This often makes it difficult for the child to answer questions on the passage read.
- Frequently reversing or mistaking letters like “b” for “d”, “u” for “n” or “w” for “m”.
- Difficulty identifying objects when parts of it are missing.
- Difficulty writing or placing letters or numbers in a sequence or assembling aa age-appropriate puzzle.
Note that visual perception is a learned skill that improves over time as children grow and interact with their environment. So, the inability of a 4 year to recognize an object or understand a sentence for instance may not be a visual perception problem. It may be that the child has not been well exposed to the object or concepts in the sentence or that the concepts presented are above what he or she can understand at that age.
Many cases of visual perception problems have no cure. They can only be managed to improve the child’s learning and development. Management is dependent on the cause. When a vision problem is the cause of poor visual perception, treatment usually involves the use of lenses, prisms or vision therapy. If physical, neurological, mental or emotional conditions are suspected, the child is usually referred to the another professional for management. In addition, the child’s teacher is carried along so that the child’s learning environment and strategies can be modified to accommodate the his or her problem and improve learning.