VISUAL EFFICIENCY SKILLS
By: Carmen Willings
The Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments can work with a student to help them develop efficient use of their vision. These skills will help prepare a student for learning as well as prepare them for safe and efficient travel.
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Spatial Relationships & Eye-Hand Integration
Eye-Hand coordination is an important skill for visual learners as developing skillful hands in important for Braille readiness. Eye-Hand coordination is also referred to as visual motor integration. It is the ability to control hand movement guided by vision. Students who have difficulty with visual motor integration often have difficulty coordinating body movements in response to what is seen.
Gross Motor Movement
Students who are visually impaired may need motivators and assistance in developing movement milestones. Holding their head up may be unnatural to a student who has low vision or is blind. The student should be encouraged to hold their head up and develop a good posture. The student may need visual and auditory cues to develop gross motor skills.
Visually Attend or Fixate
Fixation is the observed ability to direct a gaze and hold an object steadily in view. Keep in mind that some students may use an eccentric gaze in order to visually attend or to establish a null point. Do not force a student to look straight at an object or at materials as a student may need to turn their head in order to visually attend. Also, don't expect longer fixation than would be acceptable of you. Provide the student with many experiences with objects within arms reach. Once the student visually attends at near, encourage the student to briefly gaze or attend to objects and people that are at mid-range distances (3 to 5 feet) and distance environment.
Visually Shift Gaze
Shift of gaze is the ability to shift one's gaze from one object or person to another. Begin by using objects the student is interested in or has demonstrated the ability to visually attend to. Wiggle the item slightly to gain the student's attention to the second item.
Visual pursuit is the ability to look for an item that has fallen out of view. Students need to learn that objects and people continue to exist even when they are out of view. They need to develop the skills to locate objects that are no longer within reach. Encourage the student to look for dropped objects and anticipate the trajectory of slowly moving objects. At first you may need to assist the student. For students with usable vision, point in the direction that the item has dropped or rolled if the student is able to follow the trajectory of your point. For students who are blind or who have difficulty following the trajectory of a point, you can tap the item on the floor to provide a sound source that will assist the student in locating the object. Teach the student how to use a systematic search pattern to locate objects by providing hand under hand assistance.
Once a student is able to visually attend to objects and materials in their environment, they should be encouraged to visually track their movements. Tracking is the ability to maintain visual attention on an object as the object is moving. Tracking is the ability to follow a moving object with your eyes and for this reason, it is an important skill for reading. You must be able to move your eyes accurately in order to read across a line of print.
To visually scan is to visually search in a systematic pattern such as looking on different planes (high, middle, low), to find objects or to avoid obstacles. Visually scanning is different from visual tracking in that scanning requires the students to view an area in order to locate an item or information as opposed to maintaining visual contact while an object/person moves from one place to another.
To visually trace is to follow a stationary line such as along the edge of the white board or a painted line on a playground. A student can be encouraged to trace lines or edges of objects to locate requested items. This exploration will help students navigate and develop a more complete understanding of their environment.
Visual Discrimination & Sequencing Activities
Visual discrimination is the ability to recognize details in visual images. It allows students to identify and recognize the likeness and differences of shapes/forms, colors and position of objects, people, and printed materials. In order to learn to read print, students will need to develop their visual discrimination skills. There are numerous activities that students can do to help them develop visual discrimination skills. Encourage students to visually discrimination through matching photos, letters, words, pictures, or other objects and materials.
Visual closure helps a student to quickly process information in the environment because our visual system doesn't have to analyze every detail to recognize what is seen. If a student has difficulty with visual closure, they will have a difficult time identifying an object or picture when part of the object is missing. Visual closure also helps to recognize sight words.
Figure Ground is the perceptual skill that allows a student to pick out details without getting confused by the background or surrounding images.
Visual association is the ability to relate visual stimuli to other, previously learned, visual images in a meaningful way. Visual association is used to sort and classify things that belong together but are not identical.
Visual Memory And Visual Imagery
Visual memory involves the ability to store and retrieve previously seen images when the object, picture, word, or location are no longer present. Visual imagery is information that passes through the brain as though something is being perceived, when nothing is actually happening. Both of these skills are important for academics but also in developing good orientation and mobility skills.