Despite their best efforts, some children seem to have constant trouble with the learning process. The fault may lie with a deficit in perceptual skills and not with his/her intelligence. FARIDA AHMED RAJ
Thirteen-year-old Kartik is an enigma to his teachers. They cannot understand why a child who has terrific oral expression struggles with the written work of std. VIII. Writing is a protracted, laborious
process and, despite his efforts, his legibility is poor. While doing math he often gets confused with the symbols of multiplication and addition. A thorough assessment by a clinical and an educational
psychologist attributed his problem to a deficit in perceptual skills.
Perception at a basic level involves making sense of shape, size, colour, and the relationships of objects to each other and to self. It is the ability to discriminate, recognise and interpret the information we receive through our sense organs by associating it with previous experiences. Although, there are many types of perception, the two most common areas of difficulty in academic learning are visual and auditory perception. Since so much information in the classroom and at home is represented visually and verbally, the child with a visual and or auditory perceptual disorder can be at a disadvantage in certain learning situations.
Visual perception is involved in nearly everything we do. Proficiency in visual perception helps children learn to read, write, spell and do math and to develop all other skills necessary for success in school work. A relatively minor visual perceptual deficit can result in a severe degree of dysfunction in task performances. Perceptual skills are one of the key factors in identifying problems in early academic learning.
The fact that a child has visual perceptual problem usually surfaces around age six when he begins to spend more time on ‘pencil and paper’ activities such as drawing, writing and performing math tasks.
Sometimes, a simple activity of copying from the blackboard may prove difficult. The child may not be able to copy the written matter presented vertically on the board to the horizontal plane of the
Visual discrimination is vital in the recognition of common objects and symbols. It is the ability to differentiate objects based on their individual characteristics. This helps children identify different
shapes, forms, patterns, colour, size and position. A child with poor visual discrimination ability will have difficulty in reading charts and graphs or gaining information from pictures.
Figure Ground Perception is the ability to concentrate or focus on a relevant visual or auditory input in an environment that is presenting a number of distractions. A child with poor figure ground
discrimination appears to be inattentive and disorganised. He may continue with one activity in a repetitive manner, unable to change activities at will. He appears to be careless in his work because he cannot find his place on a page, and fails to solve familiar problems, when they are presented on a crowded page because he cannot pick the relevant details. He fails to show perseverance.
Spatial Relationship refers to the ability to perceive the position of an object in relation to himself and also accurately perceive objects with reference to other objects and himself. Spatial relationships
have great relevance to reading and math as these two subjects rely heavily on the use of symbols (letters, numbers, punctuations and math signs). A child who has problems in this ability has a distorted visual world. His difficulty in classroom learning becomes obvious when he needs to write. E.g. he will write ‘d’ as ‘b’ ,’ saw’ as ‘was’, ‘6′ as ‘9′ and ‘24′ as ‘42′ . Spatial dysfunction results in
numerical confusion and an inability to discriminate signs and symbols like +, x, =.
While their general performance may be dysfunctional, they excel in other areas. Unfortunately, because their visual and auditory perceptual deficits result in disorganised mode, their skills and
abilities often go unrecognised. They may fall behind in academic achievements. They become the butt of teacher’s ridicule and a source of entertainment for peers.
Sadly, failure to perform as expected becomes the focus and, because our education system focuses on the symptom rather than the cure, we end up with sad, angry and disillusioned children with emotional and psychological problems.
Many teachers are not aware of these problems and do not make allowances for gross and fine motor difficulties and perceptual problems. Teachers need to know that it is important to a child’s
visual perceptual performance and understand how the incoming information is processed and used. It is also important to realise that young children can overcome these perceptual problems. Training
in visual perception involves mainly paper pencil tasks that become progressively more complex. No technology is required. Through these tasks, children develop the skills and habits of thinking that enable them to process information, see connections, visualise spatial and position in space relationships and communicate in precise ways. These are basic skills needed for academic achievement.
Signs of visual perceptual deficits Reversals b/d, p/q Inversions u for n, w for m Yawns while reading Complains of print blurs while reading Loses place frequently Cannot copy accurately Re-reads or skip lines Does not recognize a word or subject if a part is shown Reading improves with larger print and fewer items on page Sequencing errors sq/was, on/no Words collide with each other, no space between words Cannot colour within lines.
Signs of auditory perceptual deficit Difficulty understanding conversations at normal speed . Understanding improves when the instructions are repeated slowly . Discriminating b, p d, t, c, g, j,
n, m and hearing the final consonant . Difficulty in filtering out extraneous noise Difficulty in following directions Difficulty in learning in a noisy classroom