Visual Analysis Skills

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Visual analysis skills are the active processes for ‘locating, selecting, extracting, analysing, recalling and manipulating’ relevant information in the visual environment.  Visual analysis include subsets of visual discrimination, visual figure ground perception, visual closure, visual memory and visualisation. These visual skills helps differentiate small differences in letters (k/r, m/n), numbers and words, to see and understand the resulting meaning from the words, visualise a story, and be able to see the ‘bigger picture’ without getting lost in the details. Difficulties will show up in spelling, comprehension and in expressing ideas.

Subsets of visual analysis skills (which are necessary in the written language) include:

  • Visual Discrimination – the ability to recognise likeness and differences. In reading, this skill helps children distinguish between similarly spelled words, such as then/when.
  • Visual Memory – the ability to remember for immediate recall the characteristics of a given object or form. This skill helps children remember what they read and see by adequately processing information through their short-term memory. Children with poor visual memory may struggle with recall and comprehension. They often subvocalize, or softly whisper to themselves so that they can ‘hear’ the words. They may have difficulty recognising a word even though they had already seen it many times before. They may also take longer copying text because they can only copy a small amount at a time.
  • Visual Sequential Memory – the ability to remember forms or characters in correct order. This skill is particularly important in spelling and is an essential skill for phonetic decoding of words
  • Visual Form Constancy –  the ability to mentally manipulate forms and visualize the resulting outcomes. This skill helps children distinguish differences in size, shape, and orientation
  • Visual Closure – the ability to visualise a complete image when given incomplete information or a partial picture. This skill helps children read and comprehend quickly; their eyes don’t have to individually process every letter in every word for them to quickly recognize the word by sight.
  • Visual Figure ground – the ability to perceive and locate an object within a busy background without getting confused by the surrounding images. This skill keeps children from getting lost in details. Children with poor figure-ground can become easily confused with too much print on the page, affecting their concentration and attention. They may also have difficulty scanning text in a book or at a whiteboard to locate specific information.

Signs and symptoms of visual analysis skills difficulties

  • Delayed learning of the alphabet (letter identification)
  • Poor automatic recognition of words (sight word vocabulary)
  • Difficulty completing basic maths
  • Confusion between similar-looking words
  • Difficulty spelling non regular words
  • Difficulty with classifications of objects on the basis of their visual attributes

What are some of the tests that can measure visual analysis skills?

  • Test of Visual Perceptual Skills – non motor (Gardiner)
  • Motor-Free Vision Perception Test (Carlaouso & Hamill)
  • Grooved Pegboard
  • Split formboards – 6 figure
  • Test of Visual Analysis Skills (Rosner)
  • Munroe visual memory
  • Marcus test of visual memory (Getman, Henderson)
  • Marcus test of visual manipulation (Getman, Henderson)