visual-motor problems

Signs That Your Child Could Have a Visual-Motor Problem

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland,  convenient to Silver Spring.

Vision plays a significant role in guiding our movements. If your child is having problems with movement — whether they are struggling with fine motor skills or gross motor skills — the difficulty could be caused by visual-motor dysfunction, which is treatable with vision therapy.

Fine motor function is what we think of as eye-hand coordination, and it requires translating abstract visual information into the equivalent fine motor activity. Fine motor skills include handwriting, cutting with scissors, coloring, drawing, typing, texting, and other small movement hand functions.

Gross motor function, which is eye-body coordination, requires translating visual information into the equivalent gross motor activity. Gross motor skills include walking, running, sports, and general physical agility and coordination.

Visual-motor integration is comprised of the ability to correctly perceive visual information, process it, and move your hands or body accordingly. Visual-motor speed refers to the ability to efficiently integrate visual skills and motor skills for the purpose of completing a task.

Research shows a significant correlation between visual-motor integration skills and academic performance in writing, spelling, reading, and math. Even when taking overall cognitive abilities and learning disabilities into account, visual-motor dysfunction negatively impacts performance and standardized test scores.

To learn more how vision can affect learning, download our free guide here and watch our pre-recorded webinar here.

Early signs of visual-motor problems in children can include missed milestones and delays in gross motor skills, such as crawling, standing, and walking or fine motor skills, such as grasping and manipulating objects or gripping crayons.

In early elementary years, children with delayed or disordered visual-motor skills may have trouble with tasks such as copying their name or even copying basic shapes. Low visual-motor skills in Kindergarten have been shown to predict reading difficulties in later years.

Other signs of visual-motor dysfunction include:

  • Messy handwriting and sloppy drawing
  • Poor grades on written tests despite being able to give answers orally
  • Trouble gripping or repeatedly re-gripping pencil
  • Difficulty coloring inside the lines or writing within lines
  • Misaligning numbers in columns for math problems
  • Excessive errors and erasing
  • Slow to complete written assignments
  • Frustration with pencil and paper activities
  • Difficulty copying from the board
  • General clumsiness or trouble with coordination
  • Poor performance in sports, such as hitting, catching, or kicking a ball

Coordinating visual perception, visual processing, and fine or gross motor output can be so challenging for children that learning occurs more slowly and overall performance is affected. Students with visual-motor problems often know the material being covered, but putting pencil to paper is not as easy for them as it is for their peers.

It’s possible that in a child with a visual-motor problem, visual perception is intact and that there may not be a problem with body movement and coordination. The issue could be with the mechanism that enables motor and visual systems to communicate well and work together efficiently.  

Even if a child is working with an Occupational Therapist (OT) to improve motor skills, this may not address problems with visual perception, visual-motor integration, and visual-motor speed. OTs are trained to work with children to improve and strengthen specific skills and abilities, but deficiencies in the visual processing system can interfere with a child’s ability to make progress.

If you suspect your child may be struggling with a visual-motor problem, the first step is to schedule a functional vision exam with an optometrist trained in developmental vision care. Once diagnosed, the good news is, an individualized vision therapy program can result in noticeable improvement in a relatively short period of time.

At the Visual Learning Center in Olney, Maryland, we provide vision therapy that regularly results in improved visual motor speed, better legibility with written tasks, accelerated development of visual-motor integration skills, and improved coordination and sports performance.

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