Visual-motor integration (VMI) is the function that ensures our eyes and the movement of our hands work together efficiently and smoothly. Healthy VMI coordinates and assimilates visual perception (input), visual processing (decoding), and visual output through the fine motor skill of writing.
Click here to watch a video about how vision affects learning.
When you think of hand-eye or eye-hand coordination and learning, you might think it’s only challenging for early learners fumbling to grasp and control jumbo-sized markers and crayons. Once your child seems to have the hang of holding his pencil, you may not expect visual-motor integration to significantly affect learning; but undetected deficiencies in your child’s visual-motor skills can interfere with paper-pencil work in elementary school and beyond.
Even if a child is working with an Occupational Therapist (OT) to improve motor skills, this may not address possible problems with visual perception. 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.
Visual-motor integration includes the ability to first correctly perceive visual information as a form, such as a letter, and then correctly replicate it. In early elementary years, children with delayed or disordered VMI have trouble with seemingly simple tasks such as copying their name or even copying basic shapes–what they write or draw does not look like the word or shape they are using for a guide.
Other signs of visual-motor dysfunction include:
- Messy handwriting
- Poor test taking, despite knowing the material
- Trouble gripping or repeatedly re-gripping pencil
- Difficulty writing within lines
- Excessive erasing
- Slow to complete assignments
- Leaning close to paper
- Lots of omissions and errors in work
Click here for 9 signs your child may have an undiagnosed vision problem.
While we tend to appreciate the importance of high-functioning visual-motor integration for activities such as sports, art, or music, research findings demonstrate a notable correlation between visual-motor integration skills and academic performance in writing, spelling, reading, and math. Even when taking learning disabilities and overall cognitive abilities into account, poor visual-motor integration has been shown to impact standardized test scores. Low VMI skills in Kindergarten have also been shown to predict reading abilities in middle school.
For students with visual motor deficiencies, coordinating their visual perception, visual processing, and fine motor output is so challenging that they have significant difficulty with tasks such as copying information from the board or from a book onto paper. Because of this, learning occurs more slowly and overall performance is affected. They have trouble following instructions, completing worksheets and other written assignments, and writing answers on tests. They know the material being covered, but putting pencil to paper is not as easy for them as it is for their peers.
If you suspect your child may be struggling with visual motor integration, 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.
If you are in the Olney or Silver Spring, MD area, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today for an appointment today.