Visual motor skills refer to the ability to coordinate vision with the movements of the body. Vision is involved in all our movements whether they are gross motor or fine motor. Understanding that vision is a component of all the skill areas, visual motor for this discussion will refer to coordination between the eyes and the hands to perform varied pencil and paper tasks. This primarily refers to writing or drawing. Therapists refer to these skills as graphomotor skills.
As children are asked to draw various shapes, they may present with difficulty in several areas. There are some children that do not have visual perceptual deficits and have the ability to perceive the designs accurately but still can not draw the shapes accurately. These kids can be referred to as the “close enough” kids. They can see the details of the drawing but due to other factors, like attention deficit, they draw quickly with little regard for the details. This kind of kid will draw and then look at their work stating “That’s good. It’s close enough”. With practice and enticement through drawing fun stuff, these kids may come to value attending to the details and may then incorporate the details as asked when writing. Still, other children have difficulty with the motor aspect of drawing. For these kids, moving their hand from one side of their body across to the other side of their body can be difficult. This causes drawings to look broken up as they will start drawing the line on one side and as it approaches the middle of the paper, they will lift the pencil and draw the other side separately. This makes drawing accurately particularly difficult. Yet other children who have visual perceptual deficits will struggle with drawing as the underlying skill of perceiving the design is difficult. For these children integrating the skill of visual perception with a motor component may prove tough.
All of these children may be showing signs of their visual motor difficulties academically. They may be having a harder time with handwriting. Completing projects accurately and neatly may be harder than their peers. They may be having a tough time lining up their numbers for completion of math problems. Pencil and paper tasks will require more effort overall for these children. If you suspect your child is having difficulty with his visual motor skills, talk to your pediatrician about having your child evaluated by an occupational therapist. The therapist will have your child look at pictures and complete drawings to determine if your child’s visual motor and visual perceptual skills are typical or if they are below average. With that information you will then know more specifically how to help your child succeed.
Children’s visual motor skills can be enhanced through creative fun drawing and tracing activities. There are many drawing books and activity kits that range from cars to clothing design. As you browse through the many toys look for activities that will suit your child’s strengths and limitations. If your child is young, you may want to look for tracing and fingerprint drawings. For an older child, you might want to check out the car design kits or the drawing books.