Ocular motor (oculomotor) control and visual perception are foundational skills necessary for a variety of daily activities, including, but not limited to reading, writing, catching, throwing, organization, and safety when navigating environments. Occupational therapists are trained to identify and treat difficulties related to visual perception and ocular motor control in order to facilitate participation and engagement in meaningful activities.
Ocular motor muscles, much like the small muscles in our hands and fingers, work together to control eye movements and facilitate eye teaming (the ability of our eyes to work together in a coordinated fashion). Our eyes must work together to complete smooth tracking movements (such as tracking words across a page as you read) and saccadic movements (such as used when looking up and back down to copy information from the board). Impairments in ocular motor control (often stemming from muscle weakness, vestibular processing challenges, injury or dysfunction within the central nervous system) can directly influence a child’s ability to accurately perceive and receive visual information.
Visual perception describes the ability to perceive and interpret visual information. Visual perception includes many components, including visual discrimination, visual-spatial awareness, figure-ground perception, form constancy, and visual memory, to name a few. Challenges in this area are often associated with learning difficulties in reading, writing, math, and spelling. Other daily activities, such as grooming and dressing, play activities, and athletic performance, are also frequently affected.
Visual perception and ocular motor skills are evaluated through standardized assessments and various clinical observations. Following evaluation, a specific treatment plan is created to address a child’s unique needs. Ocular motor control and visual perception skills can be addressed through a variety of therapeutic interventions. Compensatory and environmental adaptation strategies are also often taught to help a child overcome challenges and adapt tasks to best fit his or her needs. In addition, parent and teacher education is an important component of intervention in order to best support a child in all environments.
If you have concerns regarding your child’s ocular motor control or visual perception skills, contact an occupational therapist to schedule an evaluation.