Visual Motor & Handwriting

In-home & Clinic-based Occupational Therapy

What are visual motor skills?
Visual motor skills involve the integration of visual information with motor output in order to use the hands and the eyes in a coordinated manner. More specifically, this skill area requires the use of visual information that is perceived in one’s environment (i.e., line on a piece of paper) to execute efficient motor patterns (i.e., cut along line with scissors). Visual motor skills are a foundational skill for many functional activities, including tying shoelaces, writing one’s name, copying from the board at school, and catching a ball.

So, why is this important?
Visual motor skills are important for several reasons. First, visual motor skills impact a child’s ability to perform at an age appropriate level in the classroom, which can affect confidence, self-esteem, and participation with peers. Academic learning tasks such as writing letters and numbers, completing math problems, and copying shapes such as circles and squares are heavily visual-motor based.

In addition, visual motor skills impact a child’s level of independence with self-care, as this skill area is involved in many functional tasks, including lining up a zipper, pushing a button through a hole, pouring water into a cup, and scooping food onto a spoon to bring to mouth.

Lastly, visual motor skills are important because they influence a child’s ability to successfully interact with his or her environment. For example, visual motor skills are involved in functional play tasks, such as placing beads on a string, solving a puzzle, and stacking blocks to build a tower. Additionally, visual motor skills are required for larger body movements, such as throwing and kicking a ball with peers and participating in movement games such as hopscotch.

What are some signs of challenges in this area?
Signs that a child may be experiencing challenges with this skill area may include the following:

  • Messy handwriting
  • Difficulty coloring inside the lines
  • Challenges with copying letters, numbers, and shapes
  • Difficulty aligning scissors with paper for cutting
  • Avoidance of or difficulty with participation in sports activities
  • General clumsiness or trouble with coordination

How can OT help?
Occupational therapists can aid a child in developing effective visual motor skills that enable him or her to feel confident and successful in all contexts, such as in the classroom, on the playground with peers, and during self-care at home. Occupational therapists target visual motor skills from many angles to maximize skill mastery and retenance. Interventions are designed to be fun and engaging, with examples included in the following: copying a silly sentence from a model, tapping a balloon back and forth, connecting dots to form shapes and letters, and rolling a ball to knock down bowling pins.

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Visual Motor - Chicago Occupational Therapy