In our office we use the term Form Perception to mean the ability to look at a geometric figure, such as a “square” or a “diamond,” analyze what is seen and then draw one exactly like it. This skill is generally called VISUAL- MOTOR INTEGRATION–ability to integrate what we are seeing (visual) with motor movements.
A test which supposedly measures this skill is called the test of VISUAL MOTOR INTEGRATION (VMI). The test was designed by Dr.’s Beery and Buktenika. Looking at this test will give the therapist an example of how we are using the term FORM PERCEPTION. Many of our FORM PERCEPTION procedures were designed to teach the concepts which are tested on the VMI.
The ability to look at a geometric figure and copy it is built on two other abilities:
1) The ability to analyze the parts of the geometric figure in order to understand how the figure is constructed. The thinking process which goes into this ability has been described in detail by Dr. Jerome Rosner, a professor at the Houston College of Optometry in his book, Helping Children Overcome Learning Difficulties.
Briefly, analyzing a geometric figure consists of seeing that the figure has a limited number of parts all of which are related to one another in some way. For instance, a square if made up of just “four” lines–not three, not five. The lines meet at certain angles. The lines on the opposite sides of the square are parallel. The lines are all the same length.
While it is not necessary for a child to be able to verbally describe a square in order to draw one, he nonetheless needs to be able to “see” how the lines in the square are related. The various procedures in this FORM PERCEPTION section are designed to help the child “see” these relationships.
Diagnostic tests that we provide in this area include the Test of Visual Perceptual Skills (TVPS) and the Developmental Test of Visual Perception (DTVP)
2) After the child “understands” the figure in front of him, he still has to get his hand to draw the figure. This ability to get his eyes to guide his hand is the second ability needed to copy a geometric figure. Many children can “see” that their figures do not look the same as the ones they are trying to copy, but they still cannot get their hands to properly guide the pencil. We teach this pencil control by practicing the procedures in this section, the PENCIL CONTROL (PEN) section, and the MOTOR PLANNING (MP) section.
Another piece of information which seems to help explain what we are attempting in the area of Form Perception, was written in the article, The Anatomy of Thought that, “Intelligence is the ability to recognize differences, similarities and identities.” The Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “identity” as “the condition of being the same or exactly alike.” The same dictionary defines “similar” as “almost but not exactly the same.”
In our office, when we use the term FORM PERCEPTION we are similarly talking about the ability to SEE how things are exactly the same, almost the same, or different. Thus, we are really working in the area of intelligence. Behavioral optometrists have realized this connection between “vision” and intelligence for some time; Dr. G.N. Getman, one of the founders of vision therapy, entitled his book on the subject, How To Improve Your Child’s Intelligence.
While most children we work with are able to see when two patterns are very different, they have much more difficulty seeing and making two patterns which are “exactly the same” or “almost but not exactly the same.” Therefore, our most successful action in getting improvement on our Form Perception procedures is to get children to more accurately decide if their drawings are “exactly the same,” or “almost but not exactly the same” as those they are drawing.
Whenever we get this point across to the child, we get good results. When we do not get children to “see” how what they are drawing is “almost the same” rather than exactly the same, then the improvements have been less. Just as importantly, the procedures also give the child practice in using his eyes to guide his hands to reproduce the forms.
One other concept which has been useful in organizing these FORM PERCEPTION procedures is that of MASS. When reading about tractors, it helps to have a picture of a tractor. It helps more to actually be able to see and touch a tractor. Traditional optometric procedures (such as the first two Form Perception procedures) use blocks or rubber bands to help the child understand the figures on a printed page. These procedures probably have been successful because they knowingly or unknowingly use this concept of mass. In designing the “Orientation” and “Touching” procedures which follow, we also used this concept of mass by beginning with blocks and then moving into figures on the page.