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What Are Visual Motor Skills?

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  • Written By: Paul Cartmell
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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Visual motor skills are the ability to link the movements of the body to what is seen through the eyes. Development of these skills are important in infants and children, because any delay in the progression of visual motor skills can lead to difficulties in academic and life skills throughout childhood and into adult life. Linking vision with movement allows both fine and gross motor skills to be learned as behaviors that eventually act separately to vision.

Throughout childhood, visual motor skills are judged by developmental age instead of the birth age of a child; the use of a developmental age allows therapists to work with children with visual motor skill difficulties using games and activities that are appropriate. Skills develop from birth when babies interact with adults by imitating facial movements and reaching for brightly colored toys. General developmental age categories are divided into infants aged up to three years, and children from four to eight years and nine to 13 years.

Initially, muscle development begins at the top of the body of an infant at the head and shoulders, before working down to the lower extremities over the later years. The first visual motor skills developed link what is seen with movements of the face and hands of a child. Upon entering the second developmental stage of four to eight years of age, children develop skills revolving around larger muscle group movements, such as jumping and hopping.

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During a child's first attempts at completing a task or activity, the use of vision is relied on heavily; as the activity is repeated the movements are committed to memory and become a behavioral pattern of the body. Writing skills are some of the most important academic motor skills learned, with children of preschool years learning to draw and make shapes. By the time a child reaches nine to 13 years of age, the visual motor skills of linking vision with hand movements mimicking writing are required to develop strong handwriting techniques.

The delayed development of visual skills can be caused for numerous reasons; some children have little interest in a certain activity or having limited experience of performing an activity. Fine motor skills require the movement of small groups of muscles within the body, such as those that control the hands, fingers, and toes. Gross motor skills require the movement of larger area, s and require a large number of muscles; the movements of these muscles are needed for activities including walking and jumping. Conditions like autism or a visual impairment can cause delays in these visual motor skills, as can the simple lack of experience.

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