You would not believe how many people search Google for “visual-motor integration” and stumble upon my blog. Or maybe you would, as visual-motor integration problems affect virtually all aspects of producing work since it involves eye-hand coordination. That basically affects all pencil and paper tasks. So how can teachers and parents help kids who struggle with visual-motor problems?
Here are some basic tips. Keep in mind that not all visual-motor problems are the same. Some kids have problems with the visual part (seeing the differences in shapes, remembering what letters look like), some with the motor part (like writing with your non-dominant hand) and some with the integration. Nonetheless, the tips are helpful for all kids who are slower with their writing and copying. First, I recommend starting with remediation (practicing the skill that is hard) and then moving toward accommodations and modifications (changing the task or allowing for extra time to complete tasks) as the student gets older.
1) For younger students, integrate non-writing ways to enhance visual-motor skills, such as cutting with scissors, making shapes or objects with play-do, practicing buttoning, zipping, and tying, pouring, etc.
2) Young students may also enjoy tracing pictures in books with tracing paper, doing mazes, or doing puzzles, all which can help build eye-hand coordination.
3) Some students’ visual motor problems result in them making errors that they do not catch on visual scanning tests. These students may benefit from interventions around study skills, such as evaluating the difficulty of the task before beginning, and strategies for checking work. For example, if a student tends to do a whole worksheet on mixed math facts (addition, subtraction, division, multiplication) with errors in noticing the sign has changed, have him or her highlight the math sign in a different color before starting (pink for addition, yellow for subtraction, etc.)
4) Avoid visually complex worksheets. When worksheets cannot be modified, have the student cover up all the problems except the one s/he is working on with a white piece of paper to reduce overwhelming visual information.
5) Allow the use of cursive or print on written assignments.
6) Modify the assignments and materials when necessary by shortening assignments (striving for quality, not quantity).
7) Teach word processing skills so the student can learn compensatory strategies for handwriting assignments.
8) For older students who have become resistant to writing and copying, start thinking about modifications such as having a peer note taker, providing copies of the notes, giving extra time to complete longer writing assignments, and letting the student type, record, or give answers orally instead of in writing.
9) Acknowledge honestly that the student is having a difficult time (e.g. “Yes, I know writing is hard for you and when writing takes that much effort, it can make you feel tired or frustrated.”) Let him or her know that teachers and family members are going to work together to help him or her succeed.
10) If appropriate to the student’s developmental level, use a computer analogy to explain why the student struggles or works slowly (“It seems to me that you are like a brand-new fast computer with a printer that can sometimes be a little slower. You have such good ideas though if we can get them out! Let’s work together to figure out a way.”) Then brainstorm which modification or accommodation would work best in the situation (e.g. dictating ideas, using a computer, starting with a graphic organizer).