Monday, October 12, 2009

Strategies to Develop Visual Memory Skills

Today, after eight weeks of seeing me for in-office vision therapy, the optometrist discharged a high school sophomore patient previously diagnosed with a delay in the development of the perceptual skill called visual memory. She attends an elite parochial school with high standards and hard tests. Because it has been so difficult for her to remember what she studies, she has struggled with both her grades and her self image. Last week I introduced tangram puzzles as a way to help her discover meaningful strategies to remember complex material. This week she reported that it was the most significant activity of all the ones we did in therapy because it helped her approach her homework differently. Instead of becoming overwhelmed at the many individual words or concepts she had to remember, she began looking for and sorting the work into chunks and patterns that made sense. Even remembering the verb conjugations in her Spanish 2 class became so much easier.

Here is the sequence we came up with to remember a block design so that, without looking at the model, it is easy to rebuild it from memory:
  • Start with a simple block design that you want to remember
  • Build it 
  • Analyze it by making associations and by dividing the larger design into manageable chunks
  • See if you can close your eyes and see the design in your mind
  • Practice referring to the mental image and drawing or assembling it on paper or in space
  • Do something else for a while
  • After several minutes, hours, or days, see if you can still access, refer to, build, and use the visual image stored in your mind
Shameless self-promotion: For home-schoolers (and vision therapy patients who need home therapy activities), I created the Green Book of the Eye Can Too! Read e-book series. All the activities require the use of visual perceptual skills to accomplish academic activities - I indicate the expected grade level for each activity as well as tips for parents to observe while their children attempt the tasks.

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