Visual Motor Integration

Visual Motor Integration: What is it and How to Develop This Skill

In last week’s blog on the Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration, assessment of visual motor integration abilities was discussed. Now that you know how it is assessed by many occupational therapists, you are probably wondering what this skill entails and how you can help your child develop it.

Visual motor integration is the coordination of visual perceptual abilities and fine motor control. It is a skill that allows us to use our eyes and our hands in a coordinated and efficient way. A child may not have any visual issues with acuity or perception and may not have any challenges with hand strength or dexterity but the connection between their visual and motor system is not as organized or efficient as it should be. If your child would benefit from strengthening this connection, try out some of the activities below!

Tips to Strengthen Visual Motor Integration

visual motor integration

What is Visual Motor Integration?

  1. Practice forming shapes and letters using objects other than pencils or markers. Use string, tooth picks, Wikki Stix, pipe cleaners, or glue.
  2. Use coloring books. Encourage kids to trace over lines first to help them better see where they want to keep their crayon.
  3. Complete jigsaw puzzles together. Puzzles typically have an age range suggestion listed on the box and you can always provide as much assistance as your child needs while still allowing them to place the pieces and be proud of their accomplishment!
  4. String beads onto a pipe cleaner, string, thread, or elastic to make a bracelet or necklace. You can up the challenge by creating a pattern for your child to replicate.
  5. Complete mazes and dot-to-dots.
  6. Provide your child with partial drawings for them to complete. This could either be half of a picture that he copy onto the other side or a picture with components missing.
  7. Tape small targets to a wall and try to bounce a ball once on the floor before hitting one of the targets. These targets could be index cards or pieces of paper with anything on them. This is a great way to work on letters, sight words, math problems, or anything else your child may need practice with!
  8. Cut out shapes beginning with short straight lines before moving to curves and turns. As they progress with this skill, cut out shapes and paste the pieces together to create art!
  9. Work on folding paper with paper airplanes, origami, or paper fortune tellers.
  10. Use step-by-step drawing books. These help kids to break down the whole drawing into more manageable parts.
  11. If writing inside the lines is difficult, try highlighting the top and bottom lines to increase their awareness and get them more used to writing with the correct sizing. If math problems are challenging to line up, using graph paper can help to keep their work neater and easier to follow.

When developing new skills, always be sure to work at your child’s pace. If it is still very difficult for her to draw a square consistently, continue working on her prewriting shapes before expecting her to form many of her letters. As she masters new abilities, she will build foundational skills and confidence for increasingly challenging tasks!

Beery VMI

Understanding the Beery VMI

If your child has recently completed an occupational therapy evaluation or if you’re curious about what will be assessed in an upcoming appointment, the Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration, or the Beery VMI, is a commonly used measure that may be helpful to familiarize yourself with. This assessment provides us with important information on the development of an individual’s visual and motor abilities. These skills are the backbone for many of your child’s day to day activities. If you notice he avoids or has difficulty with tasks such as cutting, coloring, writing, tying his shoes, or catching a ball, the Beery VMI can help explain why.

The test is broken down into three sections. The first examines how efficiently the visual and motor systems are communicating with one another (the ability referred to as visual motor integration), while the second and third isolate the visual perceptual and the motor control pieces of the puzzle. Identifying exactly where a child’s difficulties lie is key to developing a plan that will increase his participation and confidence in the everyday activities required of him.Beery VMI

Here is a break-down of the three Beery VMI subtests and what information we can glean from the outcomes:

Visual Motor Integration: The first subtest is a sequence of images that an individual is asked to copy from a model, beginning with a simple line and progressing gradually to more complex geometric shapes. This subtest aims to assess how the visual perceptual and fine motor control systems coordinate with one another. In other words, how well does the motor system produce what the visual system is processing?

Visual Perception: In the second subtest, the individual is again presented with a series of progressively complex geometric images. However, in this subtest the examinee is asked only to identify each item’s identical match from a set of similar shapes. This timed subtest provides us with information on how the visual system specifically is perceiving the information it receives.

Motor Coordination: The third and final subtest of the Beery VMI isolates an individual’s fine motor control abilities. Similar to the first two subtests, the Motor Coordination portion begins with a basic line and advances to more challenging forms. The individual is provided with specific directions to trace the interior of each shape, without crossing over the shape’s border. This timed portion of the test allows us to assess an individual’s level of fine motor control.

The Beery VMI is one of the most frequently used assessments by occupational therapists. It provides not only a picture of a child’s strengths and areas of difficulty, but also a baseline for development of these skills. For suggestions on how to help your child develop visual motor integration abilities, check out next week’s blog with a list of activities your child will enjoy!