Activities and Resources for Children with Perceptual Issues

Does your child have perceptual issues? Are you looking for ideas for activities and resources? Here are some solutions I have used successfully with tutoring students, both those who attend school and those who are homeschooled. Lots of them are very inexpensive, or you can even make your own. Having your child help make them is also helpful for the child’s skill development.

  • Old Maid and other matching card games. There are also matching card games such as for Disney’s Princesses or for Superheroes and such. They cost a little more, but for some children they may prove very motivating.
  • EZ as ABC and similar matching puzzles  (useful for both visual perception and matching letter names with sounds–letters on one side of the puzzle pieces, matching picture on opposite side)
  • Alphabet Train and similar alphabet puzzles – large size puzzle pieces allow children to handle them with their hands and walk on and feel them with their feet while looking at the large letters and saying the letter, sound, and word. Some also include the “ABC song” which children can listen to and sing along with while walking letter to letter.
  • Whiteboard and large erasable markers: allow children to see and write in large size and with various colours
  • Recipe For Reading – a phonics program that has been around for a long time, and has proved its worth for children who are having difficulty reading. While you can purchase lots of “extras” (cards, workbooks, storybooks, etc.), the manual is inexpensive and provides all the information you need. You can easily create your own cards–having your child help create the cards may even be more effective 🙂
  • I must say, though, that the Recipe For Reading Alphabet Stories are often very helpful for children with perceptual (and other) difficulties! And they enjoy them! You can also get a CD that goes with them, so they can listen and read along.
  • Magnetic letters – to learn letters and make words. You can often purchase very inexpensive sets from a dollar store–but try to get sets with both uppercase and lowercase letters. Alternatively, you may find sets of foam letters or cardboard letters. You could also cut out letters from pieces of sandpaper. The goal is to have letters your child can feel as well as see. Your child can close his or her eyes, feel the letter, name it, say its sound, give an action word (verb) and a naming word (noun) that have that letter and sound, and even make sentences and stories that use those sounds and words.
  • Basic Sight Word cards. While you can purchase these kinds of cards, you can easily make your own, using Dolch word lists. If possible, have your child help make the cards. You can write the words lightly, and your child can trace them and say them–say the letters and then the word.
  • Animals of All Kinds flash cards are motivating for children who have a a special interest in animals–the pictures match the names of the animals, helping children to see how letters match with sounds.
  • For math practice, you can, of course, get number flash cards, addition and subtraction flash cards, and so on–very inexpensively at dollar stores, thrift stores and yard sales!
  • You can also get magnetic (or foam or cardboard) numbers, or make sandpaper ones, and use them in a similar way to letters, as above. Again, “feel” is often more effective than sight for children with perceptual issues.
  • Children with perceptual issues often have difficulty writing both standard manuscript letters and cursive letters. But they may find it easier to use D’Nealian letters, which are a “mid-way” between standard manuscript and cursive. While you can purchase workbooks, there are also many free options online, including ones you can customise to suit your child’s needs and interests.
  • You might want to check out my Easy to Learn series of booklets, ranging in price from free to $1 or $2. You can get them at my store at TeachersPayTeachers.com. I originally created them for a student with perceptual issues (though they’re useful for all kinds of kids, as they provide many alternative and practical ways of learning). They cover all kinds of topics, including math, reading, writing, memory, tongue twisters, book reports, and much more. You’ll also find lots of different “Learning Themes” based on popular children’s books, series, films, and so on, which you may find very helpful and motivational to children who love the particular themes.
  • Children with perceptual difficulties often find it difficult to follow written directions. A workbook that I have found very helpful is Reading Comprehension Following Directions from Frank Schaffer Publications, though you can also find other worksheets and workbooks online as well.
  • Children seem to love playing Bingo. And there are many forms of bingo available–alphabet bingo, number bingo, multiplication bingo, addition bingo, and more. Check out game sections in thrift stores or at yard sales for some great deals!
  • Puppets can be very helpful for children with perceptual issues. For example, using animal puppets, you can discuss the animals, and then your children can put animal puppets on their hands and “be that animal,” using the animal voice, acting like the animal, making up stories involving the animal, creating plays and so on. This is a great activity to do with a group of children; those with perceptual or other learning difficulties will feel “equal” to their peers who don’t have these kinds of difficulties.
  • Helping Children Overcome Learning Disabilities (by Jerome Rosner) is a classic and very practical handbook. It shows you how to test your child’s visual analysis skills, using dot matrices, then interpret the test results, and finally, it provides lots of visual perceptual skill exercises using a geoboard–which most kids love doing (and it’s easy to create your own Geoboard)! It also shows you how to test your child’s auditory analysis skills very simply by having the child repeat certain words after you and then change the word slightly; then helps you interpret the test results, and finally, it provides lots of simple and fun auditory perceptual exercises–which children enjoy as well. The manual also teaches you to apply the child’s perceptual skill learning to reading, spelling, handwriting, and arithmetic. It also includes excellent decoding activities using many common decoding units (at/om/em/etc.)–which is also useful for children who are having difficulty with reading multi-syllable words.
  • Table games are always popular with children, and are a great “break” and/or “reward” along with more formal learning activities. Games which are fun–but also have good learning aspects (don’t tell them!)– include UpWords, Jr. Boggle, Jr. Scrabble, Snakes and Ladders, Battleship, Yahtzee, dominoes and so on. Some children also really enjoy the Brain Quest Trivia Questions card series–start with the Kindergarten and Grade 1 levels and work up. They are often available at thrift stores and yard sales. Children who are having difficulty learning to read and write can still feel really great about how many of the trivia questions they can answers. (There are also related workbooks and apps).
  • The rhythm and rhyme of poetry can be really helpful for children struggling with perceptual issues, as they can “hear” –and easily learn, even memorize”– poems and song lyrics. If the poetry also relates to a child’s life and thoughts, all the better. And if the poems are available as manuscript and cursive worksheets which the child can trace and/or copy–wonderful! I highly recommend the set of R.L. Stevenson “A Child’s Garden of Verses” handwriting sheets from printnpractice.com. While you’re at it, be sure to check out all their other worksheets! This site is a goldmine–math, phonics, grammar, spelling, handwriting, colouring pages–they have them all!
  • Keeping with the theme of rhyme and rhythm, there are lots of books with CDs which feature songs that children can sing along with to learn all their different math facts, such as this times tables book.
  • Children with perceptual issues may have difficulties with reading and writing and even auditory issues–but they often have developed the ability to memorize easily and enjoy hands-on activities–so drama is a great activity to try. Lots of favourite children’s stories (like The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Three Little Pigs, and so on) have been re-written as plays for children, or you can create your own plays–or best, read a story to your children so they really “get” it, and then have them turn it into a dramatic production. The more familiar they become with it, the more likely they will want to read the story for themselves–and many of these stories have been written in multiple versions over time, and children enjoy reading through the different versions for ideas to improve upon their play!
  • A popular learning tool with pretty much all my students has been the Discovery Toys “Think It Through Match Mates” sets, which cover various math concepts, reading, and more, ranging from very simple to more complex levels–and including very useful perceptual activities. Another item you can often find at yard sales and thrift stores!
  • All children seem to love electronic learning games. There are so many free apps with all kinds of “flash cards” and many other fun learning games. They make a wonderful reward or break time activity … and you’ll rarely have trouble convincing them to do “homework” or “practice” in video game/apps formats.
  • Touch Math can be a good option for children struggling with math–addition and subtraction especially. It is a semi-kinesthetic approach which can be a useful method for children with visual perceptual difficulties. For that matter, any child having difficulty memorizing those math facts will find this useful! The Touch Math website has a variety of worksheets from their workbooks that you can print out and try with your child for free–well worth experimenting with, and purchasing if it works for your child.
  • Cat’s Cradle is a traditional child’s game which can be very helpful for children with perceptual difficulties, helping them to learn to focus visually. If you don’t remember how to do it from your own childhood, just google “cat’s cradle game” and you’ll find all kinds of instructions–written and videos. There are even some great books out there that explain it clearly. Definitely an activity the whole family can enjoy together!
  • Sometimes the excitement of being a “published author” can be really motivating for a child struggling with perceptual (and other) issues. Go out into your neighbourhood or to a park or other interesting place–or even go on vacation–and have your child gather materials to prepare their own simple website. Encourage your child to take photographs or video, write down words they want to remember, even tape record them saying what they want to remember. If you go to an “attraction” like an amusement park or museum, collect brochures and other materials the child can read and home, and use for spelling and writing. Back home, help your child create a webpage of those adventures. Actually, your children might end up teaching you how! Kids love technology and it can be a great way for them to develop their skills.
  • Writing postcards or creating colourful greeting cards to send to grandparents, friends, and penpals require only a few written words but are very motivating for children who are struggling with perceptual issues–especially when they receive return “snail mail” from the people they’ve written too (ask people to print clearly so the child can read the return mail easily). Alternatively, find someone willing to email back and forth with the child!
  • A useful exercise for children with visual perception difficulties is to practice making 2D representations of simple 3D shaped items (books, cubes, kleenex or cereal boxes, etc.). As their ability improves, start introducing items with slightly more complex shapes.
  • Use topics the child is especially interested in–when a child is really “into” a certain topic, he or she will be much more motivated to read, write and listen. A topic like “superheroes” can involve a wide variety of experiences (physics, costume-making, story-writing and reading, creating comics, writing film reviews, creating and playing games, and on it goes!).
  • Encourage “freewriting” — for every story you want the child to “write correctly,” give them freedom to write and illustrate stories any way they want, without checking or correcting it. Same with reading–let the child have plenty of opportunity to choose and read whatever he or she wants, even if it seems too easy, or silly–or even too difficult. Also be willing to take dictation when your child wants to create a story or poem. Print clearly in large letters so your child can read it, and even copy or trace it–but don’t insist on that. Interviews can also be fun.
  • Books that teach basic drawing and cartooning skills can be very helpful for children with visual perception difficulties. Let them choose ones that focus on something they are interested in–animals, popular cartoon characters, princesses, superheroes, or whatever. Even if it seems like it might be too difficult, let them try. They can always trace the ones in the book to start with, and then try to copy, and finally develop their own illustrations–and it’s a great way to work with visual perception and to develop fine motor and handwriting skills.
  • Wipe-off books (with erasable markers), such as Easy Wipe Off Cursive Writing, can be a real help as children can easily “erase” their work and do it over and over until they get it “right.” When a child finally gets a page to a stage that they are proud of, photograph it and post it up for them to admire and be proud of.
  • There are a variety of workbooks especially designed for children with perceptual issues, such as this “Level 1 Perceptual Activities” and there are websites with downloadable worksheets such as edHelper.com’s Visual Perceptual Skills worksheets. Just google “visual perceptual skills worksheets” or “auditory perceptual skills worksheets.”
  • Dot to dot worksheets and workbooks can be a lot of fun and also can be helpful for children with visual perceptual difficulties. Start with very simple dot to dots, and work up to more complex ones.

I hope this has been helpful for you! Do you have other tips for helping out children with visual or auditory perceptual issues? Please share them in the comments! Thanks!

(If you live in the Penticton, BC area, and would like some assistance in helping your child, or some tutoring, check out my tutoring services page.

 

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