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Visual Discrimination: A Foundational Reading Skill
Visual discrimination is a visual perceptual skill and refers to the ability to differentiate one object from another. In a readiness test, the child may be asked to find the rabbit with one ear in a row of rabbits with two ears. The ability to discriminate letters and words visually becomes essential in learning to read. When a person is reading, visual discrimination must take place all the time. One must be able to discriminate visually in terms of color, foreground-background, form, size, and position in space.
All printed letters are set against a certain background. The most important difference between the letters and the background is that they differ in color. Obviously, the first discrimination will therefore be in terms of color.
The second discrimination is in terms of foreground-background. The particular letter, or word, or sentence, that the reader is focused on is elevated to the level of foreground, whereas everything else within the field of vision of the reader (the rest of the page and the book, the desk on which the book is resting, the section of the floor and/or wall that is visible, etc.) is relegated to the background.
Our Latin alphabet consists of twenty-six letters, each with its corresponding capital letter with a difference in size and sometimes in shape compared to the lower case counterpart. The letters all differ in form or shape and must be discriminated accordingly.
Capital letters, being used at the start of a sentence, sometimes look exactly the same as their lower case counterparts, and must therefore be discriminated mainly with regard to size. The letters in dyslexia and DYSLEXIA may all differ in terms of form and size, but must nevertheless be interpreted as constituting the same word.
One also does not only read letters, but thoughts, all compiled from a conglomeration of words. A word is made up of a number of letters arranged in a particular sequence. The reader must therefore be able to discriminate the letters in terms of their positions.
Deficits in visual discrimination are a common cause of reading problems.
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