Visual Scanning is a component of visual processing that is crucial to everything we do! From taking in visual information, to using that information in making decisions and enabling actions…visual scanning is an oculomotor skill that is sometimes an area of difficulty for those struggling with visual processing skills. Below, you will find information about visual scanning, including what this oculomotor control component looks like, what visual scanning really means, and why scanning as a visual skill is needed for learning, functional tasks, social emotional skills, executive function and other cognitive abilities, and just about everything we do!
What is Visual Scanning?
Visual scanning is noticing a car parked on the corner when you try to cross the road.
Visual scanning is finding last night’s homework in a cluttered backpack.
Visual scanning is locating a matching shoe in a bin at the bottom of the closet.
Visual scanning is finding a pair of pants in a dresser to wear on a cool day.
Visual scanning is setting the table.
Visual scanning is looking for a lost parent on a busy playground.
Visual scanning is a lot of things! Rather, visual tracking is USED and REQUIRED in a lot of tasks. Scanning is needed to be independent, stay safe, make decisions, stay organized, help others, be a vital part of a workplace, succeed in school, learn and grow as an individual, and SO much more!
Visual Scanning is a part of the oculomotor system that allows the eyes to take in information. Here is more information on oculomotor dysfunction and activities that can help address this area. Scanning makes up a piece of the visual-receptive components of the visual system.
The oculomotor control that allows us to take in information includes visual pursuit, or tracking, and saccadic eye movements, or scanning. The muscles of the eyes control these movements in a voluntary and reflexive capacity.
What is a saccade?
A visual saccade is the movement of the eye toward visual stimuli. This movement of the eyes in visual scanning allows the eyes to focus on the most important part of the visual stimuli. This allows us to notice a specific word, phrase, or topic in a body of text. You can see how scanning is needed for reading comprehension and writing essays in the school environment. In fact, visual scanning is a part of reading difficulties. Check out this resource for more information and specific scanning activities for reading.
Visual Scanning Looks Like…
That precise focus of our eyes on a warm pair of clothes hidden in a closet provides safety and important information to drive executive functioning and decision-making.
The ability of they eye to focus on detail allows us to notice and locate our lost child in a busy store. These motor actions of the eyes are happening with both intention and in an automatic way so we are safe, locating the visual information we need, and safe.
At the same time, unnecessary information is negated, allowing the information we are looking for to be received and therefore processed for use in visual motor tasks, eye hand coordination, and function.
Here are activities to improve visual saccades.
Visual Scanning and Visual Perception
You can see how scanning works together with visual perception. As we scan, we need to discriminate, pull out the necessary information from background information, utilize visual closure, and sustain visual attention. Likewise, to access the information, visual perceptual skills require the ability to scan the environment.
Visual Scanning Activities
Here is a visual scanning activity that includes a motor component. The eye-hand coordination couples with and requires visual scanning, visual perceptual skills, and the motor integration of that information for a task.
This visual scanning activity is a low-prep activity that can be used with a variety of themes or to address various levels.
For more easy activities that address a variety of visual perceptual and visual motor skills, you’ll love these