Supporting Visual-Motor Planning in the Classroom


Children with learning differences, learning disabilities and developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders often have difficulty coordinating information between their senses, and integrating information presented through one mode into output through another mode.  For example, they may have difficulty listening to a teacher’s voice, processing the information, and then having to write a paragraph based on the auditory information.  Extra processing time is often needed in the moment.  Other strategies can help you effectively teach students with visual motor difficulties:

  • Reduce the time demands, allow extra time, and just go for accuracy.
  • Consider photocopies and prior “loading” of materials for children who cannot write quickly.
  • Allow the use of keyboards/computers to complete work, or even recording one’s answers on tape rather than the high demand of writing. 
  • Highlight information such as important worksheet instructions
  • Removeor reduce distracting information from the environment – on walls, on the board, or on worksheets.  Find a way to blosk distractions and highlight key information to make it easy to access when needed.  For example, velcro fabric over bookshelves, use a cardboard cutout frame to tape over the current area of focus on the board, and don’t surround the clock with unimportant ‘decorations’. 

    To support language processing:
  • Supplement verbal with written directions;  write your aural instruction onto the child’s notebook when relevant. 
  • Further, slow down!  Speak slowly, clearly, and avoid additional words.  Cut to the chase!  Paraphrase if you aren’t seeing the response you want.
  • Wait for responses.  Ask a question, give a minute for students to think while you busy yourself with something, THEN ask for responses. Even giving a 10 second window to respond helps.
  • Provide a list of key words and concepts prior to the lesson, preferably with visuals (colour, photos, drawings).
  • Direct student’s attention to key concepts, essential points, etc nonverbally – point to it or circle it on their page.
  • Use visual aids.  
  • Encourage feedback: ask student to explain what is required in math problem to ensure understanding and to teach self-monitoring (If I repeat the instruction to myself, I can prompt myself to do the right work)

    What else do you find useful in yoru classroom?  Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists are wonderful resources for this type of information – contact yours for more information.