Developing Visual & Auditory Discrimination Skills

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Are you fascinated by the abilities that our eyes and ears have to discriminate between so many wonderful sights and sounds? Let's review how to develop those skills and discuss how they relate to motor skills development.

Developing Skills

We learn how to see and hear early in life. They are both abilities that we often take for granted, but the processes involved in acquiring these talents are fascinating. This lesson will go over the distinction between visual and auditory discrimination, and take a look at some activities you can use to help develop them in your students.

Visual Skills

Visual discrimination is the ability to discern both differences and similarities in colors, objects, patterns, shapes, and sizes. Without visual discrimination skills, it would be very difficult for a student to learn to read and write. It would also be difficult to understand her environment and recognize differences that surround her.

Here are some activities that may develop visual discrimination skills:

  • Remember colored blocks? Have the student sort them by only one category such as color, then add size, then shape.

Building blocks can help build visual discrimination skills

  • Identifying objects - It is best to use objects that the student can literally touch as opposed to just view with his eyes. For example, have the child play with two toy trucks of different sizes and colors.
    • Make simple statements such as noting the size and color of the trucks.
    • After the student has spent sufficient time observing the trucks, ask questions about the statements you made previously.
    • Try to get the student to actually ask you questions about the trucks. Later on you can extend this game to include photos of trucks or even point them out while out on a drive.
  • You can also do this with other items such as letters of the alphabet. You might point out that one particular letter looks like another one turned on its side or upside-down.
  • Find the Difference Puzzles - Remember those fun puzzles where you had to figure out what was different between two pictures? These are great ways to teach the student to discriminate visually.
  • Matching Games - The game Concentration is one where all 52 cards are face down and the students take turns flipping over two cards at a time. When two of the same number (or face card) are discovered, those two cards are removed from the game. The person with the most collected matches out of 26 is the winner.

Visual Motor Integration

There are ways to combine the concepts of both visual skills and motor development. Sometimes the old-fashioned methods still hold value such as:

  • Coloring within the lines
  • Ball skills
    • Catching
    • Kicking
    • Hitting
    • Throwing
  • Building with blocks to copy images or designs

Coloring within the lines helps with visual motor integration.

Auditory Skills

Auditory discrimination is the ability to discern sounds, particularly phonemes, which are the smallest units of sound. Here are some activities that may develop auditory discrimination skills:

  • Reading with the student.

Don't just read to the student while she sits there silently. Make the session interactive and ask questions. Encourage her to explain the beginning of the story or even predict the future. Ask her to pretend she is the character. You can then ask why, what, who, etc. questions as they pertain to the plot and theme of the story.

  • Playing listening games.

One very important auditory skill for the student to develop is the ability to tell where a sound is originating. This is crucial for both the student's mobility and orientation. Ask him to point to the locations of various sounds.

  • Playing phonics games.

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