In this post, the psychological process of “Visual-Motor Integration” will be addressed. Loosely defined, visual-motor integration is eye-hand coordination, and is required for tasks such as writing and copying material, handwriting/cursive, pencil-paper tasks, copying from the board, and drawing. As the name suggests, the student can have difficulties with the visual aspect, the motor aspect, or integrating/coordinating the two together. Often students with such deficits can have even more difficulties when the task is timed (sometimes, this will be called “Processing Speed” on intelligence tests, but that can be a general term as one can slowly process auditory information too.)
Students with visual motor integration difficulties are often impaired in their ability to keep up with written work. It would be like using your non-dominant hand to write. You can do it, but it is mentally taxing. If you want to simulate this, go ahead and write left-handed all day (if you’re a righty). Also, get someone to hover over you and ask if you’re done yet and encourage you to hurry up because everyone else is moving on. Let me know how that goes!*
I am reminded of a student I worked with who was 13 at the time, and “refused” to do any written work. Upon testing him, he had a severe visual-motor integration deficit, despite above average intelligence. He couldn’t even copy a triangle, let alone take notes from the board with speed and accuracy. I can see why he refused to work. It’s better to look bad than dumb when you are 13.
I was presenting the results of this student's testing to the parent, school staff, and an outside therapist (the student had some emotional difficulties related to his poor achievement as well) and as I like to do, I showed them the picture of the triangle he was supposed to copy and then what he produced. His triangle was like a rectangle with one side missing, so the triangle would never connect if he continued the lines. The therapist gasped and said, “Oh my, it’s so phallic! Look what he drew. He took the triangle and made it phallic. Very disturbing.” And she went on and on with a psychoanalytic interpretation.
What was actually disturbing was that she missed the entire point. He had visual-motor integration issues and was trying to copy the triangle picture that the test developers made up. She will have to take up the obscene triangle stimulus with PsychCorp. In my head, I imagined them saying to her, “Lady, sometimes a triangle is just a triangle.”
*Most teachers, once they find out the student has a visual-motor integration deficit, will accommodate such that the student gets more time to complete written work, or the task demand is reduced for quality, not quantity. Teaching computer skills is also a good compensatory bypass strategy.