Perceptual Skills Development in a Changing World

Playroom at Kyalami Preparatory School

With every passing year, it becomes more evident that our little ones are growing up in a changing world. It is not just COVID-19 that has brought about this change, but the introduction to technology from a young age, as well as our changed lifestyles: the lack of opportunity to play outside or the freedom to spend hours at the park, to name a few factors. Simply, our children are not benefiting from the exposure to activities that promotes the positive development of perceptual skills that they once had.

Studies have shown that perceptual skills are the highest predictor to literacy success and provide children with the ‘data’ they need in order to discriminate and recall, and to blend and segment syllables and words. These skills form the cornerstones to developing sound literacy skills and productive readers and writers.

What are perceptual skills and how do they play a role in your child’s development?

Perceptual skills can be broken down into two main groups: auditory and visual perception. The development of these perceptual skills requires the brain to break down information it receives from the ear or eye. It is not the physical ability to hear or see, but rather how what is heard or seen is interpreted by the brain that is crucial for learning to take place.

Children learn and develop from what they hear and what they see. Enhancing the development of these perceptual skills at an early stage can set them up to succeed later in learning skills like mathematics and reading, where these developmental skills are essential.

Developing perceptual skills at Kyalami Prep School

We have identified the problem

At Kyalami Preparatory Nursery School in Johannesburg, we have noted the global trend towards more children requiring support from an occupational or speech therapist. This is due to gaps in their perceptual skills development.

A speech and occupational therapist can assist a child to develop neurological pathways in their brain in order for the child to correctly interpret messages sent from the ears and eyes. While these therapists have an important place in our schools, we have taken a proactive and innovative approach in the classroom to support and bridge the gaps in developing our children’s perceptual skills.

An innovative solution

At Kyalami Preparatory Nursery School we have created a perceptual programme called ‘Look, Listen, Learn’ to develop our children’s perceptual skills from the ground up.

This programme has been specifically designed by experts in the field – an occupational therapist and speech therapist – to take our children right back to the basics of perceptual skills development and build their knowledge, understanding and skills, layer by layer. Each age group participates in a graded programme designed to ensure that every pre-skill required for reading, writing and numeracy is taught and practised with the intensity of a therapy session by our trained teachers.

The two components, auditory and visual, are developed handin- hand when learning takes place and are integrated into classroom activities based on physical activities and a handson approach to learning. It is important that our children do not use these skills in isolation, but that they incorporate and practise their skills throughout the day, doing what children do best – playing!

Our plan of action

Our team intentionally prepares and teaches weekly lessons to combine elements of both visual and auditory skills. These skills and extensions are then practised throughout the week to reinforce the concepts our children have learnt. Our therapists have created a COVID-19 friendly programme so that children who participate online do not miss these crucial skills during these unpredictable times.

What is our goal in implementing this programme?

Our goal is to ensure that every child is given the opportunity to develop, implement and practise vitally important perceptual skills before beginning to read and write, reducing the need for therapy in years to come.