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Helping children with dyslexia: Improving visual closure

In this VisionWorks series, we explore the visual difficulties often experienced by children with dyslexia. This time, we are looking at visual closure and how to help your child develop this skill.


Dyslexia: Visual Closure

Visual closure is the ability to visualise a complete object when only shown part of it. our visual system does not have to analyse every detail in order to recognise what we are seeing, so visual closure helps us to quickly process information in our environment.

Dyslexic children can struggle with visual closure skills and are therefore likely to have difficulty visualising the whole of an object when part of it is hidden or missing. For example, visualising the missing parts of a poorly photocopied page of print or pictures, or recognising an object when it is partially hidden by other objects in front of it. Visual closure also allows accurate judgments to be made from familiar but partial information. For example, recognising a dot-to-dot picture before it is complete.

When reading, visual closure helps us recognise sight words (words that are memorised as a whole by sight, so they can be automatically recognised). It is a foundation skill for fluency and speed in reading and spelling. Efficient reading relies on this skill because with each fixation of the eye, only part of the letters of a word or phrase is actually perceived. As a child becomes more competent in reading, eye fixations become fewer and they must “fill in” more material and encompass a wider area of print.


There are lots of activities that can help your child to improve their visual closure:

  • Draw only half a number, letter or picture and ask the child to match it to a completed version
  • Make peephole pictures. Cut a small hole in a piece of paper and put this over the top of a magazine picture (you can cut this out and stick it to another sheet of paper), to reveal only a portion of the picture. Ask your child to try to work out what is missing from the picture
  • Look at incomplete pictures and talk to your little one about what is missing, for example, the wheels from a car
  • Use reading or colouring books that have hidden pictures in them.
  • Say a word or sentence to your child, but miss off the end, and ask them to complete it. For example, “After the party you can have a balloo_”. A fun way to do this is with rhymes and poems they know. “Humpty Dumpty sat on a ______, Humpty Dumpty had a great _____”
  • Say half a sentence and ask them to complete it, “Today we went to…”
  • Give a situation and ask your child what would happen. For example, “what you would do if you went to the beach and left your swimming costume at home?”.
  • Make a craft or cake from scratch together. Let your child see all the pieces or the individual ingredients placed out first, and how these are joined together to make a whole new item
    Dot-to-dot puzzles.
  • Jigsaws: The ability to successfully put together a jigsaw is dependent on your visual closure and visual perception abilities. To complete a puzzle, the child must be able to visualise the pieces coming together to form a complete picture. Start out with puzzles that contain no more than 50 pieces and gradually increase the piece count
  • 3D Models: assembling 3D objects such as models of animals, cars and people will help improve visual closure skills. Putting the objects together will help your child to be able to organise the placement of objects in their mind first and then follow up with hands-on organisation
Article kindly contributed by Sarah Evans MMedSci, BSc(Hons) of VisionWorks.
Sarah is a consultant orthoptist working in Jersey and specialises in visual screening, diagnosis and management of visually related specific learning difficulties.