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Helping children with dyslexia: Improving visual form constancy

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


Dyslexia: Visual Form Constancy

Visual form constancy is the ability to mentally manipulate things that you see and visualise the resulting outcomes; for example, seeing a picture of a triangle, and being able to mentally rotate it 90o. This skill helps people distinguish differences in size, shape, and orientation. It is also the ability to recognise the fact that a shape remains the same, even if its size, direction, orientation or distance changes.

Children with dyslexia often have difficulty with visual form constancy and those that struggle with it may frequently reverse letters and numbers.


A person with visual form constancy problems may have difficulty with

  • building construction sets such as Lego and K’nex from the instructions
  • recognising that a picture is the same as a real object
  • judging size, height, width and distance
  • categorising and classifying objects, shapes and materials
  • recognising everyday objects when in unusual positions or are a different size
  • mislaying items and being unable to find them, as they can’t instantly recognise them
  • recognising or reading the same word in different fonts, typefaces etc.
  • transferring text from printed to cursive (joined up) handwriting
  • organisation of self and objects
  • daily tasks e.g. dressing, crossing the road or pouring a drink


There are lots of activities that can help your child to improve their visual form constancy skills:

  • Encourage your child to touch, feel and talk about 3D objects when their size or orientation may alter
  • Copy 3D patterns and shapes such as brick designs or origami
  • As well as normal colouring, get your children to colour in 3D drawing and models
  • Help your little one to match 3D objects for size, shape, volume, density from different pictures
  • Model making is a great way to help visual form constancy, whether its building blocks, 3D puzzles or traditional model making
  • Compare and contrast the size and shape of objects when out and about
  • Make 3D models from 2D diagrams e.g. Lego, K’nex
  • Demonstrate to your child how horizontal objects look when they are shown vertically
  • Use visual cue cards to identify objects seen from different angles such as above, underneath, behind etc.
  • From a box of mixed sized balls, roll one across the floor and ask your child to select the same sized ball from the box
  • Write a word multiple times in many styles, colours and prints together with other words, then ask your child to underline the first word (in all of its variations)
  • Play with outline jigsaws – these help a child to see how individual parts fit together to make a whole
  • Fill in outlines with geometric shapes. Start by matching a shape to its outline, then progress to using several shapes to fill it
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.