Signs & Symptoms

Spatial Reasoning

Is your child unable to read a map?

Children who have difficulties with packing, solving puzzles or reading maps may be struggling with some of the ‘visual-spatial’ skills required. The term visual-spatial refers to a set of skills that allow a person to see how something is supposed to look.

It is also the skill of knowing where things are supposed to fit. Spatial skills are like a game of ‘tetris’. People with good spatial skills can see many parts and understand how they should fit together.

For example, someone with good visual-spatial skills could follow the directions when assembling Ikea furniture, building a Lego set, or a block tower. People with good visual-spatial skills tend to do better in sports and athletics because they have an easier time seeing where the ball is and how to move their bodies toward it, with quickness and agility.

However, visual-spatial does not refer to the motor skills required for those tasks. For example, motor skills would be needed for a game like ‘Jenga’ because you would need to not only assess where the piece should go but also have steady enough hands to pull it out and replace it.

A child with these challenges might have a harder time with a Rubik’s Cube, a yo-yo, or a bouncy ball. The problem here is that the child does not visually follow and track the object in physical space. Visual-spatial skills, therefore, refer to a person’s ability to ‘see’ where things go on maps, graphs, and puzzles.

What do challenges with Spatial Reasoning look like?

  • Struggling with checkers or chess?
  • Unable to pack up the car for a trip?
  • Not finding his or her state on a map or country on the globe?
  • Having trouble sorting objects?
  • Unable to put an outfit together to save her life?
  • Having difficulty following directions or reading a map?
  • Getting lost in familiar places?
  • Confusing the right hand with the left?
  • Writing in the wrong direction or on the wrong side of the page? 

Why is Spatial Reasoning happening?

Spatial reasoning is knowing where things go. Problems with visual-spatial skills most commonly show up when a person has difficulty with directions. They might struggle with maps; it’s almost like their brain’s internal compass is missing. People who remember ‘where things are in space’ have strong spatial reasoning. They may love puzzles, maps, or the Rubix Cube. If this is a problem for an individual, they either have trouble with ‘seeing it’ (visual perception), understanding the concept or the big picture (central coherence), or being able to focus long enough to solve it (attention). All of these skills come together in subjects like geography, geometry or architecture. Individuals who have difficulties here may get lost in the school building or when walking home from school.

How can I manage Spatial Reasoning at home?

If your child struggles with puzzles, maps, and graphs, an underlying visual-spatial or cognitive deficit could be causing these problems. However, parents would want to consider whether or not these personal weaknesses are ‘getting in the way’ before they make a decision about further assessment or treatment. For example, children with more significant struggles in these areas may have learning disabilities, and in that case, intervention or remediation would be required. Children with extreme difficulties shifting or sustaining attention may have problems related to autism or AD/HD and require treatment. Alternately, a child with these challenges may prefer not to participate in some sports and may need help with navigation at school or in town, but they might otherwise do just fine.

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Spatial Reasoning?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his or her learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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