Objective The current study explored visuo-attentional and spatial skills (eg, visual scanning strategies, visual memory, and visual processing) in pre-school children. According to the literature, 5% of these children present a learning disorder, which could have an underlying visuo-attentional disability. We developed a quick, visuo-attentional assessment tool (VAT) to identify children at risk of visual disabilities before formal reading education (grade 1).
Method 111 children, aged 4–6 years, with normal or corrected-to-normal vision, performed six visuospatial tasks including visual pursuit, two cancellation tasks (Teddy Bear and the Corkum tests A), visuospatial working memory tasks, shape-matching tasks and a visual discrimination task (the embedded figures test).
Results For each test, we determined a cut-off failing score corresponding to the lowest 5% of the population. Using this cut-off score, 4.5% of the population failed on two tests. The most sensitive tests were the random visual pursuit and the embedded figures test. Children detected benefited from an additional complete assessment, which revealed a neurovisual deficit. The VAT differentiated between an overall attentional disability (all tests failed) and a specific neurovisual deficit (few specific tests failed).
Conclusion As the majority of the population (80%) succeeded in all tests of the VAT, two failed tests can serve as an alert for visuo-attentional disability. Detected children should be referred for complete neuropsychological assessment. Used as part of a routine medical assessment in schools, this battery could prevent the deleterious effects of cognitive visual defects in everyday life or in learning abilities of children.
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