Spatial Orientation – Part 3

this photo shows a child who is using the Groovy People toy to build a matching figure of a person.

Impacting Classroom Skills

Spatial orientation may be defined as the ability to maintain the  posture of the body as  it relates to the surrounding space.  Whether the body is at rest or moving, children need to be aware of how they are positioned in the space around them.  For example, in order to be safe while moving around in a playground,  a child needs to be aware of where they are in space.  In a similar manner, moving letters and arranging them into words between lines on a sheet of paper requires spatial orientation. 

Spatial orientation is a visual perceptual skill.  When these skills are firmly in place we see  greater success in daily living  activities both at home and at school.  Buttoning buttons and  tying shoelaces are examples of daily living skills that require use of  spatial orientation in the home. Identifying fractions and being able to line up rows and columns for division are examples of spatial orientation skills at work at school.

Position, Position, Position

Many children who have developmental disabilities often find it difficult to maintain a steady body position when resting or when moving about.   Since sensory receptors for sounds, vision, and gravity, are all located within the head, it becomes important to keep these sensory receptors positioned properly.

These sensory receptors and their respective systems were designed to help the brain develop an appreciation of imaginary  horizontal and vertical lines around which objects in the environment are positioned. Due to low muscle tone, incoordination,  inattention, and other factors, these children tend to have difficulty maintaining an erect position of the head and upper body. Therefore, spatial orientation skills often fail to develop properly.

this photo shows a child who is copying the head and neck of a dinosaur from an image on a tablet.  The child’s  attempt shows errors of spatial orientation in that the neck has been attached to the right, rather than the left side.  Also, the neck has been attached to the top, rather than the bottom of the head.

Watch for common errors during building projects to help identify underlying issues when spatial orientation skills fail to develop properly

Common errors include:

  • Reversals
  • Inversions
  • Displacements
This photo shows a page of step-by-step images of how to build a car along with the child’s attempt to build the project.  The attempt shows errors of spatial orientation.
The car is reversed (instructions show cab facing to the right); the triangle is inverted; the triangle is also displaced (inside, rather than outside the cab of the car)

Helpful Strategies for Developing Spatial Orientation

Heavy work with visual targets (visual input) can be used to help develop spatial orientation skills.  Heavy work tends to position the head and upper back for extension with stability.

This photo shows a youngster building one of the magnetic building block  projects shown on an instruction sheet while he walks forward on his hands to complete a  physioroll  walkout
This youngster is copying one of the magnetic building block  projects shown on the sheet while he completes his physioroll  walkout

 Whole body movement activities

Whole body activities that incorporate use of a swing can be used to improve spatial orientation skills

This photo shows a youngster on a disk swing preparing to swing toward a floor target that has grids and rings.
This photo shows the  swinging above the floor target and placing her toy into one of the rings.

Whole body activities that incorporate use of riding  toys can be used to improve spatial orientation skills

This photo shows a boy on a hop ball who is hopping around obstacles of an obstacle course.
This youngster is involved in a whole body activity by following a hop ball obstacle course
This youngster was involved in a whole body activity by incorporating use of a hop horse to place letters of the alphabet into their corresponding places.

Setting Up An Activity to Invite Use of Language

This photo shows a child pointing to the picture of a project to  be assembled with diverse wooden pieces
This photo shows the project being assembled with the wooden pieces

To find out more about spatial orientation skills, please refer to corresponding blogs on our website.


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