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Visual Discrimination Game, Levels One through Ten Review by Donna Campos

Little Giant Steps
P.O. Box 863624
Plano, TX 75086

The Visual Discrimination Game from Little Giant Steps is a part of their "An ICAN Neurodevelopmental Innovation" products created to help improve visual discrimination skills, attention to detail, and scanning and visual attention abilities necessary for staying on task, reading, and many other areas of education.

Each level consists of two identical sets of cards, one large and one small, each level consisting of distinct groups of cards. The larger cards measure 4" x 7" inches, and the smaller cards measure 2" x 5" inches. Each level comes in its own Ziploc bag with instructions and colored divider cards placed between the three sets of twelve cards each, both large and small, within every level. The ten levels are divided into three groups: Levels 1-3, Levels 4-6, and Levels 7-10. The first group uses numbers, the second words, and the third symbols, with each new level building on skills mastered in previous levels to improve discrimination.

All cards are black on white and printed on card stock in a no gloss, matte finish. Levels have three sets of cards each with identical cards in large and small sizes in each of the three sets. Different fonts are also used in order to increase discrimination skills. No additional materials are required, and levels are available for purchase as groups, as an entire set of all ten levels, or by individuals. Use of the game should increase the ability to detect small differences in visual information, improve visual attention to detail, and increase speed of scanning visual information from near to far situations, as well as up and down and back and forth in various environments. Use of the product should help students with the ability to stay on task visually. Variations of the game are included in the instructions, allowing for increased visual memory skills as well as visual tracking and visual discrimination acuity.

Visual discrimination is the ability to notice small differences in information when it is presented to an individual visually. Increasing this skill should help students stay on task and retain more details when attending to visual assignments. Created to help improve visual discrimination skills, the various levels of the Visual Discrimination Game are appropriate for use by any age group desiring to increase their attention to visual detail. Any schooling method conscious of the need to maximize visual abilities can enjoy this game and blend it fairly easily into an existing program.

Visual learners will enjoy the game, competitive students may wish to time themselves working through a given number of cards, and auditory or more tactile students will benefit from increasing skill levels in visual ability by using the game. Instructions are included and easily fit on one card as they are not extensive and are easily followed. The included small cards are placed on a table face up, while the teacher holds up one large card for the student to see and then match as quickly as possible by touching the matching card on the table.

One set from the level being used is worked with at a time, but variations can include an additional set of 12 cards. The levels do work incrementally. Improving visual skill and attention to detail through a process studied in the neurodevelopment approach and should be worked in order as skills are improved.

I have stated in other reviews that our family thrives on flash cards of all kinds, and although this game is not a typical set of flash cards, it is now a prized set of cards in our home. After experience with floortime activities, various autism spectrum therapy programs, and years of experience as a mother and child care provider, I found this game to be an excellent addition to our homeschool regardless of the special needs or age group of our children.

When using it with our nine-year-old who functions toward the typically developing range of the autism spectrum, I found him able to understand the simple process of the game. With the addition of a reward system, he has increased his speed in visually processing the information. We continue to use the Visual Discrimination Game and I expect it will take him quite a few months to work his way through all ten levels of the game. I reference it as a game for his information alone, as I consider the process much more educational in nature than any game. Perhaps the routine of the process is why it feels more like flash card or multiplication tables work to me, rather than a game.

My older student and a few friends were very impressed with the process and were challenged by the increasing difficulty of the game. The later levels include symbol cards requiring a keen eye and definite response to detail, an excellent challenge for every age group. Even students who are not currently readers will still be able to work through the levels, even those with words, because the discrimination is about order of symbols rather than actual words. The additional benefit of word recognition is an excellent plus to the program, but I encourage the use of the game in its entirety rather than giving in to any temptation to move on to word cards used in a similar fashion when reaching the levels using words. This program was designed for use as an aid to neurodevelopment and should be used as intended, without substitutions or adjustments until it has been completed. The game plan itself is used a great deal in our household, as the concept of matching identical items when scanning a selection of items has been used quite often in vision therapy and autism therapy. Our family still enjoyed a noticeable increase in my son's visual attentiveness to detail, including better visual word recall and completion of math problems, while using this game. I chose to use the game at different times throughout our school day, just as I do any manipulative or tactile game to keep him moving and motivated between tasks and he was never aware the Visual Discrimination Game was part of his school day tasks.

The packaging in Ziploc bags is a great way to keep the cards organized and we placed all ten levels into a shoe box easily. Unfortunately, the cards themselves have no markings on them, so if you mix them as suggested for increased difficulty, you will need some reference point to recall which cards belong to each set and level. This separation can be done by keeping the larger sets separated during the game, but the addition of a "master sheet" of some kind would be a welcome improvement. I jotted down the numbers and words easily enough onto 3x5 cards for the levels using them, but the symbol cards we hope to keep track of without going to any additional effort to reference them.

Some people really do not find value in flash cards of any kind, and may decide this game is just another creative use of flash cards, but I hope they will take the time to browse the company website and learn more about the advantages of increasing visual acuity in education and all of life. I would have loved to have seen bright colors and designs as the difficulty increased, but the challenge is great enough in the game as it is. We saw improvement in many areas of school work when our nine-year-old regularly used the game and our older student felt she was reading faster as she progressed through the game.

I wish the game had come with a tracking process, goal chart, or timer of some sort to keep track of the progress and decrease in response time as we played the game. The noticeable absence of a form for tracking does allow flexibility for student and teacher as you decide whether you want to increase number of cards completed over a given time period, shorten the time necessary to complete a designated number of cards, or set a specific timed goal to reach before moving onto the next set or level of cards in the game. Homeschoolers enjoy flexibility and the Visual Discrimination Game does allow the user to make the game easier or more difficult and it fits easily into any homeschool and every learning environment.

The Visual Discrimination Game is enjoyed by every member of our family old enough to play the game, and is already fascinating the younger children who are anxious to be old enough to take part! The price is right for a tool that will increase various other visual abilities pertinent to our education, particularly when the game crosses age ranges and ability levels. This is an activity that will be used equally by our typically developing high school aged student and our learning delayed elementary aged student, as well as a game they can play together and with either student playing the part of teacher! The game process itself will spread into other uses for flash cards and the differing symbols on each group of levels keeps the attention of students easily. It is an excellent program to improve reading ability as students improve discrimination of letters and word recognition in the natural process of the game. As a game, Visual Discrimination is fun enough for students interested in learning, but it isn't Candy Land or Monopoly. Play for the value of increasing brain ability and improving the visual capabilities of your students, enjoy it for the valuable moments with your children!

Product review by: Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2008