Perceptual and Sensory Problems

  • Introduction
  • Managing Strategies


Problems with perceptual and sensory skills can arise from damage that has affected the parietal and occipital lobes or damage that is located on the right side of the head. 

These areas of the brain are responsible for processing input from our senses – sight, touch, sound, taste and smell – so, when they are damaged people can struggle with processing input from their environment.

People can also experience visuospatial problems, which can affect many life-skills, such as:

  • following direction – the perception of the environment
  • face blindness
  • reading facial expressions
  • recognising objects
  • may fail to see or notice things in their left-field vision
  • problems with numbers and mathematics
  • spatial awareness – of self and objects
  • musical perception
  • drawing objects or patterns
  • telling left from right
  • being able to break down, analyse and remember visual information
  • putting things together – manipulating and constructing things

Managing strategies

It is best to undertake the management of these issues with the help of a specialist, such as a neuropsychologist or occupational therapist.

There are things that can be done at home, for example, improving lighting or fixing a handrail on the stairs. You can also use post-it notes to label objects.

Improving these skills takes practice and repetition. Sometimes skills have to be re-learned from a basic level and children’s books about learning to work with numbers, for example, can be great at getting the brain to manage basic math again.

They can also be useful in other ways, for example, using pictures of characters copied out of a picture book and then adding name label’s to them can help improve facial recognition. Photos can also help people to re-learn to notice and read facial expressions.

Another great tool is the ‘selfie.’ People can do this on their own as their facial expressions should still happening unconsciously. They can think ‘happy,’ snap themselves and look at a happy face, and so on.

Repetition is key to rebuilding new pathways. If we are only shown something once and then don’t practice it over many times, then people are unlikely to be able to remember how to do something.

Wooden puzzles and jigsaws can also help as these are using space, colour, shape, and so on.

Most of these problems start to improve over time – how much time is very much an individual thing and will be dependent on the amount of focus and effort being put in. For example, each time you eat practice smelling it and thinking about smells even if you can’t physically smell anything. Using intention and our imagination helps to wire and rewire networks.

These outcomes can be complex, and even dangerous in some situations, which is why it is vital to seek a referral from your GP for specialist help. A specialist will also help everyone to recognise the disparities, for example, understanding why someone can identify a dog, but not a human.