Purpose: The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between visual motor integration skill and academic performance in kindergarten through third grade.
Methods: One hundred ninety-one (N = 191) children in kindergarten through third grade (mean age = 7.78 years; 52% male) from an upper-middle class, suburban, primarily Caucasian, elementary school near Cleveland, Ohio were included in this investigation. Visual analysis and visual motor integration skill were assessed with the Beery Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration (VMI) long form because it is a commonly used test in both optometric and educational practice and has a detailed scoring system. The relationship between performance on the VMI and teachers' ratings of academic achievement was analyzed because teachers' grades are a primary means of assessing school performance. The children's regular classroom teachers rated the children with respect to reading, math, and writing ability. Second and third grade children (N = 98) were also rated on spelling ability. Only experienced teachers were included in the investigation and the validity of the teachers' ratings was substantiated by significant correlations with standardized test scores. Teachers were masked to performance on the VMI until the rating was completed. The Stanford Diagnostic Reading test, 4th edition, was also used as a measure of reading ability in the first graders and the Otis-Lennon School Ability test (OLSAT), 6th edition, was also used as a measure of school-related cognitive ability in the second graders.
Results: Performance on the VMI was found to be significantly related to teachers' ratings of the children's reading (p = 0.0001), math (p = 0.0001), writing (p = 0.0001) and spelling (p = 0.0118) ability. An analysis by age group revealed that performance on the VMI was significantly correlated with reading achievement ratings in the 7- and 8- year-olds (p<0.001 and p = 0.002, respectively), with math and writing achievement ratings in the 7-, 8-, and 9-year-olds (math: p<0.001, p = 0.004, and p = 0.003, respectively; writing: p<0.001, p = 0.008, and p = 0.016, respectively), and with spelling achievement ratings in the 8- and 9-year-olds (p = 0.040 and p = 0.007, respectively). VMI scores were also significantly related to performance on the Stanford Reading test in the first graders (p = 0.003) and to performance on the OLSAT in the second graders (verbal score: p = 0.005, nonverbal score: p = 0.002, and total score: p<0.001). In order to partially control for mathematical ability, an additional analysis was performed with children who were identified by the OLSAT as having either below average, average, or above average verbal reasoning scores ability (the verbal reasoning score consists of aural and arithmetic reasoning). This analysis again revealed a significant correlation between the VMI and teachers' achievement ratings in math (p = 0.007 among second grade students with average ability). Finally, in order to partially control for cognitive ability related to writing, an additional analysis was performed with children who were identified by the OLSAT as having either below average, average, or above average nonverbal cluster OLSAT scores. (The nonverbal cluster consists of pictorial and figural reasoning.) This analysis again revealed a significant correlation between the VMI and teachers' achievement ratings in writing (p = 0.001 among average second grade students).
Conclusion: Performance on a visual analysis and visual motor integration task is significantly related to academic performance in 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds.