Spatial Awareness

Spatial awareness encompasses several concepts that have a common thread of understanding the relationship between objects in space and the relationship between the person and two or more objects. This includes:

  • Figure and ground, which means knowing what is in front and what is behind. The participant may have trouble distinguishing a white sheet of paper on a white table, finding a paintbrush on a cluttered table, or being able to draw one object in front of another
  • Position-in-space, which means knowing relational concepts such as up and down, in and out, over and under, front and behind. The participant may have difficulty following directional instructions during an activity using spatial language.
  • Topographical orientation, which helps us know where one place is in relation to another and be able to navigate between them. For example, the participant may have difficulty navigating through the museum or locating the washroom
  • Depth and distance, which gives us our three-dimensional understanding of the world and the distance between objects. The participant may put a jar of water too close to the edge of the table, over or under-reach for an object, or misjudge the depth of the stair and fall. They also may avoid walking on shiny floors as the floor appears wet or take a high step where the floor colour changes from light to dark as the dark area seems to have depth.
  • Spatial relations, which is knowing where we are in relation to other objects. The participant may stand too close to an art exhibit, bump into an object in the gallery because they do not know how close they are to it, or they may miss the chair seat when attempting to sit.

This is important because there are ways to adjust the space in which your program takes place, as we will discuss more in Module 3: Understanding the Environment, and that you can adapt your choices of words in instructions to help support a participant.