Child Vision Development
I’m sure we’ve all heard the random facts about our infants’ visual capabilities. We hear things like they can’t see color, they don’t see very far, they only recognize outlines of faces. We can also take these facts a step further to several that you may not have heard before. Newborns see better out of their peripheral vision. They can sense black and white patterns better than any other. Their acuity is very poor. Many sources compare their vision to looking through frosted glass. But by age one, their vision is nearly comparable to an adult. They can actually see a small range of colors with red and green being the most dominant. They can only see in two dimensions. And movement already catches their attention. So how does all of this work and why does it matter when it comes to teaching your child?
Vision for Reading
To answer the latter, vision is one of your child’s most utilized resources in learning. Recognition of colors, shapes, numbers, letters, and words and their location on the page all begin with vision. It is also one of the most complex systems so it helps to understand how it works in order to ensure your child is receiving the stimulation they need and that everything is functioning at a standard necessary to learn. And we care especially about infants’ and young children’s vision because so much develops so rapidly at that stage and has lasting effects.
So how does it work? Like I said before, the visual system is one of the most complex of the senses. So much so that the portion of the brain devoted to it is larger than the portions for all the other senses combined. In normal vision, our eyes autofocus on an object or image. That image is brought in by both eyes, flipped upside down. So we start with two slightly different images that are standing the wrong way. Each eye then sends that image to the opposite side of the brain and flips it right-side-up. All the while, the brain must combine the two images into one and interpret location, distance, dimension, color, shape and any number of other attributes of the image. With all of these steps, it’s easy to see how something could get jumbled up and not work properly.
Visual System Development
So if this is how it is all supposed to work, then why does it differ in infants? Just like everything else in a forming baby, the visual system starts to develop. Eyes form, the cells and nerves required to send the signals form, the areas of the brain devoted to interpret the information form. However, unborn children spend much of their time with their eyes shut in a dark enclosed space so when they’re born, they have the right equipment, but they don’t have the skills. The cells responsible for vision start out scattered in the periphery of the eyes, hence the reason they have superior peripheral vision. Those cells slowly migrate toward a central spot in each eye known as the fovea. Once these cells converge, acuity and the ability to distinguish color improves. Most of that takes place naturally. The parts that are largely determined by experience happen in the brain. The brain requires the act of actually seeing shapes, colors, movement, distance, dimension and so forth to develop the nerves and cells that interpret all that information. Because all of that forms as a matter of experience and usually happens at a rapid rate, there is a critical period of development for each skill, making it important to address any visual concerns immediately.
This is obviously an extremely watered down version of how this all works, but when we see how much of vision is determined by experience and the brain’s ability to properly interpret, we see that we can start to shape our children’s ability to learn by simply exposing them to good healthy doses of visual stimulation.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs