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Some Thoughts about Vision, Visual Development, and Visual Efficiency
by Joe Cutter

If the baby with normal vision does not have 20/20 vision at birth, what does this say about the visual efficiency of the visually impaired baby?

Consider some of these factors: head control, color contrast, lighting, object size, speed of object or person, viewing distance, angle of viewing, field of vision, expectations of significant others, and behavior state of baby/child.

At two weeks, babies with normal vision recognize/show preference for face-like patterns over random patterns. What does this imply for the blind child?

Within the first days of life, the newborn brings his/her hands to mouth, face, ears, nose, eyes. This sequence is learned by repeated attempts at mastery. This hand-head contact, which is tactually directed, is a precursor to visual reach. Therefore, reach "on body" before "off body" connects visual reaching through touch to someone else.

With multiply handicapped children, vision may integrate through touch for a longer period of time before auditory stimulus alone. In other words, elicit visual attention through vestibular and proprioceptive systems. "Visual stimulation"—"out there"—beyond the child, is not enough.

The child will prefer to use available vision in a way that is natural for him or her. The child will also tend to use touch and hearing for what he or she cannot see (visually). By pushing vision to the point of inefficiency, we interrupt the natural order for the child. Our role is to present and teach the alternative techniques so that the child develops skills of blindness as well as visual skills. Simply stated: the child uses vision for what he/she can see and the skills of blindness for what he/she can't see.

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