Swati Jha, Bachelor of Optometry
Optometrist, Dr. R.P.C. AIIMS, New Delhi
Vision stimulation therapy implies training individuals to see better with the help of different stimuli and instructions. (1) With the help of visual perception, a person gains enough confidence to do daily living activities independently. The development of visual sense organs is incomplete at birth.(2) Visual skills develop in an orderly sequence. Caretakers are the first ones to judge if the child is suffering from visual disorder by noticing if the infant does not make eye contact at 3 months of age, does not recognize familiar objects at 6 months of age. Excessive rapid movement of the eyeball and squint are major signs of visual impairment at the early stage of life. Squeezing of eyes, holding the object very close to the eye, and tilting of the head while trying to see the object shows that the child is trying to put extra effort to focus and see the object clearly.
The main components (3) of visual development are:
Fixation: It is defined as maintaining gaze on a single location. To develop fixation, the child’s attention should be kept in an object for a considerable duration. Presenting a toy or any object to the child in a contrasting background can be helpful so that the child can differentiate the object from the background. Flickering coloured lights in front of a child can be helpful. When trying to capture the child’s attention, use large toys and eventually go for smaller objects.
Localization: It is the ability to visually locate stimuli. It develops at around 2-3 months of age. (4) To develop localization, try to project colourful lights towards the child from different directions. Try to start activities closer and then keep increasing the distance. Allow the child to play in a darkened room then suddenly flashlight from one direction and ask the child from where it is coming.
Tracking: Tracking means using the two eyes together to follow an object. The child will not be able to track an object if there is a deficiency in focusing or head holding. (4) Tracking helps in developing coordinate movements of the eye and accommodation skills. To develop tracking start from side-to-side tracking and then go for up and down. Roll a ball in the room so that the child can follow it. Colourful bright marbles can be spun in the room so that the child can track those. Bubbles out of soap water can be blown and see if the child catches them. Crackers and sparklers can be moved in a circular motion or in a zig-zag pattern making it interesting to grab a child’s attention.
Eye contact: Eye contact helps in learning basic communication skills and interacting with people meaningfully. (4) Eye contact can be maintained by trying to play a peek-a-boo game with the child, showing intense facial expression while talking with the child, using fancy or large frame spectacles to attract the child’s attention.
Other skills like self-awareness, imitation, gaze-shift, eye-hand coordination needs to be developed so that the child can learn to communicate effectively.
Every child is special. The development process can be delayed but never give up.
Visit an optometrist/ ophthalmologist if you feel there is a delay in visual development so that with the help of visual development activities child can gain visual skills and can perform tasks independently.
- Tavernier, G. G. F. (1993). The improvement of vision-by-vision stimulation and training: A review of the literature. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 87(5), 143-148.Tavernier, G. G. F. (1993). The improvement of vision-by-vision stimulation and training: A review of the literature. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 87(5), 143-148.
- Brémond-Gignac, D., Copin, H., Lapillonne, A., & Milazzo, S. (2011). Visual development in infants: physiological and pathological mechanisms. Current opinion in ophthalmology, 22, S1-S8.
- Johnson, M. H., Posner, M. I., & Rothbart, M. K. (1991). Components of visual orienting in early infancy: Contingency learning, anticipatory looking, and disengaging. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 3(4), 335-344.
- Visual Stimulation Activities for Infants and Toddlers; Dr Amar Jyothi Persha, Ms. K.R. Nawvi, 2004; National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad.