University of Edinburgh

Early Intervention - What do I do now?

Presented in June 2005

Sequence of Visual Development

The Intellectual Development of the child

  • Series of 5 videos looking at the first five years of a child's development
  • Highlights the key stages in the natural progression of their brain and nervous system
  • The series devised by Dr Mary Lou Sheil and Margaret Sasse

Video A: the Importance of being an infant

Looks at the immature brain and nervous system, detailing proven and effective ways of encouraging this development following the natural processes of the body.

Video B: the Importance of being one

Looks at the stages of the maturing brain between 12 and 18 months. Suggestions are made for encouraging the infant to maintian the progress and exploration of learning. The emphasis is on building integration of the senses through movement and play.

"Body awareness is the cornerstone of integration"

Video C: the Importance of being two

A huge leap in the maturity of the brain and nervous system is possible between 24 and 26 months. This is mainly due to the increasing integration of brain functioning. The concept of the Midline is introduced and the benefits of working through it.

Video D: the Importance of being three

There is an increase in idependence and a dramatic refinement of skills. More complex movements challenges and creative play encourage brain integration and the emergence of a controlling hand.

"Integration is the launching pad for the rocket of academic learning"

Video E: the Importance of being four

Review of the development of movement and balance; body and space awareness; vision and fine motor skills; rhythm, sequence and time; imagination; communication and behaviour in terms of the risks to their ability to achieve academically in school.

"School readiness is not a question of age or intelligence but is a measure of the integration of the central nervous system."

The Intellectual Development of the child - Vision

It is essential to make a distinction between eyesight and vision. Eyesight equals visual acuity which means how clearly we can see. Vision equals "the guiding mechanism in the growth and development of learning . . . getting information in what you do with what you see"
Dr Joel N Zaba, Optometrist and consultant to Eduation Vision exercises.

"vision is our main co-ordinating sense"

It helps us to understand our work and what is happening around us.

"Over 40% of the brain is devoted to vision. it is important to recognise that the reason that so much brain tissue is devoted to visual function is that our understanding, interpretation and movement through the visual world is a very complex process."

"It is the brain that sees"
Porfessor Dutton, 1997

Video A covers:

  • Sequence of visual development at birth
  • Corneal reflex to touch
  • Pupil reaction to light
  • Reflex closing of both eyelids to brigh light shown in face. Lids will tighten during sleep.
  • Saccadic system present at birth
  • Cries real tears
  • Prefers human face to other forms of stimulus

One to two weeks:

  • rudimentary fixation on objects;
  • may use only one eye at a time;
  • fixates on facial expressions, may imitate;
  • prefers contours, vertical and horizontal edges, larger sizes, simple patters.

One to three months:

  • nystagmus induced by vestibular stimulation;
  • stares at light source;
  • follows moving objects, to midline first, then past midline;
  • fascinated by bright lights and bright colours;
  • advancing fixation ability emerging convergence as close as 5 inches;
  • binocular coordination;
  • begins to look within designs, instead of fixing on one spot along the perimeter;
  • hand regard, ususally to side favoured by tonic reflex;
  • swiping may occur on favoured side;
  • vertical gaze movements emerging;
  • shift eyes toward sound sources.

Three to five months:

  • has stereo vision;
  • fixates on objects at three feet;
  • macular development at its peak;
  • peripheral vision poort: field is only about third of an adult's;
  • advancing inspection of hands;
  • central vision;
  • emerging accommodation at distance of 5 to 20 inches;
  • alternate gaze from hand to object and from object to object (rapid movement);
  • has colour vision;
  • had depth perception;
  • preference for novel patterns begins to emerge.

Five to seven months:

  • eye to hand coordination developed 'top level reaching';
  • fixation fully developed;
  • discrimination of forms;
  • convergence occurs consistently;
  • most binocular reglexes coordinated;
  • responds differentially to facial expressions;
  • begins to demonstrate visual memory.

Seven to eleven months:

  • interest in tiny objects;
  • tilts head to look up;
  • smooth visual pursuit (follows with eyes and not necessarily head);
  • emerging depth perception;
  • interest in shapes;
  • visual pursuit is erratic: actually uses saccadic eye movements.

The importance of being One

Eyes and head move together

Interest in shap sorters


Interest in pictures

Twelve to eighteen months:

  • identifies likenesses and differences;
  • interest in pictures;
  • marks and scribbles;
  • vertical orientation develops
  • demonstrates 20/20 acuity by 18 months.

The importance of being Two

Scanning, fixing, tracking.

Language becomes important to help point out likeness and difference.

Between 18 months and 3 years:

  • all accommodation develops;
  • visual image recalled;
  • myelinisation of anterior visual pathways complete by 24 months.

True creativity, understanding and efficient learning occurs when we use the left and rights halves of the brain together. [See separate handout] Material taken from Movement and Learning - the Children's Song Book by Brendon O'Hara.

The importance of being Three

Eye movements and ball skills

4c's: compare, categorise, comprehend and communicate.

Between three to four years:

  • copies geometric figures;
  • eye-hand coordination good;

Visualisation is the key to learning!

Visualisation is the ability of the brain to remember the patterns of movement, the sequence of sound and the feel of things. (Exercises and activities that help children integrate these skills between brain and body on separate sheet.)

The importance of being Four

Colour recognition; shadings, differentiations.

Sharpness and clarity of detail (fine movements).

Depth perception fully developed ball skills, tracking.

Visual spatial orientation developing.


(and further reading)

Sequence of Visual Development adapted from "Preschool Vision Stimulation: it's more that just a flashlight!" Lois Harrell and Nancy Akeson; American Foundation for the Blind.

Videos Zoom Resource c/o Zoom Learning, PO Box 13889, Edinburgh EH15 2WH

Exercises and activities Movement and Learning, the Children's song book and music CD; Brendon O'Hara.