University of Edinburgh

Development and Supportive Interventions for Babies and Young Children with Visual Impairment

Presented on Thursday, 11 November 2010

Development of Vision in Young Children

Janis Sugden
Acknowledgements Dr Mark Hill (2010) UNSW Embryology Development of Vision
Vision Abnormalities, accessed 1 Nov 2010

Development of the Eye

The visual system takes some time to develop.

Notes:  4th-8th week of pregnancy are the critical periods when the organ is most susceptible to major defects. Eye develops from 4th week of pregnancy The eye will continue to develop until birth and beyond.

Distinction between Vision and Eyesight

Eyesight = visual acuity or how clearly we can see.

"Vision is our main coordinating sense"
It helps us to understand our world and what is happening around us.
Professor Gordon Dutton

Notes: It is necessary to make a distinction between eyesight and vision. Vision guiding mechanism in the growth and development of learning... Getting information in and what you do with what you see.

Sequence of Visual Development

at Birth: Prefers human face to other forms of stimulus.

One to two weeks:

  • Rudimentary Fixation on objects
  • May use one eye at a time
  • Fixates on facial expressions; may imitate
  • Prefers contours, vertical and horizontal edges, larger sizes, simple patterns

simple face

simple shapes

simple shapes




Contours and shapes

yellow square     red circle

blue star   green oblong

One to three months

  • Will stare at light source
  • Fascinated by bright lights and bright colours
  • Follows moving objects
  • Begins to swipe at objects
  • Begins to look within designs
  • Shifts eyes toward sound sources

scene at 3 months

Three to five months

  • Stereo vision
  • Macular development at its peak
  • Peripheral vision poor
  • Examines hands
  • Alternate gaze from hand to object and from object to object
  • Colour vision

scene at 5 months

Five to seven months

  • Convergence occurs consistently
  • Responds differentially to facial expressions
  • Begins to demonstrate visual memory
  • Interested in tiny objects, shapes etc.
  • Emerging depth perception
  • Follows with eyes: not always the head

scene at 7 months

scene at 8 months

Up to one year

  • Eyes and head move together
  • Interest in shape sorters
  • Tracking
  • Interest in pictures

Notes: Looks at the stages of the maturing brain (between 12 and 18 months).
Suggestions are made for encouraging the infant to maintain 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"

One to Two Years

  • Children may now learn how objects fit together.
  • Shape, size, and form perception skills begin to develop.
  • They may have an interest in seeing objects beyond three feet.
  • This interest has often been associated with the development of crawling, reaching and walking.

Twelve to eighteen months

  • Able to identify same and different
  • Takes an interest in looking at pictures
  • Marks and scribbles
  • Visual Acuity is usually about 6/6 20/20

About two

  • Scanning, fixing, tracking.
  • Language becomes important to help point out likeness and differences.

Between 18 months and 3 years

  • All accommodation develops
  • Visual Image recalled
  • Myelinization of anterior visual pathways complete by 24 months

True creativity, understanding and efficient learning occurs when we use the Left and Right (halves) of the brain together.

About three to four: 4C's

  • compare,
  • categorize,
  • comprehend
  • communicate

Notes: Copies geometric figures. Eye-hand coordination good

Visualization is the ability of the brain to remember the patterns of movement, the sequence of sounds and the feel of things.

About Four

  • Colour recognition; shadings, differentiations
  • Sharpness and clarity of detail (fine movements)
  • Depth perception fully developed
  • Ball skills, tracking
  • Colour identification
  • Visual spatial orientation developing

scene at 4 years


Liz Duguid (Retired Occupational Therapist/Access Officer Clackmannanshire)
Dr Andrew Blaikie for use of slides.
Sequence of Visual Development adapted from "Preschool Vision Stimulation: It's more than 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 ... Brendan O'Hara,