Good visual skills are learned in our first early months of life. Newborn babies can only see clearly at 8 inches, but as their focusing systems are stimulated with use, the range at which they can keep images clear and crisp is stretched to feet and then yards. As infants gaze at brightly moving toys or watch their parents walk around the room, tracking skills become honed and accurate. At birth our eyes are not yet neurologically wired to work in unison, sometimes causing parents undo alarm when they see baby’s eyes pointing in separate directions. Binocularity, or the teaming ability of our two eyes to move and aim in perfect sync, develops by 4 or 5 months of age.
However, sometimes visual development doesn’t progress normally. We do not know why vision does not develop adequately for all children, but there are certain risk factors. First, there’s a strong tendency for visual processing problems to have a genetic component. If dad has poor eye teaming skills, there’s a much stronger chance that his children will have similar problems. However, poor visual processing skills can also be acquired through a variety of interruptions in normal development. Premature birth is a large risk factor. Alcohol or drug use during pregnancy increases the risk. Head trauma such as concussions can also cause these problems, as can high temperatures in infants during critical early developmental stages. Some theories suggest that stimulation of one eye over the other—such as laying an infant on his side in a crib with the same eye always facing downward—may be a contributing factor. Too much time lying in a crib or play pen can deprive children of important visual stimulation. And watching television, a passive distance activity, robs toddlers of important time spent holding and visually investigating small objects at near ranges.
It should be noted that while these risk factors are common for children with vision-based learning problems, it does not mean that your child’s vision is good just because none of these factors apply. There are many children with a normal developmental history who still have not developed efficient visual processing skills, and we do not know why. See the link at the bottom of the page for an assessment tool that can help you evaluate your child’s symptoms and more accurately determine if your child is at risk.
The good news, however, is that because these visual skills are developed and learned, they can be trained to work correctly. The purpose of this website is to provide parents with tools to help improve their children’s visual processing skills. The vision exercises on this site concentrate on tracking, eye teaming, focusing, and visual perceptual to help your child develop the visual skills he or she needs for better school performance.
There is a great assessment tool called the Quality of Life survey that can help you evaluate your child’s symptoms. We encourage you to take a few minutes to answer the 19-questions to more accurately determine if your child is at risk for vision-based learning or attention problems.
Finally, children do not have to have poor vision skills to benefit from these eye exercises. Even children with adequate visual processing can sharpen and improve the skills they already have. In fact there is a whole area of vision therapy devoted to sports vision for athletes who already have great visual skills but who want to get a better competitive edge!