How Vision Therapy Can Help Infants & Preschoolers
Babies are not born with a fully developed visual system. Over the first days, weeks, and months of life, vision changes and develops gradually. A newborn sees blurry, in black and white, and with limited depth perception. Yet eventually, your infant’s eyes start to focus and take in all the sights around them. Over time, various vision milestones should be met, and it’s essential for parents to pay attention to whether or not their child is on track. If there is a problem, early treatment with vision therapy can prevent many future problems with learning and coordination.
Vision Milestones for Infants
Birth – 3 Months
During the first days of life, babies cannot focus on anything too close and they cannot perceive depth or color. As they learn to move, their eye coordination must develop to enable eye teaming (the eyes must move together) and the brain needs to learn how to process visual cues sent from the eyes. This is how babies learn to interact with their world.
It can take a few months until your baby can focus well, track objects, and shift his or her gaze from one object to another. By about three months, hand-eye coordination generally advances to the point where a baby should be able to follow a moving object and reach for it. As your growing infant goes through all these visual changes, it is common for the eyes to appear crossed. However, if one eye seems to always be turned in or out, we recommend that you bring your baby for an eye exam with our eye doctor in Wainwright, AB.
By this stage, your infant’s visual skills should be faster and more accurate, with the ability to see further. Color vision is typically developed fully by now, and the eyes team smoothly to track objects. Your child is now ready to make sense of the surrounding 3D world! It is recommended to schedule a pediatric eye exam in our eye clinic at this time to confirm that the eyes are developing appropriately and that there are no signs of infant eye disease.
By now, babies are typically crawling, standing, and grasping everything in sight. They should be able to pick up a small object or throw a ball. Be aware that vision problems can interfere with motor development, so if your child has not reached these milestones – an eye exam is advised.
The First Eye Exam
Your baby’s eye exam is different from a comprehensive eye exam for adults. Since infants can’t read an eye chart, our eye doctor will use non-verbal testing to evaluate visual acuity, eye alignment, ocular mobility and eye teaming. We will also inspect inside the eye for any signs of ocular disease or abnormalities.
We are proud to participate in the InfantSEE® public health program, which provides free eye exams to babies who are between six and 12 months old. InfantSEE® was founded to enable all children to benefit from accessible and expert eye and vision care. This is the best way to ensure that pediatric development is not compromised by any undiagnosed vision conditions.
Vision Therapy for Young Children
Vision therapy is similar to physical therapy for the eyes and brain. Remember that the eyes are extensions of the brain. Sight depends upon both the eyes and the brain to function. When your baby’s visual system isn’t developing properly, vision therapy can train and strengthen both of these organs in order to support functional vision. Our vision therapist will use games, such as rolling a ball or following objects on a string, to maximize eye tracking and teaming skills.
Vision therapy can be highly effective at younger ages, because that’s when the visual system is still forming. If you notice the following behaviors in your infant, we recommend that you schedule an assessment for vision therapy in our eye care clinic:
- Eye turns: misaligned eyes can be normal in the first few months, but if the problem persists it’s recommended to book a pediatric eye exam
- Trouble with fixation: your child should be able to hold focus on sites or objects of interest
- Delayed developmental milestones: delays in actions such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking can all point to a possible vision disorder
- Head tilting or a preference to always look to only one direction
- Crossed eyes are also a pediatric problem that can appear between four and six months old.
When necessary and started early, vision therapy can head off many future problems with learning and socializing. Why wait until your child’s performance is compromised? Call today to schedule an infant pediatric eye exam with our experienced eye doctor in Wainwright, AB.