Hesperian Health Guides

How vision problems affect development

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HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Blind > Chapter 1: How Can I Help My Child? > How vision problems affect development

When a child can see, she usually develops skills ‘naturally’ as she watches and plays with the people and objects she sees around her.

Playing gives a child many ‘natural’ opportunities to move about and to learn.

a baby lying on her stomach, reaching for a toy.
When a child sees an interesting object, she reaches for it or crawls to get it. This helps her arms and legs grow strong.
HCWB Ch1 Page 6-2.png
a child standing and reaching for a string of beads.
Playing with objects helps a child
learn thinking skills, like solving
simple problems. Here a child
learns how to bring her toy closer
by pulling its string.
Playing also helps a
child to talk. When she
is interested in objects,
she learns to name

Children naturally copy what they see.
Watching other people helps a child learn how
to do things and how to behave.

a child playing with an older child.
a child buttoning his shirt while watching a man button his own shirt.
A young child learns to speak by
hearing other people speak and by
seeing what they talk about.
A child learns how to
dress himself by
watching other people.

A child who cannot see well has fewer ‘natural’ opportunities to learn. So he may learn skills more slowly than children who see, and his development may begin to fall behind.

a baby lying on the floor with toys nearby that he cannot see.
Babies who cannot see well often play less because they do not see anything to play with.
HCWB Ch1 Page 7-2.png
This baby cannot hold up his head. This happened because he did
not move about
and play, so his
neck muscles
never grew

His social development may begin to fall behind as well.

a girl talking to a boy next to a motorcycle; a younger child stands nearby.
Papa let me ride with him yesterday. We went fast!
the girl and boy play together while the younger child plays alone.
A child who cannot see well may not understand or take part in conversations because he cannot see what is being talked about. So he may begin to spend a lot of time alone because he does not understand what others are saying.

Most of these problems do not have to happen. Children who cannot see can learn to use their other senses — their sense of hearing, touch, smell, and taste — to help them understand their world and to learn what other children usually learn by seeing.