03Knowing how to observe visual development in all ages helps you meet emotional needs, understand behaviors, and encourage learning. Have you ever thought about the uniqueness of each person’s visual needs? Vision is much more than 20/20 visual acuity. The brain is in charge of developing our eye movement skills, also called visual processing skills. For example, your brain tells your eyes to turn inward together for reading. Your brain tells your eyes to turn outward together to see far away. The brain and the eyes have to work together to learn about the distance between one’s hand and an object which is also known as depth perception.
Importance of Observing Eyes and Posture in All Ages
Why is observing eye movement and posture important during play, conversations, and learning activities? Because the brain instinctively tells the body how to move the head and shoulders. This can help vision stay clear and single. Thus, if you only observe eye movements, you can miss seeing visual processing difficulties.
Journal Where and When Behaviors Happen
Keep a journal. Listen to your parenting instincts. Most importantly, use purposeful play to create opportunities to bond with and observe visual development. Are there visual processing concerns? I have found that all ages are unable to fully describe their visual world. Thus, you need to investigate. When do behaviors indicate visual challenges?
When Do You See Behaviors Associated with Visual Processing Concerns?
Observe the where and when of behaviors. For example, when do you see your loved one cover an eye or start rubbing their eyes? Does it occur after close-up work like scribbling, writing, and/or looking at books?
What happens when you play catch together? Does your loved one put their hands together too late or too early? Do they say, “I can’t!” If so, reply with, “You can’t?” or “What do you see?” One summer while working with teenagers, I was surprised when the client shared he saw two balls coming towards him. He didn’t know which one to catch.
Where is Your Loved One?
Where is your loved one when you see behaviors associated with visual processing difficulties? At the playground, does your loved one avoid swinging or going down the slide? Do they enjoy riding a bike? Where have you noticed a lack of interest in looking at the world around them?
Explanation of Observation Checklist
Visual processing difficulties contribute to car sickness and anxious feelings. During car rides, motion sickness occurs when the eyes are unable to keep up with the motion of the car. Eyes should discern, I am moving; the world is not moving. If your loved one struggles with motion sickness, it sometimes helps to look down.
Also, learn if playing ball feels unpleasant. To help your loved one feel safe, you can use something soft like a beanbag. After you throw the ball back and forth a few times, casually ask them, “How many balls do you see?”
By age three, preschoolers’ eyes should move to the right, left, up, and down. This means that ages three and older should be able to follow a moving object with their eyes. Also, when looking at a target directly in front of them, all ages three and older should be able to stand with an upright posture. Your shoulders should be square; your back straight, and your head upright.
What is Proper Visual Posture in All Ages?
When you turn your head, shoulders can stay still. When you turn your shoulders, your head also moves. Try it. Look straight ahead with square shoulders facing an object. While looking at the object, turn your shoulders. Did you notice that you ended up looking at the object out of the corner of your eyes? When vision blurs, all ages can keep vision more clear by looking more out of one eye than the other. Visual development is affected by head trauma, gut health, and genetics.
Instinctive Eye Movements, a Part of Visual Development
Thankfully, eye movements are instinctive. We do not have to think about how to watch a moving object or focus to keep vision clear. Have you ever thought about the importance of instinctive eye movement? When eyes move inward together during close-up work, all ages typically enjoy close-up activities like book time, artwork, and crafts. Even hammering and working with nuts and bolts require close-up visual work.
Past clients of all ages who avoided reading before vision therapy, began to enjoy books during vision therapy. If words or objects appear to move, I have learned that all ages fail to look for help. They have no idea that vision therapy at any age can teach the brain to use both eyes together. The development of visual processing skills occurs through vision therapy.
Have you ever noticed that preschoolers walk with more confidence than a toddler? Likewise, older children run with more confidence than preschoolers. As visual processing skills develop, all ages learn to coordinate movement with what is seen. When the eyes work well together, the brain learns the distance between the eyes and the ground. All ages who appear clumsy, struggle academically, or experience car sickness should have a developmental vision exam. It is never too late.
Emotional Health is Important for All Ages
When the eyes fail to work together, all ages instinctively avoid what feels unpleasant. Thus, loved ones with visual processing difficulties enjoy predictability and routines. Being bossy ensures they can play with you while still experiencing success. Instinctively, we all avoid embarrassment. However, when an activity is being enjoyed, all ages with visual processing difficulties will tough through their discomfort by pointing, squinting, or covering an eye.
Keeping toys or objects out in the open and in the same place makes finding them easier. When you put something down, your brain remembers the visual image. However, if you have blurry vision when you look at something, you avoid looking. You put something down without looking.
Visual development helps us move instinctively. When there are visual processing difficulties, objects may appear to double or move. The nervous system may go into fight or flight mode when navigating around chairs and objects on the floors. Living with heightened senses can make all ages feel physically tired and desire rest.
An Everyday Example: Eye Contact
How many times have you been told to, “Look at me while I am talking to you!”?
Ironically, looking at someone can interfere with listening. In my video, the Link Between Vision and Hearing, I share countless interactions between your visual and auditory systems. When visual processing difficulties exist, looking at a face that intermittently blurs or even doubles makes listening impossible. Looking away helps calm the body and restores feelings of balance.
Behaviors and Assumptions
I challenge you to think differently about your loved one’s behaviors. Assumptions typically cause chaos. Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience. What are your assumptions regarding your loved one’s behaviors?
Are there visual processing development concerns? If their behavior suddenly changes, try to avoid explaining behaviors with a label. Unfortunately, we internalize our labels. Some of us use a label as an excuse, “I can’t because ______.” Labels may also stop you from looking for answers. I encourage you to obtain a deeper understanding by reading, How Toddler’s Behaviors and Emotions Speak Loudly About Visual Difficulties. We are all unique with different gifts and abilities.
Be a detective. Observe behaviors associated with visual development. Ask yourself:
- What is avoided versus enjoyed on a relatively consistent basis?
- What makes my loved one anxious or upset?
- During or after an activity, does their behavior or mood suddenly change?
It is okay if your loved one becomes frustrated or upset. Although behaviors are sometimes difficult and even embarrassing, parenting skills do not cause behaviors associated with visual processing difficulties. However, you can choose your reaction. No matter where you are, take a deep breath and wait. It is good they are letting it all out and releasing their feelings of frustration. Quietly sit down. This is not the time for questions. If they look at you, smile. With little ones hold out your arms inviting them in for a hug. You can recognize their feelings. Later, you can teach a better behavioral response.
You can observe your loved one’s posture and visual development through play. Outside games are fun for all ages. Bean bag toss, target games, croquet, and horseshoes all require a person to look at a target and to watch a moving object. Inside games like Lite-Brite, Lincoln Logs, and artwork challenge the eyes’ ability to use depth perception and focus on a target.
Visual Acuity and Visual Development
Twenty-twenty visual acuity and visual processing skills contribute to development in all areas. Even if there is only one area of visual processing difficulty, people of all ages must work harder to learn, move, and experience good emotional health.
For example, one type of visual processing deficit is called convergence insufficiency. This diagnosis means it is difficult to sustain the use of both eyes to look at a target and move the eyes left to right and right to left. Convergence skills are very important for reading. Any age can struggle to read out loud when eyes fail to work together. Words are skipped or misread. Since the brain was distracted by the work required to keep vision clear, individuals of all ages struggle with reading comprehension. The big picture is understood, but they may have forgotten the name of the main character.
The Moore Visual Observation Activity Booklet is for All Ages
Fun activities are available for all ages in the Moore Visual Observation Activity Booklet ($5.00). I share different types of visual processing skills and behaviors. Also, pictures of eye misalignments help you learn what to observe. Additional activities teach you how to observe.
Everyone has to develop visual processing skills. When you are born with a visual condition that goes undiagnosed, some of your visual skills can fail to develop. Thus, when playing with a child you may find it helpful to start with activities in the blog, How to Encourage Eye Movement Skills in Toddlers. Additional activities below can also provide insights.
During the month of November, I am providing fun activities using everyday objects in your home. Even though the activities are designed for toddlers and preschoolers, I have seen parents and teens benefit from completing the activities while playing with their little ones. They are curious about their own visual processing development. Remember, the Moore Visual Observation Activities Booklet provides activities for students and adults.
Adults, if you struggle to keep vision clear and single, I am providing an activity in three weeks for your loved ones. Activities will let them experience what it is like to live in a world of vision that blurs, causes fatigue, and perhaps makes them want to take a nap. These activities were created to help a spouse of a concussion client. Nothing like taking a step into their world will help you gain compassion and insights about the needs of another.
How long Should a Preschooler, Child or Teen Focus?
Developmentally, one minute of focus should occur for each year of life. For example, three-year-olds stay focused on a task for three minutes. That means no falling out of their seat or looking up and talking. I call these types of behaviors avoidance behaviors. Getting up several times is an unconscious behavior that provides visual breaks.
Behaviors are clues indicating your child may have visual processing difficulties. It is a puzzle. Some clients were excellent baseball pitchers but avoided copy work and reading. Other clients were very gifted artists; however, they shared that letters on a page doubled or flipped upside down. Our visual system is complex. You can only observe some types of visual processing difficulties. A developmental vision exam is recommended before your preschooler starts school.
Moore Auditory-Visual Questionnaires
Today researchers understand that our brains integrate what is seen with what is heard resulting in instinctive movements. In 2005, researchers shared that moving helped elementary age children listen, think, speak, and learn. They also found that moving hands help us say what we want to say.
As I studied and worked with clients of all ages, I learned the importance of learning about a client’s tolerance to sounds, auditory processing skills, and visual processing skills. Thus, I created the Moore Auditory-Visual Questionnaires ($10.00). They include pre-questionnaire activities designed to help you learn more about your child’s development. The activities improve the accuracy of your answers in your Moore Auditory-Visual Questionnaire Report.
A Comprehensive Vision Exam
It is difficult to fully express the importance of learning how to observe your loved one’s eye movements. According to the American Optometric Association, relying on vision screenings that only test for how well one sees, 20/20 vision, fails to provide accurate information concerning visual processing difficulties 63% to 73% of the time.
- Ophthalmologists specialize in eye disorders, eye health, prevention of vision loss, and surgeries.
- Optometrists also assess eye health. When concerns are found, optometrists refer patients to an ophthalmologist or a retina specialist. Most optometrists focus on prescribing glasses.
The American Optometric Association recommends a developmental visual assessment before preschoolers begin preschool or kindergarten. Early identification of visual difficulties, including the need for vision therapy, helps improve your little one’s ability to learn, listen, socialize, and move instinctively. When visual processing difficulties remain undiagnosed, your loved one has a higher risk of learning difficulties.
Do you need financial help? If yes, your local Lion’s Club has resources to ensure all children receive a comprehensive vision exam. If needed, the Lion’s Club also provides help to make sure your child receives eyeglasses.
Lions KidSight USA Foundation welcomes all volunteers. Lions KidSight USA works with area schools providing vision screenings.