Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Does Your Child Look With Her Hands?

When my children were small I used to admonish them to "look with your eyes, not with your hands" especially when we were in little boutiques where everything was fragile. This simple reminder helps patients in the vision therapy clinic as well. Often children who do not know how to control their eye movements efficiently explore everything with touch. The seem unable to find anything -even if it is right in front of them- without groping and feeling the array of items. They seem not to value their eyes as tools to gather information about their world even though there is nothing physically wrong with their eyes at all. Getting these children to use their eyes more readily may involve vision therapy to correct a deficit of ocular motilities but it is also possible that the root issue is one of visual attention. How should you begin to build your child's visual attention? Play "I spy" type games where there is no touch allowed. Use rich visual clues to describe the objects you want the child to get for you. For example say, "Please get the large green vase with the pointy handles that is to the left of the dictionary on the third shelf." Then, resist the child's efforts to get you to answer whether they are hot, cold, or if it is "there". Of course, if your child is four or five years old and still does not seem to rely on his eyes to learn about his environment, consider making an appointment with a developmental optometrist for a complete eye examination. It is recommended, actually, that every child receive an annual eye exam.

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