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The world through my child’s eyes

Written by By Dr Claire Cullen, ophthalmologist • Online since 10.04.2018 • Filed under Feature • From Seventeen - April to June 2018 page(s) 8-9
The world through my child’s eyes

Viewing the world through a baby’s eyes makes me think of the movie, INSIDE OUT. How incredibly lucky those emotions were to see Riley’s world from baby to teenager! If you haven’t seen this movie yet, brace yourself because you’ll be watching it very soon. Over and over, and over again! The amazing truth about children is that they’re not born seeing like we do. Just like your baby will reach certain milestones at certain times of their development, such as rolling over, crawling, walking and talking, their eye development goes through various milestones before it reaches maturity. To enable you to recognise when there is a possible problem with your child’s vision, we’ll discuss these stages of growth. As children grow, so does their ability to see objects clearly at varying distances and follow them when they move. Babies show rapid development in the first few months of life in nearly all visual functions and capacities.


At birth

For example, at birth, the distance at which a baby tries to focus is about 20 to 25cm – yes about the same distance from your baby’s face to yours. But, they cannot tell the difference between two different objects very easily and they can’t yet move their eyes from one target to another. Therefore, don’t get despondent when you’re oohing and aahing and your baby only responds by looking anywhere but at you. It is estimated that a newborn baby’s vision is about 10 to 30 times lower than that of an adult, which means things are very blurry.


Six to 12 weeks

By six to 12 weeks, your baby’s vision develops in leaps and bounds. They’ll be able to focus and follow the light from a torch much more accurately. At this stage, they can visualise their parent’s facial expressions and smile in response. This is also the stage when their depth perception begins to develop.


First eight weeks

For the first eight weeks of life, babies’ eyes may appear to look in different directions or seem to look around the room aimlessly. This is not a cause for concern, unless it occurs frequently and persists beyond two to three months. Also, at this stage their colour vision is not as clearas that of an adult’s yet.


By two months

At last, by two months a baby can now see her parents’ faces clearly because she’s now able to focus well on objects within a 20 to 25cm distance. The two eyes now work together as a ‘team’ so they can move their focus easily from one object to another. Your baby will also close her eyes if objects are suddenly placed in front of her. This is usually a very emotional time for any mum. That moment when your baby’s eyes lock on yours. Nothing can describe that feeling of wonder.


By three months

By three months babies should follow slow moving objects with ease. If parents hold a toy at around 25cm from their child and then slowly move the toy towards their child’s nose, they will notice that their child’s eyes slowly turn in towards the nose. This means that the child can now converge (their eyes turn inwards together). This ensures that the image of the toy the parent is holding is placed at the same place at the back of each eye. This is vital for the development of three-dimensional vision or depth perception. Babies at this age should start reaching for objects as their hand-eye-coordination continues to develop. Playtime with your baby becomes an absolute delight. Encouraging sensory activities, like peek-aboo, grasp-and-hold, and tummy time is a great way to aid development but also enhance bonding. A point of concern at the age of three months is that if a baby doesn’t like having one of their eyes covered, an ophthalmologist’s advice should be sought.


By six months

By six months the eyes should be working together as an efficient team. This is the stage where depth perception is established. This means that your baby can now tell how far away an object is from her, relative to another object. That means that she can see in three-dimensions. Her vision has now improved remarkably, in fact it has almost doubled in development. Babies’ ability to see colour should also now be fully developed.


At eight months

At eight months, when a child should begin to crawl, this motor skill further helps to integrate the baby’s eye-hand-foot coordination.


By three to three-and-a-half years

By three to three-and-a-half years, children can match a picture shown to them with an identical image on a card in front of them. At this stage a child’s vision should be equal to that of an adult’s. All parents enjoy seeing their babies respond to them pulling funny faces, smiling and realising an object has been omitted and suddenly reappears. This is the world in which children learn through their vision.


Early testing and treatment

Unfortunately, vision problems do start at an early age. If you notice anything unusual during your child’s vision development, it’s always a good idea to see an ophthalmologist. The earlier the problem is screened, examined, diagnosed, and/or treated, the earlier it can be corrected. Otherwise, enjoy your child’s explorations and giggles as the world around them unfolds from a grand mystery into a beautiful visual paradise of possibility.


Dr Claire Cullen is an ophthalmologist specialising in paediatric eye conditions and adult strabismus (squints). She qualified in 2010 as a specialist and went on to do a further two years of training in advanced microsurgical techniques including non-penetrating glaucoma surgery and paediatric cataracts while working as an honorary consultant. She has a passion for children and strabismus and was awarded an international fellowship in paediatric ophthalmology after a year of highly-specialised training at the IWK Children’s Hospital in Canada.

Her practice, KiDS EYES, is located at the Netcare Linkwood Hospital in Johannesburg, where they provide services for children of all ages from routine eye examinations, to major ophthalmic surgery. They see and manage conditions that include but are not limited to refractive errors (short and far sightedness, astigmatism), ocular allergies, cataracts, low vision, glaucoma, blocked tear ducts and squints. For more information, visit www.kidseyes.co.za.

Seventeen - April to June 2018

Seventeen - April to June 2018

This article was featured on page 8-9 of Babys and Beyond Seventeen - April to June 2018 .

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