How do children learn by seeing?
The ability to see is our dominant sense and our primary source for gathering information in learning. Vision problems can have a profound effect on how we learn from birth to old age. In fact, some educational experts estimate that approximately 80% of early learning is visual.
Babies learn from observing what is going on. They can see a chair to climb up on as they are learning to walk, they can see a ball to reach for, they can find a toy that makes noise (and make moms laugh), and they can learn what dogs and cats look like. It’s all a part of the normal process for learning. Later, they can learn the alphabet as they are introduced to reading. They can see how a picture in a child’s book relates to the words that are being read. This is all done by observation and it helps the brain to learn.
When this sense is missing or is impaired, the connection between vision and learning must be supplemented through other types of learning activities.
Many vision conditions are treatable in one way or another – either through adaptive assistance including glasses or other measures, through the stimulation of what low vision a child may have, or through increasing the other senses an infant or child has, or through using adaptive technology as a source of learning.
Parents of visually impaired children are often concerned about how their child may learn with low vision or blindness. There are many specialists who can help you to make critical decisions early in your child’s life and engage in learning activities that will have a profound effect throughout your child’s life. One of the most important things to remember is that you and your attitude can affect how your child perceives his or her vision difficulties. You can encourage your child to do many of the same activities as other children by overcoming learning obstacles in order to become an independent adult who achieves his or her potential. In other words, teach your child to engage with the world — rather than be fearful.
This section of the BCF website introduces the parent to the many aspects of vision and is geared to those whose children may have some level of vision impairment, including blindness and cortical (sometimes called cerebral) vision impairment. Each section includes a link to several additional resources that may be helpful but do not represent every possible website on that topic and, therefore, should not be considered “all inclusive.”