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Developing the senses
Assessing a boy's visual tracking and discrimination

Perceptual development relates to the way in which children develop the ability to make sense of what they see, hear, smell, taste and feel in the world around them.

Visual development
A girl looks at her reflection in
                  a mirror

A significant part of our brain is devoted to visual information (eg different areas are linked to recognition of faces and objects, movement, colour, depth, etc).

Vision gives us information about our environment from a distance (to use taste, touch and smell we need to be close to the source).

There are two separate brain systems for processing visual information – one giving feedback about what an object is, and the other about where it is located.

(Farroni and Menon, 2008)

Early vision

The vision of newborn children is immature. From birth to three months, they have:

  • Poor ability to focus their eyes;
  • Limited ability to tell different colours apart;
  • A limited area of vision.

Different visual areas of the brain become active at different points in a child's development. This affects how babies see.

Look at the developmental milestones for visual development.

(Farroni and Menon, 2008)

Visual impairment
A boy with his teacher reading by
                  touch, using the Moon system

Learn about the developmental needs of children with a visual impairment. Explore the early years resources on the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and Early Support websites. Design a PowerPoint presentation to share key information with others in your setting.

Auditory development

The auditory system serves three main functions: identifying and locating objects, perceiving music [eg pitch, fine temporal differences], and understanding language. All of these rely on efficient processing of basic sound features.

Trainor, 2010

Parents and professionals can support children's auditory development by providing an environment that is safe from strong or continuous noises and a lot of child-directed interactive speech and music, especially singing. Background speech or music does not help language development.

(Trainor, 2010)

Hearing impairment

A hearing impairment can be easily missed without systematic screening. Even an infant who has a significant hearing impairment can startle to sound, laugh, and babble. With intervention, language outcomes can be similar to those of children without hearing impairment (Wilks et al, 2010).

For more information about hearing impairment and the developmental needs of hearing impaired children, read the resources at the following websites:

Speech and
language difficulties

Adults should actively search for shared moments of attention with infants. The duration of eye contact is determined by the child or infant and it depends on the infant's age starting from just a few seconds.

Trainor, 2010

Children who have speech and language difficulties need a quiet background when listening to speech. Shared attention and eye contact is important for speech learning.

processing difficulties

While some children have impairments in one or more senses, others may have difficulties in the area of sensory processing.

Explore the following websites:

Create an information sheet for your setting, based upon what you have found out.

Find out more