By Rachael Dean
This developmental essay will briefly describe the importance of fine motor skills with hands in children ages 0-12 months with visual impairments. Although the hands are a major perceptual organ, an infant who has a visual impairment often has significant developmental delays in their ability to employ the hands functionally. Even at 6 months the hands of these infants may be fisted and held at shoulder height. There could be no mutual fingering, no engaging at the midline, and no pulling on a string to activate a toy. At this age, a sighted child is practicing coordinated reaching and transference of objects from one hand to another. This delay in hand utilization will result in delayed fine motor and gross motor development.
As stated in the book, Developmental Guidelines for Infants with Visual Impairments, “Infants with visual impairments benefit from all meaningful fine motor experiences including the use of two hands together for exploration and manipulation. Hand exploration activities can expand an infant’s concepts about the ways in which two or more objects are related, cause and effect relationships, systematic search techniques, part-whole relationships, and meaningful use of objects.” (Lueck, Chen, Kekelis, & Hartmann, 2008) This is a prime example of how important fine motor skills are to infants with visual impairments. According to the article by Troster and Brambring, “blind infants have to explore an object tactually before being able to adjust the position of their hands to its size and form.” (Troster & Brambring, 1993) This also suggests how critical it is for infants with visual impairments to use their hands and increase their fine motor skills.
There are many experiences that can foster the development of fine motor skills in infants ages 0-12 months. For instance during snack time, an infant in a high chair can be given any variety of snacks like fruit chews or cereal. When the infant picks up the snack, they are working on development of a pincer grasp. Another example could take place during playtime with a task box. The parent could take an empty tissue box and put a variety of objects inside, then encourage the infant to pull out one object at a time and explore it tactually. The objects could be old fabric, cotton balls, beads, small rattles, or shapes. This activity would also increase fine motor skills in the infant. Another activity to increase fine motor skills could be simply taking an old newspaper or magazine and encouraging the infant to tear it into strips.
In summary, this developmental essay discussed the importance of developing fine motor skills with hands in children ages 0-12 months with visual impairments. Researchers such as Brambring and Troster (1993) and Lueck et al (2008) suggest how meaningful it is for an infant with a visual impairment to explore their environment and objects with their hands. Exposure to daily activities that require object manipulation will help infants that have visual impairments to increase their fine motor skills.
Amanda Hall Lueck, D.C. (2008). Developmental Guidelines for Infants with Visual Impairments. Louisville, Kentucky: American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
Heinrich Troster, M. B. (1993). Early Motor Development in Blind Infants. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology Vol 14 , 83-106.