“Say Mama!” “Say dog!” Sound familiar? Most parents use similar phrases to encourage their babies to talk. What if the words we speak weren’t the only factor in what and when our babies speak? Recent studies have shown that a baby’s first words are largely based on their visual experience. What they see is likely what they will say.
Psychologists at Indiana University studied infants between the ages of 8-10 months, the period before children begin to engage in verbal communication. The babies in the study had to wear cameras on their heads for an average of 4.4 hours. For the study, the researchers chose to observe mealtimes, recording five objects for each frame. Some of these words included, table, shirt, chair, bottle, cup, food, and spoon. The results of the study showed a strong connection between the most frequently appearing objects and first nouns, words that are acquired by half of all 16-month olds. According to this study, a child with slow or delayed visual processing, would also be a late-talker. (Clerkin)
What is Visual Processing Disorder?
When people think of vision, they think in terms of how well a person can see. But vision is much more than that. The brain, not the eyes processes the visual world, including symbols, pictures, and distances. Weakness in the neuronal connections involved in these functions is called visual processing disorder. The areas of the brain required for processing the visual world are not in sync. So, for a baby who is just learning about the world, not being able to process what is seen, affects the brain’s ability to identify objects in the environment. This results in the delay in speech.
Children with delayed speech are often sent for speech therapy. But if the cause of the delay is visual processing, what should be the treatment? How can you tell if the cause is visual processing?
• Are they being exposed to common everyday objects? Or are they simply not picking up visual regularities?
• How long can they focus on an object or activity?
• Does he pay attention to visual tasks?
• Is she easily distracted by too much visual information?
• Does he bump into things?
• Does she frequently rub her eyes?
If your child does any has any of these behaviors, you will want to take him for evaluation. The sooner a processing order is diagnosed the sooner the child can begin the needed the therapies. For any learning difficulty or developmental delay, early intervention is key.
How can you tell if an older child has visual processing disorder? (All of the above apply.) Here are additional symptoms seen in older children:
• Restless or inattentive during visual presentations
• Lacks interest in movies or television
• Has difficulty with tasks that require copying such as taking notes
• Reverses or misreads letters, numbers, and words
• Has difficulty writing within lines or margins
• Can’t remember phone numbers
• Poor reading comprehension when reading silently
• Skips words or entire lines when reading
• Complains of eye strain or frequently rubs eyes
• Fails to notice changes in bulletin board displays, signs, or posted notices
Can Brainjogging help?
Yes! The Brainjogging method focuses on strengthening weak connections in key areas of the brain. Our founder, Shirley Pennebaker, discovered early on that for a student with visual processing issues, there is a difference between what the student sees and what is learned. The simple exercises in the Brainjogging program provide a targeted approach to strengthening the systems in the brain responsible for visual processing.
Learn more about Brainjogging’s targeted approach to overcoming learning difficulties by calling our main office, 1-888-7-I-LEARN.
Elizabeth M. Clerkin, Elizabeth Hart, James M. Rehg, Chen Yu, Linda B. Smith. Real-world visual statistics and infants’ first-learned object names. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2016; 372 (1711): 20160055 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0055
Indiana University. “Babies’ first words can be predicted based on visual attention: Study reveals that visual memory’s role in early language learning may advance treatments for delayed speech, autism.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 December 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161206111633.htm>.