Can baby see the object clearly enough to reach for it?
VISUAL, AUDITORY, AND TACTILE STIMULI
A five month old baby girl recently received one of her weekly lessons. She had already learned how to lift her head high off the floor and had become very comfortable during tummy time. Today, her grandmother expressed concern that she was not holding rattles and reaching for toys as much as her cousin who is six weeks younger. “The baby was sick for about a month,” I reminded her, “so she was probably not feeling like doing much movement. Let’s see what she can learn today.” She was on her back looking up at me as I began to squeeze her arms and legs so she could feel them a bit more clearly. She smiled because she liked the feeling. I picked up a rattle and gave it to her to hold, pressing gently on her fingers to assist her grasp. After it fell out a few times and was put back in her hand, she began to hold it longer.
I noticed that she did not seem to interact much with the rattle. Rather, she was turning her head toward something else. Then she began to cry – it seemed as if the sound of the rattle was startling her. Grandmother picked her up and, as she held her, I noticed that baby turned to look into the other room where her older sister was noisily playing. “I think she is distracted by the sound, ” I said. “Let’s close the door.” I made a mental note that she reacted more to the sounds around her than to the visual stimulation. I brought a rattle close enough to baby’s hand that she could feel it with her fingers. Suddenly, she opened her hand and grasped it – despite the fact that her head was pointed in the opposite direction! Her choice to grab the rattle was initiated by the sensation of touch rather than sight. After dropping the rattle, Grandmother said, “Oh! Now she is holding my necklace!” Then she was holding her sweater, and then the blanket that was draped over her shoulder. Yet each time the baby grasped something her head was turned away from what she was holding. However, she was now grasping everything that came close to her hand – quite an improvement! Soon, Grandmother put her sleepy-eyed granddaughter down in her crib while she tightly gripped her blanket with both hands.
BABIES AND FAMILY HISTORY
I contacted the mother who usually attends each lesson and explained that if there is any family history of wearing glasses she might want to talk with her doctor about the baby’s eyesight. I further explained that I noticed how baby was much more responsive to sound rather than visual stimuli. The mother said, “I thought I was the only one who noticed!” One week later the baby had a doctor appointment and the mother discussed it with him. He examined her ability to track some toys and lights. The mother said the conclusion was to mark the visit to the eye specialist as “URGENT.” If she needs some assistance seeing, what an important visit that will be! The good news is that much is correctable with glasses. If she sees better, she will have more interest in toys and more desire to reach for them.
What is important about this story for the reader is two-fold: first, observe how your baby responds to various stimuli (auditory, visual, etc.) keeping in mind your family history; second, know it is possible to teach baby to grasp by stimulating the sense of touch rather than sight. Stay tuned for Chapter Two of this story.