Learn More About Visual System Development

Knowing how our visual system develops as we mature is important to our understanding of our vision. 

Visualization starts to develop around the age of 3 for each of us.

Until then, we rely more on our senses of taste and touch in order to explore the world around us and to learn. 

Our visual system develops as different components of vision grow. Newborns have uncoordinated eye movements and their ability to fixate is poor. Smooth pursuit eye movements, where our eyes follow evenly moving targets, are non-existent in newborns. By the time children are 6 months old, eye movements are smooth and well-coordinated. 

The lens in a newborn’s eyes is nearly spherical although it’s not capable of accommodation.

A newborn baby’s focus is fixed at roughly 20 cm. But by one month in a baby has gained some ability to accommodate and by 3-6 months their lenses are close to adult levels. 

The retina also experiences significant growth and development early on in a child’s life.

The peripheral retina is quite adult-like, but the inner segment of a child’s cones are much thicker than an adult’s. This means a child’s eyes cannot absorb as much light and cannot see color or acuity very well. 

For some children, their visual system does not develop properly as they grow older. Without proper visual processing or development, children may show symptoms of a behavior disorder. Children may still feel the need to pick up, grab, or touch things in order to learn. This is a sign of ADHD, for example.  If you see issues with your child’s visualization contact your family eye care professional.