Good visual systems are not inborn, they develop over time. A healthy infant is born with a complete visual system but must learn how to see. As a baby matures, developmental milestones are achieved. These include skills such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking. Many parents, however, are unaware there are also developmental visual milestones to be attained.
The first developmental visual milestone is focusing. Focusing should develop around the age of six months, along with eye contact.
The infant learns to communicate by imitating. If eye contact does not develop by 8 weeks, a referral to a doctor of optometry is indicated.
The second developmental visual milestone is ocular motor control which should occur around three months of age. Ocular motor control is essential for the eyehand coordination needed for reaching and grasping skills which develop at around 5 to 6 months.
The third developmental visual milestone is facial recognition of family members which begins to develop around 5 to 7 months of age. Failure to recognize a family member by sight by 11 months of age may indicate a serious problem, and an exam is indicated.
The fourth developmental visual milestone is that of depth perception which begins to develop around 9 months of age. Depth perception allows the child to explore his spatial world.
As a result, during the first two years of life vision is central in development of the following skills: communication, motor development, body awareness, spatial concepts, orientation of a body in space, and language.
Therefore, all infants should have a comprehensive eye exam with a doctor of optometry (not the pediatrician) by the first birthday to ensure that the attainment of developmental visual milestones occurs in a timely manner.