Children See World Differently than Adults

07 Oct

As the parent of two young children, Dr. John Henahan of Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City is deeply aware of the joys and challenges of parenting.  “Sometimes it seems my kids are living in a different reality than my wife and I do”, jokes Dr. Henahan.

New evidence suggest that children really do see and hear a different world as compared with their parents.

HealthDay (9/14, Preidt) reported that, according to research published September 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “children may actually see the world differently than adults.” In fact, “in two new studies, UK researchers found that not only do children separate different senses, such as vision and sound,” but “their brain also separates input it receives when looking at a scene with one eye compared to with both eyes.”

According to HealthDay, children younger than 12 don’t combine different sensory information in order to understand their surroundings.  Study co-author Denis Mareschal, from the Center for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck, University of London, explained: “Babies have to learn how different senses relate to each other and to the outside world. While children are still developing, the brain must determine the relationships between different kinds of sensory information to know which kinds go together and how. It may be adaptive for children not to integrate information while they are still learning such relationships — those between vision and sound, or between perspective and binocular visual cues.”

This may help explain commonly seen visual behaviors of children, such as holding books and handheld video games really close to their face, says Dr. Henahan.  “At Spectrum Eyecare, I frequently field questions from parents about behaviors their children exhibit.  Examples of this include close working distances, and children who don’t respond well when engrossed in a visual task.”  While other factors are likely also involved, these studies help us understand that vast differences between the way adults and children perceive the world around them.

Dr. Henahan is careful to point out that this behavior should not be confused with true vision problems such as nearsightedness or lazy eye.  “Every child should have a complete eye exam with dilated pupils before their sixth birthday”, reports Dr. Henahan.  Then we can ensure that no underlying vision problems will be present that can interfere with the child’s social, cognitive and visual development.

Dr. John Henahan is an fellow of the American Academy of Optometry practicing and living in Peachtree City, GA with his wife and two sons.  You may call his office at 770 487-0667 or visit him on the web at www.speceye.com.

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