Visual Experience, Joint Attention and Visual Features

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What is the visual inaccessibility at distance for this child?
  • How solidly is vision, cognition and language are linked for items in the child’s world?
  • How is the child’s joint attention? (in typically developing, sighted children helps build these visual, cognitive and language skills through joint attention with an adult and these  are based on the child/adult experience.

It got me thinking about my own daughter’s visual, cognitive and language development. She was a typical developing toddler with full visual access.

We lived on our sailboat in Boston Harbor. We were surrounded by ducks daily. My daughter would see these ducks everywhere, everyday. (visual experience)

When she looked at or pointed to the ducks, we shared gaze to the ducks and I would label this animal: “Duck” (shared gaze, language)

As she language skills grew, she would begin to point and label them as “Duck” as well (building language and shared gaze).

When we traveled on land, she began to label other animals as ducks. She understood that dogs, cats and other birds we saw were not human but animals (cognitive). She over- generalized that any animal that was not human was a “duck”.

Sharing her gaze and sharing her experience, I pointed out the visual features that made these other animals different and labeled them as different. “No. That is a dog, he has 4 legs and is furry”. (cognitive, shared gaze and visual attribute features).

Very soon, my daughter was able to use her cognitive comparison skills to label each animal she saw with the correct name based on the visual salient features: shape, number of legs, how then moved, where they lived, how they sounded.

Supporting children’s visual, cognitive and language skills must be carefully planned, based on experience and presented at near by providing supports around visual attribute language. They must be presented in planned, accessible ways due to the inaccessibility of distance events and materials.  This link must be facilitated to build visual, cognitive and language skills by comparing and contrasting visual attributes that are experienced, highlighted and shared.

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