Vision is both a sensory and motor process:
One area that we pay close attention to when assessing visual processing and information processing is motor skill ability and maturity. It is not unusual for the children that we see to have both eye movement and general motor control difficulties e.g. handwriting and manual dexterity.
A daily classroom task that confronts all students is copying off the board. This seemingly simple task actually requires various skills and presents a challenge to a lot of students with learning difficulties as copying off the board requires many different skills to occur concurrently and automatically.
Firstly, the eyes must be able to repeatedly change focus from the board, back to the page, without fatiguing or losing place.
It is also a cognitive task that requires memory and fine motor skills. One is required to firstly process and retain information, before writing it down. When writing down this information, fine motor and visual perceptual skills are required so that it can be written legibly and in the correct sequence on the page.
The vision process has both sensory components (the eyes taking in information) and importantly, motor components where the eye muscles (6 of them) need to point accurately in three-dimensional space. The trunk, neck and head need to provide postural control and a base for the eyes and visual system to work from. This requires the two sides of the body to work well together, as a team.
Another term for eye coordination is ‘eye teaming.’ The subtleties of binocular vision include skills such as vergence, pursuits and saccades, amongst others.
Early motor development starts in-utero and is mostly a passive experience of gravity and the mother’s indirect movement but there are also some active movements starting to occur. Postnatally, unconscious, reflexive movements mature through early movement experiences such as suckling, rolling, crawling, postural control, learning to stand and then, bipedal movement (walking). It is important that this early movement takes its natural course.
Movement and unstructured play are important for early child development. Where this chain of development has been disrupted, assessment by an occupational therapist or physical therapist of foundational motor skills is warranted. Components include midline skills, core (trunk) skills and postural control. It is important to look beyond gross motor skill level as a sole guide to motor development.