A recent study, co-authored by La Trobe University’s Dr Kristelle Hudry, has found that the infants of blind parents not only learn to communicate effectively with their parents early in life, but are able to adapt their communication to suit sighted adults as well.
Dr Hudry, from the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La Trobe University, says that not only were the five infants studied able to communicate effectively, but they showed superior visual attention and memory skills.
‘It is possible that the need to switch between different modes of communication with different adults may actually be improving the cognitive skills of these young babies,’ says Dr Hudry.
‘Social development begins from the first days of life,’ says Dr Hudry, ‘and it is largely based on the baby’s ability to see others. We know, from past research, that children born blind are at risk of social and communication delays. We wondered whether babies born to blind mothers would also be at risk for delays.’
Sighted babies of blind parents experience unusual face-to-face communication with their parents, who are not able to use eye contact. The study showed that being reared by a blind parent did not prevent the children from developing normal gaze processing and other social communication skills.
The study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, assessed five sighted infants at the ages of 6-10 months, 12-15 months, and after 2 years of age. The data was compared with that obtained from a larger group of sighted infants of sighted parents.
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