Babies of blind parents show improved communication skills

Being raised by a blind parent does not prevent sighted babies from developing typical gaze processing and other social-communication skills, according to researchers.

In fact, the team found that these babies showed advanced developmental abilities, mainly in the areas of visual memory and attention, compared with babies of sighted parents.
 
The study, which involved five sighted babies of blind mothers and 51 sighted babies of sighted parents, used eye tracking to assess the face scanning and gaze following abilities of the babies.
 
Reporting in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Atsushi Senju, from the University of London, and co-investigators say that babies of blind parents did not show an overall decrease in eye contact or gaze following when they observed sighted adults on video or in live interactions.
 
Interestingly, say the researchers, the babies directed their own eye gaze less frequently towards their blind mothers than sighted adults and showed improved performance in visual memory and attention at younger ages, compared with babies of sighted mothers.
 
“Taken together, these results suggest that being reared with reduced experience of eye contact and gaze behaviour from the primary carer does not preclude sighted infants from developing typical gaze processing and social-communication skills,” conclude the authors.
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