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Hand-Eye Coordination

Definition

Hand-eye coordination is the ability of the vision system to coordinate the information received through the eyes to control, guide, and direct the hands in the accomplishment of a given task, such as handwriting or catching a ball. Hand-eye coordination uses the eyes to direct attention and the hands to execute a task.

Description

Vision is the process of understanding what is seen by the eyes. It involves more than simple visual acuity (ability to distinguish fine details). Vision also involves fixation and eye movement abilities, accommodation (focusing), convergence (eye aiming), binocularity (eye teaming), and the control of hand-eye coordination. Most hand movements require visual input to be carried out effectively. For example, when children are learning to draw, they follow the position of the hand holding the pencil visually as they make lines on the paper. Between four and 14 months of age, infants explore their world and develop hand-eye coordination, in conjunction with fine motor skills . Fine motor skills are involved in the control of small muscle movements, such as when an infant starts to use fingers with a purpose and in coordination with the eyes.

Infants are eager to move their eyes, their mouths, and their bodies toward the people and objects that comfort and interest them. They practice skills that let them move closer to desired objects and also move desired objects closer to themselves. By six months of age, many infants begin reaching for objects quickly, without jerkiness, and may be able to feed themselves a cracker or similar food. Infants of this age try to get objects within their reach and objects out of their reach. Many infants are also able to look from hand to object, to hold one object while looking for a second object, and to follow the movements of their hands with their eyes. At this age, most infants begin to poke at objects with their index fingers. After six months, infants are usually able to manipulate a cup and hold it by the handle. Many infants at this age also begin to reach for objects with one arm instead of both. At about eight months of age, as dexterity improves, many infants can use a pincher movement to grasp small objects, and they can also clap and wave their hands. They also begin to transfer objects from hand to hand, and bang objects together. Hand-eye coordination development milestones are as follows.

Between birth and three years of age, infants can accomplish the following skills:

Between three and five years of age, little children develop or continue to develop the following skills:

Children between five and seven years old develop or continue to develop the following skills:

Common problems

Hand-eye coordination problems are usually first noted as a lack of skill in drawing or writing. Drawing shows poor orientation on the page and the child is unable to stay "within the lines" when using a coloring book. Often the child continues to depend on his or her hand for inspection and exploration of toys or other objects. Poor hand-eye coordination can have a wide variety of causes, but the main two conditions responsible for inadequate hand-eye coordination are vision problems and movement disorders .

Vision impairment is a loss of vision that makes it hard or impossible to perform daily tasks without specialized adaptations. Vision impairment may be caused by a loss of visual acuity, in which the eye does not see objects as clearly as usual. It may also be caused by a loss of visual field, in which the eye cannot see as wide an area as usual without moving the eyes or turning the head. Vision impairment changes how a child understands and functions in the world. Impaired vision necessarily affects a child's hand-eye coordination, as well as cognitive, emotional, neurological, and physical development by limiting the range of experiences and the kinds of information to which the child is exposed.

Movement disorders are characterized by impaired body movements. They have a variety of causes. An example is ataxia, characterized by a lack of coordination while performing voluntary movements. The problem may appear as clumsiness, inaccuracy, or instability. Movements are not smooth and may appear disjointed or jerky. Another example is hypertonia, a condition marked by an abnormal increase in muscle tension and a reduced ability of a muscle to stretch. Whatever

Good hand-eye coordination is needed to play baseball. (Photograph by Henry Horenstein. Harcourt.)
Good hand-eye coordination is needed to play baseball.
(Photograph by Henry Horenstein. Harcourt.)
their origin, movement disorders almost always prevent the normal development of hand-eye coordination.

Parental concerns

When a child is between one and two years old, parents should start encouraging activities that allow the child to learn how to use hands to manipulate objects and learn how different things fit together. These activities are extremely important for the development of hand-eye coordination, which is itself crucial for the overall physical development of the child. Some toys are designed to assist hand-eye coordination development. They usually involve "fitting things together," but parents can also use simple kitchen cups or bowls. Letting children play with these objects teaches them how to fit objects together. Jigsaw puzzles are also good hand-eye coordination developers, as are blocks or tower toys that encourage playing and coordination. These toys help children learn what items can fit on top of each other and which ones will stack easily. By the time children reach two or three years of age, they are ready to start throwing things and wanting to catch them. These play activities are a great way to improve hand-eye coordination. Most child development professionals believe that the best thing parents can do when trying to improve hand-eye coordination in their children is simply to let them play with a variety of toys on their own.

KEY TERMS

Ataxia —A condition marked by impaired muscular coordination, most frequently resulting from disorders in the brain or spinal cord.

Binocular vision —Using both eyes at the same time to see an image.

Convergence —The natural movement of the eyes inward to view objects close-up.

Fine motor skill —The abilities required to control the smaller muscles of the body for writing, playing an instrument, artistic expression and craft work. The muscles required to perform fine motor skills are generally found in the hands, feet and head.

Gross motor skills —The abilities required to control the large muscles of the body for walking, running, sitting, crawling, and other activities. The muscles required to perform gross motor skills are generally found in the arms, legs, back, abdomen and torso.

Hypertonia —Having excessive muscular tone or strength.

Motor skills —Controlled movements of muscle groups. Fine motor skills involve tasks that require dexterity of small muscles, such as buttoning a shirt. Tasks such as walking or throwing a ball involve the use of gross motor skills.

Visual acuity —Sharpness or clearness of vision.

See also Bayley Scales of Infant Development .

Resources

Ball, Morven F. Developmental Coordination Disorder: Hints and Tips for the Activities of Daily Living. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2002.

Bekkering, H., and U. Sailer. "Commentary: coordination of eye and hand in time and space." Progress in Brain Research 140 (2002): 365–73.

Carey, D. P. "Eye-hand coordination: eye to hand or hand to eye?" Current Biology 10, no. 11 (June 2000): R416–19.

Crawford, J. D., et al. "Spatial transformations for eye-hand coordination." Journal of Neurophysiology 92, no. 1 (July 2004): 10–9.

Fogt, N., et al. "The influence of head movement on the accuracy of a rapid pointing task." Optometry 73, no. 11 (November 2002): 665–73.

Henriques, D. Y., et al. "Geometric computations underlying eye-hand coordination: orientations of the two eyes and the head." Experimental Brain Research 152, no. 1 (September 2003): 70–8.

Johansson, R. S., et al. "Eye-hand coordination in object manipulation." Journal of Neuroscience 21, no. 17 (September 2001): 6917–32.

Pelz, J., et al. "The coordination of eye, head, and hand movements in a natural task." Experimental Brain Research 139, no. 3 (August 2001): 266–77.

Sailer, U., et al. "Spatial and temporal aspects of eye-hand coordination across different tasks." Experimental Brain Research 134, no. 2 (September 2000): 163–73.

Udermann, B. E., et al. "Influence of cup stacking on hand-eye coordination and reaction time of second-grade students." Perception & Motor Skills 98, no. 2 (April 2004): 409–14.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 141 Northwest Point Boulevard, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007–1098. Web site: http://www.aap.org.

American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). 4720 Montgomery Lane, PO Box 31220, Bethesda, MD 20824–1220. Web site: http://www.aota.org.

American Psychological Association (APA). 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002–4242. Web site: http://www.apa.org.

Child Development Institute (CDI). 3528 E Ridgeway Road, Orange, California 92867. Web site: http://www.cdipage.com.

"Activities for infants which develop hand eye and hand foot coordination." A Fit Tot . Available online at <www.topcondition.com/temp/Afittot/hand_eye_coordination.htm> (accessed November 29, 2004).

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