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The development of joint attention in blind infants

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 June 2003

St. Francis Xavier University


There is little documentation of how and when joint attention emerges in blind infants because the study of this ability has been predominantly reliant on visual information. Ecological self-knowledge, which is necessary for joint attention, is impaired in blind infants and is evidenced by their reaching for objects on external cues, which also marks the beginning of their Stage 4 understanding of space and object. Entry into Stage 4 should occur before joint attention emerges in these infants. In a case study of two totally blind infants, the development of joint attention was longitudinally examined during Stage 4 in monthly sessions involving interactions with objects and familiar adults. The interactions were scored for behavior preliminary to joint attention, behavior liberally construed as joint attention, and behavior conservatively construed as joint attention. Behavior preliminary to joint attention occurred throughout Stage 4; behavior suggestive of joint attention by both liberal and conservative standards emerged initially in Stage 4 and became prevalent by mid to late Stage 4. The findings are discussed in terms of how they inform our thinking about the development of joint attention with respect to the importance of vision, cognition, social context, language, and early self-knowledge.

Research Article
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

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