It is well known that blind infants with no motor impairments begin reaching for objects somewhat later (on the order of 5 months later) than sighted infants. Why is this the case? The answer to this question may lie in what entices infants (whether visually impaired or not) to act on objects in the first place. The model proposed here predicts that feedback from infants'own actions on objects (first those produced accidentally, later those produced intentionally) is critically important for drawing infants into the world of objects. Testing this model involves the use of sticky mittens, a device invented by the P.I. to study the transition into reaching during infancy. In this application, we explain how using sticky mittens with continuously sounding objects can both a) determine whether self-produced feedback is important to early reaching, and b) lead to the development of an intervention to help blind infants begin reaching for (and learning from) objects around the same time that sighted infants do. Such an intervention could have major positive effects of the infants'cognitive development and quality of life.
This research addresses both conceptual and practical issues regarding the transition into reaching for blind and sighted infants. Proposed experiments are designed to test our theory about why infants typically make the transition into a new level of motor functioning: they observe the consequences of their still immature and haphazard motor skills. If this is what typically lures infants into independent reaching, it would explain why blind infants begin reaching several months after sighted infants do, and it would suggest that providing opportunities for these observations should help infants reach earlier.