The study investigated attentional processes of 32 preschool children with congenital visual impairment (VI). Children with profound visual impairment (PVI) and severe visual impairment (SVI) were compared to a group of typically developing sighted children in their ability to respond to adult directed attention in terms of establishing, maintaining, and shifting attention on toys.
The measures of children's sensory-motor understanding (SMU) and language ability were obtained using the Reynell-Zinkin scales of mental development. The video-recordings of these play-based assessments were coded for three categories of behavioural responses (Establish, Maintain, and Shift). The three groups were matched on verbal comprehension (VC), but differed significantly in their SMU and their chronological age. The groups of children with PVI and SVI were found to be comparable in their ability to establish and maintain attention on objects. Despite a relatively good performance overall both groups scored significantly lower on those skills than children who were sighted. However, with regards to attention shifting, children with PVI showed significantly lower performance than both the children with SVI and the sighted children who were similar on this component. Ability to maintain and shift attention was significantly related to the cognitive ability of children with PVI; however the poorer attentional responses were not confined only to the children with low IQ. The results are discussed in relation to the role of vision, cognitive ability and executive function in attentional processes in children with congenital VI.