Amy Needham, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor of Psychology and Human Development
Overview of Interests
Dr. Needham is interested in many facets of perceptual-motor and cognitive-motor development, and her current research is focused on the factors that contribute to the beginnings of infants' independent reaching in typically and atypically developing infants. Her hypothesis is that when infants perceive the consequences of their actions on objects, they become engaged in the world of objects and become motivated to reach for them, thereby luring themselves into the world of objects through their own actions. These might be accidental at first, but become more intentional as infants learn about the use of their hands.
It has been known for some time that infants with visual impairments show delayed achievement of most motor milestones, even if they have no motor impairments. This is consistent with Needham’s hypothesis, because the visual modality is the main way that infants would learn about their effects on the world around them. Needham and her colleagues are trying to create interventions involving sensory substitution that would allow infants with visual impairments to perceive the consequences of their actions on objects through non-visual modalities.
Vanderbilt University Faculty Profile: Amy Needham