Eye Tracking Skills
Reading requires very fine eye movements to be made. As well as fixating and following along a line of text, children must also be able to make the fine adjustment needed to read to the end of one line, then accurately find the next one down to begin reading. If the slow pursuit movements or fast saccadic “jump” movements necessary for reading are not accurate, there can be very visible ramifications.
Development Stages of Eye Tracking
Unlike convergence and accommodation which develops very early in an infant’s life (eg crawling), fine eye tracking skills do not actually mature until they are around 5 years of age. As developmental milestones, some children may take longer until they learn these skills. However, if they do not track well by the time they are 7 years old, this is when reading may be affected.
Consequences in Reading with Eye Tracking Problems
Learning to read or reading to learn will be difficult as the words/letters will not be seen in the order that they need to appear. It is not unusual for these children to lose their place, skip words or whole lines, start reading a word out from the middle or jumble letters in a fashion similar to someone with dyslexia. Some children may be forced to use their fingers or a ruler to follow the line because their eyes can’t.
Our central and peripheral visual systems help control eye tracking. Our central vision processes what we are seeing in clear detail and defines what we are looking at. Our peripheral (or side vision) locates surrounding objects and lets us know where to look. In reading, the central vision processes the word, while our side vision locates the following word and tells us where to aim our eyes next.
Symptoms of Eye Tracking Problems
- Moves head excessively when reading
- Frequently loses place
- Skips lines when reading
- Uses finger to keep place
- Poor reading comprehension
- Short attention span