One of the most frequent complaints by parents who visit the Visual Learning Center is that their child loses his place while reading. You may notice when you read with your child that he misses words and sometimes skips whole sentences.
Initially, you might suspect he is is being careless or impatient, that he isn’t paying attention closely enough, or that he is choosing to skip unfamiliar or challenging words. However, a visual processing problem such as poor eye tracking skills could be to blame for your child’s difficulty with reading.
Tracking skills are the specific eye movements a child uses as they scan a line of text. Even in a normal healthy visual system, these movements are not smooth, left-to-right shifts. Instead, the movements are a series of “jumps” and “fixations.”
To read, the eye jumps across the text and fixates on certain points; with each fixation, the child takes in either a whole word or part of a word while the eye is momentarily stationary. The child decodes and process a word, and then the eyes fixate on the next word and pause briefly to decode and process it. Eye tracking is a very complex process and involves many different areas of the brain.
Readers with normal healthy visual processing systems can control the eye tracking process well, and their eyes move mostly in a left to right manner across the page, jumping from word to word and sometimes around the page, but without skipping words or losing their place.
When a child skips words or sentences, they have to go back to re-read and work hard to grasp the meaning of a given passage. As a result, these children may score poorly in reading comprehension, not because of a low level of verbal intelligence, but simply because their visual processing system does not function as it should.
During a functional vision exam at the Visual Learning Center, we test for eye tracking ability and compare it to established normal values. For more information about eye tracking and other important visual skills, download our free guide “10 things you need to know about vision” here.
If you notice your child loses his place or skips words and sentences while reading, and you are in the Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD area, schedule a comprehensive functional vision exam today. If your child is found to have poor visual tracking skills or another learning-related vision problem, a vision therapy program can result in significant improvement quickly.