Monthly Archives: August 2014

Oculomotor Dysfunction: Does your child skip words or lines while reading?

Have you noticed that your child often skips words, sentences, or even several lines of text when reading? Parents often assume this happens because the child isn’t interested or trying hard enough–that they are distracted, lazy, or rushing through their work. When a child struggles to read, you might suspect skipping words is a sign of impatience or frustration with challenging and unfamiliar words.

However, in some cases, if a child is skipping words or losing his place when trying to read, this could point to oculomotor dysfunction–specifically, poor eye tracking skills–which can be treated with vision therapy.

Learn more about how vision affects learning by watching this pre-recorded webinar for parents.

A child with an eye tracking problem strains to efficiently and accurately control eye movements. Oculomotor dysfunction causes the eyes to jump or skip erratically, rather than move along a line of text smoothly. You may not notice the irregular eye movement upon observation, but even subtle eye movement deviations can make it difficult to read and write without strained effort.

Eye tracking is a very complex process and involves many different areas of the brain. Even with a normal healthy visual system, when we read,  eye tracking movements are not smooth scans of the text from left to right. Properly functioning oculomotor movements occur as a series of “jumps” and “fixations” on certain points across the text.

With each pause and fixation, we take in either a whole word or part of a word during the brief moment our eyes are stationary. We then decode and send the word through our visual processing system. Then our eyes fixate on the next word, briefly, to decode and process it.

If we have normal oculomotor abilities, we’re able to control the eye tracking process without concentrated effort, moving our eyes mostly in a left to right manner across the page, jumping from word to word, sentence to sentence, and around the text as needed. We rarely skip words or lose our place.

But if your child is struggling with oculomotor dysfunction, he or she need to use a finger, ruler, or pencil to avoid losing his place. Reading becomes challenging and tiring, because it requires strained effort to simply follow along the text.

An eye tracking problem tends to become more pronounced as reading requirements progress and paragraphs get longer, usually in third or fourth grade. If a child is continuing to skip words or sentences, he may have to read and then re-read a paragraph repeatedly before absorbing it in its entirety; so reading comprehension performance slows.

Additional signs of oculomotor dysfunction or poor tracking skills include:

  • Transposing words or letters when reading and writing
  • Using a finger or guiding device to avoid losing place
  • Complaining that text moves or jumps on the page
  • Difficulty accurately catching, throwing, or hitting a ball when playing sports
  • Becoming disoriented when eyes move from the end of one line of text to the beginning of the next line of text
  • Excessively moving the head or paper to follow the text while reading

To learn more about signs and symptoms of functional vision problems, download our free guide 10 Things You Need to Know About Vision here.

If you suspect that your child may be struggling to read due to oculomotor dysfunction, also known as poor eye tracking skills, get a comprehensive functional vision exam by a developmental optometrist.

The good news is, eye tracking skills can improve significantly in a relatively short period of time with vision therapy.

Click here to read vision therapy success stories.

For vision therapy in Silver Spring or Olney, Maryland, click here to schedule a functional vision exam with developmental optometrist, Dr. Philip Nicholson.

Does your child complain of dizziness while reading?

Has your child ever complained of feeling dizzy while reading? Dizziness can have many causes, and it’s a symptom that should be taken seriously. But if you’ve noticed that your child tends to complain of mild dizziness, queasiness, malaise, or nausea, specifically when reading or doing homework, it could be due to an undiagnosed functional vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

If your child says, “I don’t feel well,” too often at homework time, you may assume it’s an excuse to avoid work in favor of play time. However, most parents and teachers would not know to associate complaints of dizziness while reading with a vision disorder, particularly because learning-related vision deficiencies almost always go undetected in typical vision screenings or eye doctor exams.

Click here to read 9 signs that your child could have a learning-related vision problem that may cause headaches.

Click here to watch a pre-recorded webinar to learn more about vision problems in children.

We often think of dizziness as something that stems from an inner-ear problem. Many people are aware that the inner-ear and brain work together to control balance. So you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find that your child has fluid or an infection in his ear or a problem in the vestibular system when complaining of dizziness.

In a healthy visual system, our brain and eyes also work together to maintain a stable and even visual plane, which we need in order to read efficiently. When we point our eyes at text, we need to be able to fix and maintain our gaze so that the page and the text remains steady and still. If you have a properly functioning visual system, you can do this without extra effort. But for someone with a functional vision problem, the text may be misaligned or blurry, or it may seem to move, jump, go in and out of focus, appear wavy, or slide down the page. Experiencing any of these effects can cause dizziness while reading.

Children with poor convergence or divergence skills have difficulty with eye teaming. Their eyes move somewhat independently of one another, which causes double or blurry vision, distorted depth perception, and sometimes dizziness.

Children with an eye tracking problem strain to accurately control eye movements. Instead of their eyes moving smoothly across a line of text while reading, their eyes skip or jump, which makes it challenging to read without feeling disoriented and sometimes dizzy.

Children with accommodative dysfunction, or trouble focusing, have difficulty sustaining focus on text or maintaining a clear image for a reasonable length of time. Reading is challenging because the texts grows fuzzy or blurred, and straining to keep the text in focus can contribute to dizziness.

The only way to know if your child’s dizziness while reading is caused by an underlying vision problem is by scheduling a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

The good news is, learning-related vision problems that cause dizziness when reading can be treated effectively with vision therapy. Students often experience remarkable improvement in a short period of time.

If you are looking for vision therapy in Silver Spring or vision therapy in Olney, Maryland, and you suspect your child’s complaints of dizziness could be related to a functional vision problem, make an appointment with developmental optometrist Dr. Philip Nicholson at The Visual Learning Center today.