Tag Archives: losing place while reading

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.

learning-related vision problems

My Child Learned to Read in Kindergarten But Now Reads Below Grade Level: What Happened?

One of the biggest points of concern and confusion that parents have when they come to us is that they know their child is bright, but he or she is struggling in school. We often hear from parents who say their child had no trouble at all learning to read in Kindergarten, but by third or fourth grade the child has fallen far behind grade level performance expectations.

One common, but often-overlooked, cause for reading problems that develop later in development could be a learning-related vision problem.

When your child first learns basic reading skills, they learn ABCs one letter at a time, often in large, bold, colorful, and even tactile forms. Then they begin reading simple sentences in picture books with large spacious text. Their school books and worksheets all contain large text with lots of space, both to accommodate children’s fine motor skills and to ease them into the reading process.

But by third or fourth grade, reading and close work takes up a significantly greater amount of time in the classroom and during homework; and the text print on book pages and worksheets is much smaller than when they were first introduced to reading. Students in third grade and beyond are also required to copy from the board throughout the day. And all of these seemingly reasonable requirements can be extremely challenging for a child with a vision problem.

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

Large text and space is easy on the eyes. Reading one letter at a time, or a short sentence surrounded by lots of white space is not difficult for children with learning-related vision problems. Likewise, these children can pass a typical eye exam or school vision screening, one letter or short word at a time.

But most eye exams do not test for functional vision problems that interfere with reading. A typical eye exam only tests to determine if your child can see clearly at a distance for a period long enough to complete the exam, not eye movement and visual processing problems that may affect your child’s ability to read for a sustained period of time.

A typical vision screening doesn’t check into how well the eyes work together as a team, how quickly the eyes focus when moving from one visual plane to another, how smoothly the eyes move across the page when reading, how efficiently the brain processes information taken in by the eyes, or a number of other areas of functional vision.

VLC-convergence-insufficiency

Reading requires the coordination of hundreds of eye muscles and steady oculomotor control. It also requires visualization, visual memory, and other skills for reading comprehension. If your child has an undeveloped vision skill, weakness, or deficiency, this can affect their ability to read.

Poor eye tracking, eye teaming, or focus leads to difficulty and frustration for a child, and the extra effort to take in visual information may cause fatigue, headaches, or the inability to maintain attention.

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So, while reading large-print individual words and short sentences for a few minutes in Kindergarten or first grade was easy for your child, reading small-print paragraphs throughout the day can be overwhelming.

Initially, you and your child’s teacher might suspect he is is being careless, distracted, or choosing not to pay attention You might assume he’s skipping unfamiliar or challenging words, because he’s lazy or uninterested.

However, children with learning-related vision problems don’t understand that their vision is to blame. They often grow frustrated, their self-esteem suffers, and they fall behind.

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That’s why it’s important that if your child is struggling with reading — particularly if they did not have trouble learning to read initially — that you find a developmental optometrist in your area who specializes in functional vision care. Schedule a comprehensive vision exam right away.

If your child’s reading troubles are related to vision, that’s actually good news. Because once he or she receives a proper diagnosis, a personalized and intensive vision therapy program can lead to significant lasting improvements in a relatively short period of time.

Click here for “10 Things You Need to Know About Vision”

If your family is located in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philp Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule a functional vision exam today.

7 Classroom Modifications to Help Students with Functional Vision Problems

No matter how bright your child is, learning can be difficult if he struggles with a functional vision problem. Once diagnosed with a learning-related vision deficiency, both classroom modifications and vision therapy will improve your child’s ability to learn and demonstrate learning.

As a parent, it is important for you to work together with your child’s teacher and school to ensure the most beneficial classroom modifications are made available to your child. Here are some examples:

Better Lighting

Many classrooms are poorly lit with flickering fluorescent bulbs. Schools often need to make the most economical choices, and fluorescent lighting is cheap. But proper lighting is particularly important for students with vision problems. We suggest providing natural lighting or full-spectrum bulbs whenever possible. On a nice day, your child could sit near the window in the sunlight or at a table with a full-spectrum lamp, especially when doing sustained close work.

Work Breaks

Sustained near-field work that requires a student to keep both eyes pointed in the same direction (a function known as teaming), follow along the text (a function known as tracking), and focus on text or numbers for an extended amount of time (a function known as “accommodation”) is challenging for children with vision problems. These functions work effortlessly for children with healthy vision systems, but children with vision deficiencies need to put forth extra effort. Allowing students to take breaks regularly gives their eyes time to rest so they can begin working again refreshed.

Oral Testing Options

For children with vision problems, reading and writing causes strain and even headaches; so sometimes these students get distracted or give up while taking a test. If you’ve ever studied with your child for an exam, certain he would ace it, only to find out later that he failed, a functional vision problem could be interfering with his test-taking performance. Bubbling in answer sheets can be a particular challenge. Allowing students to demonstrate knowledge through oral quizzes and tests when possible is often a helpful solution.

Grant More Time

Often, classroom exams and assignments are either intentionally timed or students are hurried on to the next task due to schedules and general time constraints of the school day. A child with a learning-related vision problem may need more time to learn, complete assignments, and take tests. This has nothing to do with intelligence; it’s simply a matter of the way their vision system functions. Granting extra time can boost their performance.

Use Highlighters

When you were in school, did you ever use highlighter markers or pencils to underline important text? When you’re reading, do you ever slide your finger or pen along text as a guide, especially when you’re getting tired or trying to concentrate on challenging material? Allowing a child with an eye tracking deficiency to use highlighters as they read is a simple but effective classroom modification. Readers with normal healthy visual processing systems can easily move their eyes in a left to right manner across the page without skipping words or losing their place. Highlighters can make it easier for your child to stay on track.

Make Larger Text Available

Children with learning-related vision problems strain to read standard-sized text more so than their classmates with healthy vision systems. Larger print is easier to read, focus on, and follow along, smoothly and efficiently. Text on worksheets and exams can be enlarged simply by using larger font or blowing up the copy size. The school may be required to accommodate your child’s needs by ordering large-print textbooks when available. You can also buy large-print books for your child to read at home or check them out from the library.

Limit Copying From Board

Copying from the board or screen can be difficult for a student with a vision problem, even if he has 20/20 eyesight or wears eyeglasses. When a child has trouble focusing, he may see clearly while looking down at his paper, and clearly while looking up at the board. However, looking up and down, back and forth, from the board to the paper might be where the challenge comes into play. The focus mechanism in your child’s eyes might be weak, slowing down the adjustment period as he looks from one point to the other. Arrange for seating closer to the board for some relief, or preferably provide the child with printed materials from which to copy.

If your child has a learning-related functional vision problem, simple classroom and learning environment modifications can provide much-needed relief as he tries to cope. The first step is for you to get a diagnoses by scheduling a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist. Then work with the school teacher and school to ensure appropriate modifications are made available.

These classroom modifications may be temporary, because an individualized vision therapy program can improve functional vision significantly.

If you are in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment today.

Teacher Appreciation Week: How Vision Therapy Can Help Teachers

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and we want to express a big thank you to all of the teachers who support students in the classroom. At the Visual Learning Center, we work daily with children who have struggled in school due to learning-related vision problems, sometimes for years before receiving a diagnosis; and their caring, patient, and skilled teachers deserve appreciation for their dedication to each child’s success.

Classroom teachers serve as our allies and partners in vision therapy, so we wish to celebrate their service to the community and welcome the opportunity offer our support in return.

When a child has difficulty in school — particularly if parents feel confident that their child is smart — teachers sometimes endure undue blame. Parents are understandably frustrated when a child performs poorly and may assume the teacher should know what to do to improve their child’s performance.

Teachers are educated in a wide variety of subject matter, teaching methods, and classroom management skills; and they receive training in detecting possible learning disabilities and special needs. However, the majority of teachers are unaware of how common learning-related vision problems are, and most teachers simply do not know how to recognize the symptoms.

Once teachers learn about how vision affects learning, they begin to recognize vision problems in their classroom right away and realize this is something they have been dealing with for years.

So, how can teachers get the help they need?

First, they have to be able to recognize vision symptoms that may affect learning, such as:

  • Squinting while reading near or far
  • Rubbing eyes continuously throughout the day
  • Rubbing temple or forehead and complaining of headaches
  • Complaints of dizziness or motion sickness
  • Skipping words or losing place while reading
  • Confusing similar words
  • Reversing letters
  • Easily distracted, inattentive, unable to stay on task
  • Disruptive behavior, especially after expressing frustration with work
  • Poor hand-eye coordination, depth perception, or awkwardness and clumsiness
  • Performs noticeably better orally than written

As you may recognize, many of these symptoms can also indicate learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, or even health problems; and consequently, misdiagnosis is common. A possible vision problem is often overlooked.

If you are a teacher, you can expect that parents may dismiss your suggestion that their child has a vision problem because he or she has “20/20 eyesight.”  It is important for teachers to understand that the vision problems that affect learning are not usually detected during routine vision screenings at school or typical vision exams with the family’s eye doctor.

Typical vision exams only test for eye sight, or vision clarity at a distance. However, vision involves an entire vision processing system — the coordination of eye muscles and the brain.

A healthy vision system can function well over prolonged periods of time in a classroom setting; but if the child has a vision problem, he will grow tired and frustrated, not understanding why he has so much trouble doing tasks that seem easy for his peers. So a child with vision problems might seem to give up, have low self-esteem, or act out as a result.

Once a child is properly diagnosed by an optometrist who specializes in functional and developmental vision care, he can take part in an intensive individualized vision therapy program, which is likely to bring about remarkably fast and long-term results.

To learn more about vision and vision therapy, download our free guide, watch our webinar, and see our resources for teachers and parents.

If you are a teacher in Olney, Silver Spring, or the surrounding area, invite Dr. Philip Nicholson to speak at your school or association. Click here to learn more.