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skipping letters when reading

Skipping Letters When Writing and Reading

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision
therapy 
in Olney, MD near Silver Spring.

Is your child skipping letters when writing or skipping letters when reading? Perhaps they are even skipping words or entire lines of text. This is a common symptom for patients who come into our office, and it may indicate a vision disorder or deficiency, even if the child has 20/20 eyesight.

To learn more how vision can affect learning, download our free guide here and watch our pre-recorded webinar here.

When a child skips letters or words, parents and teachers often initially blame carelessness. They encourage the child to try harder and to concentrate and mistakenly believe the child is simply distracted. At first, adults tend to attribute skipping letters, words, and lines to too much screen time, lack of interest, or laziness.

But when they observe over time that the child is trying yet still struggling to read or write, skipping words and letters may seem to be a sign of impatience or sheer frustration.

However, children with eye tracking problems– an oculomotor dysfunction–may actually be experiencing difficulty with eye muscle coordination.

A child with an eye tracking problem strains to accurately and efficiently control eye movements. Oculomotor dysfunction causes their eyes to jump erratically, rather than move along a line of text smoothly. The irregular eye movement may be subtle enough not to detect by observation. But even slight eye movement deviations can make it challenging to read and write without skipping text.

Without the eye muscles functioning in a normal healthy way, you may notice your child losing their place while reading or copying from the board, rereading words or lines, or using a finger, pencil or some other tool in an attempt to maintain his place while reading or writing.

Eye tracking is a complex function that involves both muscles and many different areas of the brain. When someone with a healthy visual system reads or writes, eye tracking movements are not smooth as they scan along the text from left to right.

Normal oculomotor movements occur as a series of “jumps” and “fixations” on certain points across the text. Readers take in either a whole word or part of a word with each these pauses and fixations. Next, they process the word through the visual system. And then their eyes fixate on the next set of text, just long enough to see and process it.

All of this has to happen in a healthy manner without disruption or dysfunction. If your child is struggling with oculomotor weakness, reading is challenging and requires strained effort, especially as the paragraphs and reading or assignments grow longer.

If oculomotor dysfunction causes a child to continues to skipping letters, words or lines by third or fourth grade, they will likely fall below expected grade level performance. Fortunately, if your child is diagnosed with an oculomotor problem, vision therapy can treat and even cure the deficiency.

See our vision therapy success stories.

Only a functional vision exam by an optometrist who specializes in developmental vision care can diagnose or rule out a learning-related vision problem.

To schedule a comprehensive vision exam and access vision therapy in Olney, MD near SIlver Spring, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

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.

Vision Therapy Exercise: Letter Tracking Activity

You may notice that your child is skipping letters or words when reading. You might obseve that your child can not distinctly identify the left or right side of his body, or be able to recognize direction applied to objects and symbols such as letters. You may see him flipping or reversing letters when writing, or recognize that he is unable to distinguish ‘p’ from ‘q’ or ‘b’ from ‘d’ while reading. If so, it’s possible that your child has a visual processing problem, such as poor visual discrimination.

Visual discrimination is a perceptual process that involves the ability to correctly identify basic features of a visual stimulus, such as text. Discrimination allows us to see and identify shape, size, orientation, and color.

Weakness in the area of visual discrimination leads to skipping letters or words when reading, or poor laterality and directionality. Laterality and directionality are skills required to write and recognize words with the correct orientation, or direction.

A visual processing problem, such as poor visual discrimination can be identified through a comprehensive functional vision exam, by a trained developmental optometrist.

Once a child is diagnosed with a visual processing problem, fortunately, an individualized vision therapy program will likely lead to significant improvement quickly. (Click here to view vision therapy success stories.)

In addition to in-office vision therapy, Dr. Philip Nicholson of the Visual Learning Center in Olney, MD, also recommends supplemental vision therapy activities that can be done at home.

One example of a vision therapy activity that can be practiced outside of the office is letter tracking. Letter tracking activities are designed to improve eye movement skills and visual processing skills, such as discrimination.

The vision therapy letter tracking activity involves drawing a continuous line, looping and circling letters of the alphabet, in sequential order, as directed. Patients first strive for accuracy, and then progress toward greater speed while maintaining accuracy. If the patient skips letters, he will find that the activity cannot be completed, and he can start again. This activity is useful to improve visual discrimination and reduce the errors that occur in reading, writing, and other activities due to poor visual discrimination.

Watch the video below for a demonstration of letter tracking and download a letter tracking packet here.

Should you wish to learn more about this vision therapy activity for visual discrimination improvement or schedule an appointment with Visual Learning Center in Olney, Maryland, contact us today at (301) 570-4611.