Tag Archives: oculomotor weakness

skipping letters when reading

Skipping Letters When Writing and Reading

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision
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.

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.

girl reading

How will vision therapy help my child in reading?


Although it may not seem apparent at first, reading can be extremely difficult for a child with visual problems. When learning-related vision problems go undetected, a child might seem to be picking up on words and demonstrating comprehension initially, but overall performance and literacy will suffer.

Studies have revealed that the greater the amount of effort a child must put forth to read, the lower the child’s overall reading performance and comprehension will be. Reading requires prolonged fixation on reading materials, so the effort necessary to read is particularly challenging if the child has visual deficiencies, such as oculomotor and binocular weakness.

For a person to read, it is necessary for the two eyes to be properly aimed at text, so the eyes must turn inward. For some children, the eyes will naturally turn outward; and this deviation — even if slight and unnoticeable to parents or teachers — means that the child must use excess effort and energy to maintain fixation on the reading material.

If a child is unable to aim his or her eyes inwardly easily, he or she may not see every word in sequential order.  Instead, the child’s eyes may skip words or phrases, bounce around the text, and land at words sporadically.

A parent or teacher might notice that a student omits or adds words to make sense of a sentence, without actually seeing those words.

A child may be seeing double due to overlapping vision and experiencing headaches and eye fatigue as a result. But the child is often unable to express “seeing double” because he or she is unaware that the way they are seeing is not the correct way to see.

Vision therapy or vision training treats and quickly improves eye disorders by facilitating exercises and activities that strengthen existing weaknesses within the visual processing system.

Many children who participate in our vision therapy programs in Olney, Md. come to us having tested far below their current age levels in sensory skills, such as those related to oculomotor or binocular weakness.  Upon completing therapy, they retake the initial screening tests with impressive results.

Read some of our vision training success stories to learn more about how vision therapy can help your child in reading.  Contact us to learn more about how vision training can improve speed and accuracy of eye movements, visual concentration, letter reversals and other skills, making learning easier, faster, and more enjoyable.