Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Visual Processing Affects On Reading, Part 2: Symptoms of Poor Eye Tracking Skills


The last post referred to visual processing deficits, particularly poor eye tracking skills, which impact a child's ability to read and/or learn how to read. My colleagues and I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with Dr. Kristy M. Remick, a developmental optometrist, and her vision therapist, Vicki Bedes, in regards to vision therapy. They published a book, Eyes on Track: A Missing Link to Successful Learning which gives practical visual development activities that can be done by parents and teachers to help students with poor visual processing skills. While working with students in the clinic setting, many of the activities suggested in Eyes on Track were used successfully in conjunction with occupational therapy with a sensory integration focus.  Much of the following information is summarized from Dr. Remick and Mrs. Bedes’ book.

 Students give us clues on a daily basis which display their difficulty processing visual information on a page.  They may say:

            “I lose my place when I read.”

            “I have to blink when I read.”

            “The words and letters are blurry.”

            “I have to use my finer or I lose my place.”

            “I reread lines sometimes.”

            “My eyes get tired when I read.”

            “I can’t remember what I’m reading.”

 Teachers should be looking for the following performance based symptoms of poor eye tracking skills that students display in the classroom:

             Avoids near-point work

            Poor posture while reading

            Head tilting when reading or writing

            Holds book too close to eyes

            Homework requiring reading takes a long time

            Poor attention during work time

            Loses place when reading

            Uses a marker or finger to keep place

            Moves head when reading

            Omits, re-reads words/letters

            Re-reads lines

            Repeats letters within words

            Reads big words, but misreads/misses smaller words (and, but, if, the)

            Difficulty copying form chalkboard/loses place

            Avoids reading out loud

Enjoys being read to/avoids self-reading

Poor reading comprehension

            Comprehension declines as reading continues

            Misaligns numbers in math

            Does not look directly into speaker’s eyes

            Easily distracted


Students can have both eye tracking difficulties and poor vision perception.  The following performance symptoms reflect a vision perception deficit which impacts performance in other areas.  Teachers should look for the following signs of poor vision perception:

            Letter reversals in reading or writing (b,d,q,p)

            Number reversals

            Repeatedly confuses right/left direction

            Word reversals (saw/was, on/no)

            Grips pencil too tightly/poor grip (thumbs crossed over fingers)

            Poor handwriting

            Poor spacing when writing

            Uses other hand as “spacer” to control spacing when writing

            Writes uphill or downhill

            Orients drawings/writing poorly on page

            Poor shape recognition/difficulty copying shapes

            Confuses similar words

            Failure to recognize same word in next sentence

            Poor visualization/spells words based on sounds only

            Poor comprehension/unable to describe what has been read

            May comprehend better when someone reads to them

            Difficulty with sports/poor motor skills

            Frustration with school work


Students who display similar symptoms in the classroom are probably suffering from vision deficits and should be evaluated by a Developmental Optometrist and receive intervention.  The activities found in  Eyes on Track: A Missing Link to Successful Learning can be beneficial to those families who don’t have the financial means to access Vision Therapy and/or Occupational Therapy with a Sensory Integration focus. 

Parents Active for Vision Education (P.A.V.E.) have an excellent website to inform and guide parents (and teachers) on the relationship between vision and achievement.   

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