Many types of vision skills are needed for a child to read. Obviously, the basic requirement is the ability to see clearly. This is what we call perfect vision. Some children have defective eye movements and these come in the way of reading, writing and doing many other activities. The issues that cause difficulty in reading and writing are briefly discussed below. It is worth noting that people with perfect vision can also have these issues.
This is the ability to focus on a word. The inability to do so, affects reading. Words may appear to vibrate, dance, jump, float or bounce if the eyes cannot focus on a word.
To read smoothly, the eyes should move rapidly to the next word. This rapid movement of the eyes is called saccades. While focusing on the word that is being read, the eyes have already targetted the next word through peripheral or side vision. A smooth pairing of fixation and saccades is required for reading and comprehension. If this does not happen, the reading becomes laboured and slow. It takes a long time to copy from a board or to complete the homework.
- Convergence insufficiency disorder:
To read and write, we need binocular (two-eyed) vision. When we read, we pull our eyes inwards towards the nose so that both the eyes can converge at the same time on a word. Both our eyes should work together and this is called eye teaming. In some children, the eyes pull outwards instead of inwards and their eyes cannot converge on the word. This condition is called convergence insufficiency disorder. In some cases, this results in double vision - seeing double images instead of one. Many children with convergence insufficiency disorder close one eye while reading.
How does the brain cope with convergence insufficiency disorder? Even though both eyes are good, the brain refuses to receive signals from one eye. This is called suppression. A child with vision suppression loses binocular vision and she has difficulty in judging distances and depth, playing games and catching ball, maintaining eye contact etc.
For fluent reading proper eye movements are required. The eyes should track the words by jumping accurately from one word to another. Good tracking skills are required to read words in a line and go to the next line. Readers with poor tracking skills often lose the place (their eyes do not move from one word to the next), skip words, read words which are not in the text, skips lines, use fingers to track words and move their head to track words. They have poor eye-hand coordination and have difficulty in copying from the board. Accurate eye movements are needed to track moving objects and children with poor tracking skills find it difficult to play games and catch balls.
What are the symptoms of poor processing skills?
Some of the symptoms are listed below:
- blurred vision
- double vision
- excessive head movements
- covers one eye
- rubs eyes frequently
- can read only for a short time
- reverse letters/ words
- skips words/lines
- poor visual memory
- poor comprehension
- avoids reading
- words move or jump
- difficulty in copying
- slow in completing tasks
- difficulty in sports
- poor depth perception
What is the remedy?
Take the help of an optometrist or an orthoptist. There are many eye exercises to overcome these issues. Follow the exercises prescribed.
Suggested reading: Developing Ocular Motor and Visual Perceptual Skills- An Activity Workbook by Kenneth A. Lane.
- Irlen Syndrome:
It is the inability to read fluently when there is too much light . Some children have difficulty in reading text printed in black on a white paper. The words appear to move and the vision is blurred. Those with Irlen syndrome read word by word and have difficulty in focusing.
Using colour overlays is suggested. Many find blue overlays useful. Thin transparent plastic material used as covers in spiral binding can be used. This material comes in several colours and by experimenting, a suitable colour can be selected.
In many activities in this website, an option is given to view the activities in different shades.