An eye doctor tests a child’s eyesight with the Landolt C eye chart Hero

Eye Tracking and Its Importance For Keeping Reading On Track

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It may be a surprise if your child struggles with vision despite wearing glasses. Many patients assume that reading troubles are a learning difficulty, like a short attention span or ADHD, but vision problems can be closely related to academic performance. Your eye doctor can identify these issues during a functional vision exam and recommend a treatment plan for your child’s needs. 

Eye-tracking and other visual skills are important for your child’s daily life, especially school, as they frequently read, write, and complete other vision-related tasks. 

Vision Can Significantly Impact Your Child’s Learning 

Vision is more than how well your child can see—they use many visual skills daily, especially in the classroom. Effective vision is crucial for your child as it enables them to maintain eye contact, read books, and see what’s on the board at school.

Eyes must act as a team to work at their best, focusing, organizing images and letters, and following a target, such as a thrown ball in gym class or words on a page. The ability to follow along with a target is known as eye tracking, and it’s essential for helping your child read effectively. 

What Is Eye Tracking? 

Your eyes must work together as a team to see effectively, and eye-tracking, also known as ocular motility, is an essential visual skill. 

Eye-tracking is your eyes’ ability to stay in sync to follow moving objects and read word for word without losing place. The eyes should be able to smoothly read books line for line or quickly jump between images or words. Your child may struggle in school if their eyes do not track properly, leading to poor academic performance

Vision problems may seem like a trivial issue, but they can affect learning, self-esteem, and social interactions

What Happens When Your Child Has an Eye Tracking Issue?

According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, an eye-tracking issue is the inability to smoothly and accurately move the eyes from one point to another. A vision problem in your child can lead to a potential misdiagnosis of ADHD—a child with a vision problem can be 3 times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis. 

Some possible symptoms of an eye-tracking issue include:

  • Moving their head excessively when reading
  • Losing their place on a page when reading
  • Skipping lines
  • Using their finger not to lose their place
  • Struggling with reading comprehension
  • Having a short attention span

Vision problems can affect your child’s reading and overall learning, but they don’t need to experience these issues forever. Treatment is available to help strengthen your child’s visual skills. 

Vision Therapy Can Help

Vision therapy is a way to re-train the communication between your eyes and your brain that improve visual skills.  As they progress in treatment, the procedures get more difficult until one eventually reach their desired results. 

Vision therapy typically has 3 distinct goals: 

  • Improve visual comfort and effectiveness
  • Support the improvement of visual skills
  • Alter how a patient takes in and processes visual information 

Before beginning treatment, your eye doctor will assess your child’s vision to diagnose the problems affecting their vision. 

Your eye doctor will test several visual skills to identify any problems your child may have, including: 

  • Binocular vision: The eyes’ ability to simultaneously see the same target to create a single image. 
  • Accommodation: The ability for both eyes to focus and see clearly at close distances. 
  • Orientation: The ability to recognize your surroundings and establish yourself within that space. 
  • Ocular motility: The eyes’ ability to stay in sync to follow moving objects and read word for word without losing place
  • Visual perception: The ability to process the visual information you see. 

How Long Does Vision Therapy Take? 

Many patients ask a common question: how does vision therapy take? The answer is that every patient is unique. Your child may only need a few weeks to correct their vision problem, while another patient may need months of treatment. 

Your eye doctor will recommend a treatment plan and schedule after examining your child’s eyes. You and your doctor will work together to establish goals for your child’s vision and work towards them. 

A child sitting in an optometrist office looking into a machine that tests his vision

Benefit Your Child’s Reading & Education 

Eye-tracking is essential for helping your child read and not lose their place or become frustrated during school. However, it’s only one aspect of their vision. Vision is much more than seeing clearly—your child may struggle with visual skills, but treatment can help. Contact Belle Vue Specialty Eye Care if your child shows signs of an eye-tracking problem.

Written by Megan Lott

Dr. Megan Sumrall Lott is a functional optometrist who practices in Hattiesburg, MS. She is a 2006 graduate of Southern College of Optometry. She began practicing optometry by providing primary eyecare at Lexington Eye Care in Lexington, MS. After providing vision therapy to her 9 month old son to correct an eye turn, Dr. Lott realized she had found her passion in functional optometry.
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