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Is your child skipping words or lines of text? Find out why and how to help

by Laura Gordon || 11 Sept 2018

If you get an eye test for your child and there are no issues, then vision is not contributing to your child’s reading difficulties… right?

The answer is a bit more complex than simply “yes or no”. Eyesight is not actually the only measure of visual difficulty. Even children with 20/20 vision can have what optometrists refer to as poor binocular vision. This happens when the two eyes do not team together very well, making tracking a moving object feel hard. It also translates to real discomfort when trying to read.

That is because when we read a paragraph, our eyes should move smoothly across the page, from left-to-right, to read each word in a line. Then, we need our eyes to slide back to the beginning of the next line accurately, without skipping a line or word. When a child’s eye muscles do not converge and track together easily, those fine motor visual movements become more uncomfortable.

At Easyread, we find that about 30% struggle with some visual function issues like poor tracking and convergence. The good news is: it CAN be fixed, and usually quite quickly.

Is It an Eye Tracking Weakness?

Look for the following signs:

1. Avoiding Small Print. If you find that your child reads less accurately when a book has small font, that is a key indicator. Increasing the text size should help — and you can test that.

2. Increased Frustration at the End of the Day. Poor eye tracking is magnified by general fatigue. You may see that your child finds reading more difficult at the end of the day when their eyes are already tired.

3. Skipping Words and Lines of Text. Are you seeing skipping of words or even an entire line of text? This is a telltale sign of weak tracking.

4. Inability to Follow your Finger. In more severe cases you will se your child struggling to follow your finger when you move it from left to right in front of them. You might see the child moving their head or the eyes might jump while trying to follow.

If you find your child displays these symptoms, we have a simple, free exercise that will help.

Our Simple Exercise to Fix It

The solution that we find works best and fastest is a simple exercise routine. We have used it over that last decade and found that in just 10 days, it can really change how your child reads.

There is a key secret element, however, that we strongly recommend you follow, and that is to do the exercises “little and often”. We prescribe 6 to 10 very short bursts of exercise every day for ten days. The more faithfully a child completes their exercises, the faster you will see results.

The Exercise

Here is what you do:

1. Ask the child to stand or sit with one arm out in front of them. Ask her point a finger to the ceiling.

2. Tell her to focus on the nail of her finger very carefully… you might even call this “laser eyes”!

3. Tell her to move her finger slowly around in an 18 inch horizontal circle – like she is painting a cricle on the ceiling. She should make 10 circles. Make sure she KEEPS HER HEAD STILL throughout the exercise!

4. Repeat the 10 circles session 6-10 times a day for seven days. If doing ten circles is too difficult at first, start with two and work your way up to ten. If doing ten exercises is too difficult on a busy day, try to aim for six exercises, which is the minimum at which you can see improvement.

Check out our video online to see how the exercise works.

Remembering the Daily Exercises

The hardest part of the routine is simply remembering to do it! Here are some top tips:

1. Set a Timer. Set alarms for the 10 times a day you plan to do the exercise, on your phone.

2. Use a Chart. Try our helpful eye-tracking chart and use a sticker or tickmark for each completion!

3. Connect the Exercises with Daily Routines. Try to do an exercise during the following daily routines:

  • While brushing teeth
  • In the car
  • After getting home from school
  • Before snacks
  • Before watching television
  • After dinner
  • Before bedtime

Over time, the eye tracking will improve, and you will see positive knock-on effects with the reading. The key is to be consistent and committed to finishing the 6-10 day routine. We promise it will help!

After the initial hard push for 10 days, you can maintain 3-4 sessions per day over the following 3-6 months to keep the eye muscles strong.

Laura Gordon was a lecturer in English literature at the University of Maryland and editor for Public Health. She is a mother of two children and is now an Easyread System Manager for David Morgan Education, supporting children and their parents on the journey to confident reading and writing.