“Eye movement is a predictor of academic success”. This month marks the 10 year anniversary when the Harvard University Graduate School of Education made this announcement. The research clearly shows that there is important association between effective eye movement control and academic success.

Ever since this breaking news a decade ago, further evidence of the association between eye movement and academic success continues to be recognized. For example, in Volume 27 Issue 8 of the Journal of Brain Development in 2005 the titled research is, the Voluntary Control of Saccadic and Smooth-Pursuit Eye Movement in Children with Learning Disorders.

While the testing of eye movement is relatively easy, the clinical presentation of poor eye movement control can often be missed and misunderstood. For example the testing of smooth-pursuit  eye movement control can be easily performed with a bead on a stick or the tip of a pencil or pen. The examiner simply asks the child to look at the target (held about 10 inches from the nose) and follow it with their eyes as the target is slowly moved horizontally, vertically (on the midline) and in a rotation. The child should be able watch the moving target with minimal head movement. Furthermore, the child who is years and older, should be able to “visually track” the target with a minimal amount of distraction such as asking simple questions (cognitive loading).

With the advent of web-based professional networking sites, like Sovoto, a platform now exists to help doctors and other professionals who work with children to see an example of a child with oculomotor dysfunction. To see an example of a child with oculomotor difficulty that was associated with his reading difficulty click here.

The American Optometric Association has published the symptoms of eye movement disorders in the Optometric Clinical Practice Guideline (CPG) Care of the Patient with Learning Related Vision Problems. They are:

  • Moving head excessively when reading
  • Skipping lines when reading
  • Omitting words and transposing when reading
  • Losing place easily when reading
  • Requiring a finger or marker to keep place when reading
  • Experiencing confusion on return sweep phase when reading
  • Experiencing illusionary text movement
  • Having deficient ball playing skills

More importantly, once identified, the child who is diagnosed with a problem in eye movement, such as smooth-pursuits, can be treated with vision therapy. Specifically office-based optometric vision therapy provided by a vision therapist (supervised by the doctor), can effectively treat disorders of voluntary eye movement. The results can often be a dramatic improvement in the child’s reading efficiency.

To see the same patient after 24 sessions of office-based vision therapy click here. His reading efficiency and fluency has improved and he is enjoying reading!

To learn more about optometric vision therapy  and find a doctor who provides office-based vision therapy visit the COVD website at www.covd.org

Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D.,FCOVD

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