Although 20/20 clarity is important, it's not enough. You see, the visual system is made up of the eyes and the brain — and it’s how these two parts work together that makes all the difference. When your eyes and brain don’t communicate with each other properly, you may experience decreased reading comprehension, disorientation, lack of focus, and decreased cognitive abilities.
Strong visual skills are essential for learning and performing well in school and in sports. These include:
- Fixation: The ability to fixate or hold your gaze on a target for an extended period.
- Pursuit: The ability to follow a moving target as you would follow a tennis ball.
- Saccade: The ability to rapidly shift focus between targets, such as moving from word to word while reading.
- Accommodation: The ability to shift focus between distant to near objects (and vice versa), such as looking at the board and then writing notes in your notebook.
- Binocularity: Using both eyes simultaneously.
If any of the above vision skills are deficient, your child may have difficulty paying attention, experience fatigue, exhibit behavioral problems, rub their eyes while reading, or use their finger to follow each word in a text. Furthermore, your child may appear to be performing well below their potential, and their writing may be messy despite having good fine motor skills. If your child has been diagnosed with reduced visual skills, why not continue to develop these skills at home? There are several activities that parents and caretakers can do during this time to help kids improve their vision.
At-Home Vision Exercises
Below are some ways you can help kids develop healthy vision from the comfort of their home.
Reading, Mazes, Puzzles and Writing — tracking
Visual tracking is made up of two skills: moving your eyes between targets (also called "saccades"), and following moving targets (called "pursuits"). We all make use of these basic skills every time we read, write, draw, drive, or do sports. Problems with tracking are manifested when we frequently lose our place while reading, or skim over words without processing them. Increasing the amount of time your child assembles puzzles, draws, and reads will improve their visual tracking.
Focusing on Static Targets — focus and depth perception
Focusing problems refer to the inability to sustain focus on a single point, or to easily switch between two targets (near and far, for example). One exercise is to hold a crayon or pen in front of your child and have them focus on it. Slowly move the pen closer to their eyes, and then away again. This develops focus and depth perception.
Alphabet Ball — fixation, binocularity, pursuits
With a permanent marker, draw letters, animals or colors on a ball or balloon. As you roll or toss the ball/balloon, ask your child to call out the last thing they noticed before catching it.
Near-Far Tasks — accommodation
Children are often required to alternate between near and far objects, such as when looking at their notebook and then at the blackboard, and back again. Have your child sit at a table and draw the shapes you have sketched on a piece of paper and hung on a nearby wall. The motion of looking from a near point to far point will help improve accommodation skills.
Pencil Movement — fixation
Ask your child to find a colored crayon they plan to use for drawing. But before they begin drawing, slowly move it in figure 8’s — horizontal, vertical, and circular motions in front of them — while having them follow it with their eyes. Doing this 5 minutes a day is an excellent way to improve fixation.
From all of us at Thompson Family Optometry, we wish you and your family a safe and healthy few months ahead.
Thompson Family Optometry serves patients from Brampton, Milton, Mississauga, Etobicoke, and throughout Ontario.