This app has been written in conjunction with pediatric occupational therapists who work in schools and clinics with children who often struggle with reading. One of their main difficulties is seen during reading or when they have to answer questions based on a passage they have read. It has been found that because they struggle with tracking they are unable to answer the questions or complete the task without fatigue to their eyes.
Tracking skills, or the ability to control the fine eye movements required to follow a line of print, are really important in reading. Children with tracking problems will often lose their place, skip or transpose words, and have difficulty understanding because of struggling to move their eyes accurately. Many are forced to use their fingers to follow the line because their eyes can’t.
When we read, our eyes don’t move smoothly across the line. Instead, our eyes make a series of jumps and pauses as we read. The small jumps between words or groups of words are called saccades. The brief pause we make while looking at the words is called a fixation. After a fixation, we move our eyes to the next word or group of words—another saccade.
This very precise coordination of jumps and pauses is controlled by our central and peripheral visual systems. Our central vision processes what we’re seeing in clear detail and defines what we’re looking at. Our peripheral, or side vision, simultaneously locates surrounding objects and let’s us know where to look.
In reading, our central vision processes the word, while our side vision locates the following word and tells us where to aim our eyes next. The integration of these two systems allows us to efficiently move our eyes along a line of print without overshooting or undershooting, or mistakenly aiming our eyes at lines above or below. If there is not fluid integration between these two systems, reading will be jerky, loss of place will be common, and comprehension will be poor.
Children with tracking problems can’t control their eye movements at close ranges.