Did you know that there are six muscles attached to each eye? And that these muscles control the movement of the eye? Often students who have reading problems struggle to read because these muscles are weak or not working correctly. Too often when this happens, parents and teachers think the student is struggling to read, but really the student is struggling with a physical problem that is affecting reading.
These students might see with double vision or have words that jumble together. They are often seen rubbing their eyes or have red eyes that water a lot. And by the end of a school day, these students are fatigued! Extra reading doesn’t serve to help these students. Can you imagine that you just ran a marathon and then had to run home as well? Certainly your muscles would be fatigued, and it would only cramp the muscles, injure them, and make them less efficient.
Visual training is a way of strengthening eye muscles in a multitude of ways. One of them is a quick, easy method to help strengthen eye muscles and can be done at home in only about five minutes. What’s great about this exercise is that the more you do it, the stronger the student’s eye muscles become, and in return, the student is able to focus and read more efficiently. This exercise alone won’t cure a reading disorder, but it certainly helps fill in one of the missing components of reading and academic success.
You will need a jumbo stick or a pencil. Put a sticker on it or place a coloured dot on it. You will also need an eye patch. These can be purchased at pharmacies. If you can’t get an eye patch, a large wooden spoon will work.
Patch one of the student’s eyes, or have him/her cover it with the wooden spoon. Take the jumbo stick and hold it about 30cm from the student’s unpatched eye. Slowly move the jumbo stick in smooth motions such as circles, lazy eights, back and forth, diagonals, or zig-zag movements. Tell the student to follow the moving target with his/her eye. Watch the student’s eye. Is it moving smoothly or is it jumping and jerking? If it is not moving smoothly, chances are that the student’s eye muscles are weak.
After about fifteen to twenty movements (depending on how well your student can follow the target), have the student patch the other eye. Then repeat the process with the other eye.
That’s it. With consistency, those eye muscles strengthen and are soon able to track across a page since they are able to move correctly.
At Sandra Stark Optometrists we have visual therapy manuals that cover an extensive amount of visual skills training. Please ask our friendly staff about our visual therapy manuals. They are available in Afrikaans & English.