Eye tracking, or Oculomotor skills, is the ability to track a moving target or switch fixation from one target to another. This skill permits easy shifting of the eyes along the line of print in a book, a rapid and accurate return to the next line, and quick and accurate shifts from one distance to another, such as between desk and chalkboard.
Accurate oculomotor control is important for beginning reading. Phonic analysis requires careful viewing to properly match the sound to the letter and precise oculomotor control is needed to accomplish accurate decoding when learning to read. Oculomotor control is also related to attention. A dominant characteristic of children who fail to learn to read in the early grades is the inability to sustain attention. Often the major complaint reported by the classroom teacher is distractibility when faced with visually demanding tasks. Reading comprehension can be adversely affected by poor oculomotor skills.
Symptoms associated with oculomotor deficiencies include:
- Loss of place
- Omitting words when reading
- Skipping or repeating lines
- Errors when copying from a book or from the board
Oculomotor difficulty attributes to “careless” errors such as miscopying, shifting over one number when adding columns, or misplacing answers on Scantron or bubbled marked tests. Compensations that a child may use include reading with finger pointing, reduced reading speed to a word-by-word rate to avoid errors, and head movement when reading.