Whether you’re studying for your degree, examining lines of code, or combing through legal documents, your performance depends on eye movement. Most people don’t realize they can improve how accurately their eyes move.
Fundamentals of Reading
As you are reading this, your brain is using your vision to calculate where the next word is, and then coordinate your eyes to make a movement to that word. These quick eye movements are called saccades. Your eyes not only need to land on the right spot, they need to do it together. This needs to happen over and over, and be automated so that you don’t need to ‘try to read’. Instead you can focus on retaining what you’re reading.
Eye-tracking problems when reading can be broken down into two areas: accuracy and efficiency.
When your eyes make the jumping movement from word to word, called a saccade, things can go wrong if they do not hit their target accurately. Common symptoms include things like:
- Skipping lines and losing your place (when reading and in spreadsheets)
- Skipping/omitting small words
- Making translational errors (copying wrong)
- Mixing up the order of digits when copying.
Most people would think of this as a problem with the muscle, but it can also be a problem with where you ‘think’ the next word is. After all, if you give the wrong instructions for where to move, it doesn’t matter how accurately your eyes follow it.
If accuracy is about the eyes landing on the target, efficiency is about how much energy it takes. Problems with how efficiently your eyes move and work together can mean that your brain has to work overtime when reading. Most people who struggle with this are not aware it is due to their vision. Common symptoms include things like:
- Losing focus when reading
- Headaches/migraines from reading
- Symptoms of ADD/ADHD,
- Zoning out when reading
- Frequently having to re-read material.
Problems with reading efficiency are caused by the eyes not working together (binocularity), or not focusing accurately (accommodation). This can create a situation where your brain is working overtime to keep re-adjusting your eyes while you are reading.
The first step is an in-depth examination to determine if your vision is part of the problem. This should involve testing how the eyes track, focus and work together. The exam needs to look at accuracy as well as efficiency. For example, view the images of the two eye movement recordings here.
Notice on this image that her eyes do not work well together (make movements in separate directions).
In this image you can see the two eyes working much better.
Her reading speed improved over 60wpm and her comprehension went from 50% to 90%.
In order to improve your reading speed and comprehension abilities, there are several avenues of treatment. The best results often come from a combination of approaches.
Ergoptics ™(Therapeutic Glasses)
Specialized glasses prescriptions can be used that help your brain improve the accuracy and efficiency of eye movements. Most ‘reading glasses’ are prescribed just for clarity, but Ergoptics ™ prescriptions take into account how your process your vision to opto-mize your performance.
Vision therapy is about re-calibrating how your eyes and brain work together. Specific activities and exercises are used to improve your eye tracking, movements, and visual perception. The downside of vision therapy is that it takes time, energy and dedication. The upside is that it will provide lasting and dramatic results in one of the most important areas of your life.