Focusing on the Eyes: Visual Skills Can Be Developed

Focusing on The EyesI read an article recently, which stated that vision is learned.  Being a mom of two, I knew that children develop their vision as they grow but I did not know that we can help develop and improve their visual skills.  Three essential skills that are important for children are eye focusing, eye calibration and eye tracking.  Students can practice these skills to improve overall vision skills.

Eye Focusing is the skill of being able to look at something that is near and then quickly and accurately switching to something that is far away.  Immediately I think of students referencing something on the board, or overhead with their notebook.  This skill can be practiced simply with a pencil and a calendar on the wall.  Standing about 10 feet away, have the students hold a pencil about a foot away from their eyes.  The students are to switch their focus between the pencil and the calendar.  Instruct students to not switch to the other item until the one they were looking at initially is in focus.   Repeat 10 times.

Eye Calibration is the ability to move the eyes inwards in order to focus on a very near object.  This mimics the same movement of the eyes when reading.  If students do not have this skill developed, then they will tire quickly after doing “close” work (reading a book, measuring, worksheets,  word searches are some examples).  To practice this skill all you need is a pencil and a partner.  Hold the pencil vertically about 16 inches away from the nose.   Have students focus on the eraser of the pencil and move the pencil slowly closer.  The partner is to watch the eyes and see when one of the eyes turns in or out.  Have the student note at what distance that is.  Then slowly move the pencil out/away from the nose.  The eyes are to both be staring at the pencil eventually.  When this occurs the partner is to note the distance.  Note that a student with normal eye calibration would be able to keep both eyes focused on the pencil until about 3 inches away from the bridge of the nose and can regain both eyes on the pencil at about 4 inches.  Repeat 5 times.

Eye Tracking is the skill that allows students to read sentences without losing their place or reversing the order of letters.  Furthermore, this skill is part of hand and eye co-ordination (playing sports).  Eye tracking allows students to follow a moving target smoothly.  If they do not have this skill developed, then students could have jerky eye movements, overshoot or undershoot targets or lastly could move their head side to side when reading instead of using their eyes.  Using a string and ball (and a partner) can develop this skill.  Attach the ball to the string and put a sticker on it so the student can focus on the item.  Three different activities can be done:

1) Swing the ball back and forth and have the student follow;

2) The partner is to swing the ball side to side.  The student should follow the ball without moving his/her head;

3) Have one student lie on the floor (on their back).  Have the partner swing the ball in a large circular motion.  The student on the floor is to follow the ball circulating until it comes to a complete stop.  Again, instruct students to follow with their eyes and not their head.

I hope this helps students and you recognize that their vision skills are essential and need to be practiced.

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