As you read text on a page, your eyes focus on a word or group of words and then jump to the right to view the next word or group of words. Each jump is called a saccade.
This saccade movement is probably the most complex and delicate muscle movement that the body does and we find around 25% of the children on Easyread have some level of difficulty with it.
If your child can read single words well but really struggles with lines of text, it is a good indication of some eyetracking difficulty.
At the back of the brain is a region of cortex called the Cerebellum. It is about the size of two small tangerines, but has half the neurons in the entire brain.
It is a very critical part of the brain because it acts like a filter and moderator of sensory inputs and motor neuron outputs. All our senses are pouring information into the brain all the time and the cerebellum helps decide what gets priority treatment and what doesn't.
We have the obvious five senses, but a sixth sense is that of our own body. The very fastest neurones in the body are feeding back information on the position and tension within each muscle.
The brain works on what is effectively fuzzy logic. It compiles thousands of sensory nerve inputs to decide on what actual sense you are conscious of. And in the same way, it is sending thousands of nerve signals to muscles in order to get just the adjustment that you want.
In the latter process there is motor neuron cortex in the top middle of your cerebral cortex that indicates the muscles to be activated, but the cerebellum moderates that in a way that is not understood, to get the precise control we are hopefully familiar with.
For the movement of the six extra-occular eye muscles, there is an area called the flocculus in the cerebellum that achieves this.
If you ask someone to look for something around a room, you will see that their eyes do not scan smoothly, but jump from spot to spot. The flocculus is helping to control that process. If it is not working well, then scanning text is hard.
The Solution To Eyetracking Difficulties
Most of us don't need to perform like top flight sportsmen, but we do need a cerebellum functioning reasonably well. And that is easy to achieve by exercising it.
So, if your child displays the symptoms of this problem there are three things to do.
First, check that your child is getting the right vitamins, minerals and oils. I do not take supplements as a general habit, but we regularly give our children Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils. You can see an almost instant impact.
Second, get a good osteopath to check your child for any imbalances and tensions in the body.
Finally, get your child to do simple exercises to exercise the cerebellum. Here are some examples:
- Stand on one foot, while throwing a ball from hand to hand.
- Stand on one foot and raise your arms to the ceiling and look up, then drop them down again.
- Sit on a chair, keep your head still and then move a pencil to and fro in front of you while following it steadily with your eyes
The last one in particular will help your child's eye control for reading.
We have found that the key is to do the exercises for just 60-90 seconds in each session, but 5-10 times a day. If you are not working the neurons regularly it will be very hard to see any improvement.