Understanding Eye Tracking & how it relates to reading

Understanding Eye Tracking – part 3


Demonstration :
Stand in a room and look at a shelf with objects sitting on it so that the shelf is level with your eyes. Look at an object on the left hand side and another object on the right hand side of the shelf and decide whether the objects are above or below. Next tilt your head at an angle of about 45 degrees to the right hand side.


Now decide if the object on the right hand side of the shelf is above or below. Next decide if the object on the left hand side of the shelf is above or below. Carry out exactly the same procedure only this time tilt your head to the left hand side. Decide if there is the same degree of confusion tilting your head either way.


For most people there will be a slight perceptual difference in the degree of confusion as the dominant eye should be the eye that calibrates above and below.


Why does my child have difficulty copying a list of words accurately from the blackboard into his exercise book?
Children who experience vertical confusion will find it more difficult to copy a list of words from the blackboard into his exercise book. Imagine a child taking down the following list of words:


  • Dog
  • Cat
  • Camel
  • Elephant
  • Tiger
  • Hippopotamus



The child may write the first two words accurately but then write camel as catel, elephant as elemhant or tiger as tiher. This causes great confusion for parents and teachers, as they cannot understand where the student discovered the t sound in camel, the m sound in elephant or the h sound in tiger.


You can imagine that if you had a rifle with a telescopic sight then it would be a relatively easy task to line up the cross wires on the target and shoot accurately. However, if you were told that the horizontal cross wire was slightly wrong, and you observed that the rifle always shot above the target, you would compensate by putting the horizontal cross wire slightly below the target before firing. You would have a major problem trying to hit the target if, each time you were to take aim, the horizontal cross wire changed position. This is what happens to someone who has vertical confusion. This is why, when they copy down the words, they place inappropriate letters from the words above or below into the word they are writing.


In the above case the child has taken the t from cat and put it into camel and the m from the word camel and placed it in the middle of elephant. Similarly the h from elephant has been put into tiger.


Many children find a solution for vertical confusion by copying down the first one or two words then looking down at the words they have written, (in this case cat) and looking for it on the blackboard and then copying down the word below it, (in this case camel) and so on. This is an aid, but it is not a solution to the problem for two reasons. Firstly, this solution is very time-consuming and the child will take longer to take the material down from the board. As a result the child will feel very conscious of being slower than the rest of the class. Secondly, to overcome this feeling of failure, the child will tend to rush when writing down the list and will become careless, which also has negative results.


The solution to the problems caused by confusion between left and right (horizontal confusion) and between up and down (vertical confusion) is to develop in the student a well-defined sense of his vertical midline and his horizontal midline in relation to his surroundings. This is a contributory method by which eye-tracking problems suffered by so many students with dyslexia may be dealt with.


What does it feel like to have an eye-tracking problem when reading?
There are many different types of eye-tracking problems but to experience what it is like to read with an eye-tracking problem carry out the following demonstration.


Demonstration :
Take an ordinary paperback book and start reading it as normal. After the first paragraph, move the book from side to side slowly, about an inch at a time, and continue reading for two or three paragraphs keeping the movement going. That is what it feels like if you have horizontal confusion.


Next, continue reading without moving the book for one paragraph and then start to move the book up and down slowly, about an inch at a time, and read for a further two or three paragraphs. This is what it is like to have vertical confusion.


Finally, read a paragraph normally and then, this time, move the book from side to side and up and down. Keep alternating these movements for the next three paragraphs. This is what it feels like to have horizontal and vertical confusion.


It is not easy to read for a long period of time without experiencing eyestrain if you have an eye-tracking problem. In severecases the child may feel queasy in the tummy and complain that he feels sick when reading. If you look again at the list of signs of eye-tracking problems at the beginning of this chapter, you will now be much more aware of the reasons whysuch problems occur.


Why does my child lose concentration after reading for a period of time?
If you have carried out the above demonstration successfully, you will be able to sympathise with a child who has an eye-tracking problem. Moving the book from side to side, or up and down, or both does cause eyestrain. When a child is reading and suffering from such eyestrain, he will inevitably look up from the book and look around the room at distant objects to relieve the strain. A parent or teacher may interpret such behaviour as losing concentration, whereas in fact the child is merely relieving eyestrain.


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