Oculomotor Dysfunction is an eye problem in which people have difficulty shifting their eyes from one point to another or difficulty following a moving object effectively. These oculomotor skills are necessary for peak academic and athletic performance.
Some symptoms of oculomotor dysfunction include:
1. Moving your head excessively when reading
2. Having difficulty with paying attention
3. Losing your place or skipping lines when reading
4. Poor reading comprehension
5. Reading very slowly
6. Performing inconsistently in sports
7. Having difficulty with balance and depth perception
8. Getting distracted when performing visual tasks
Six muscles around the eye work together to control eye movements. Oculomotor Dysfunction can be caused by slow or faulty development of muscle control, a central nervous disease or acquired/traumatic brain injury. This can easily be diagnosed during an eye exam.
By 2 months of age, a child should be able to follow a moving object. However, control over these eye movements develop over time. By 6 years of age, a child is expected to track objects without moving their body. Around 7 to 8 years of age, a child should develop smooth and efficient eye movements, without body movement.
When oculomotor skills are not at their peak, a Behavioral or Developmental Optometrist can tailor a treatment plan for improving those skills. A program of strengthening and coordinating activities is prescribed in Vision Therapy. The duration of the treatment depends on the patient’s condition.
Left untreated, oculomotor issues rarely resolve. Optometric Vision Therapy can help to develop accurate and effective tracking and teaming skills.
People of all ages can improve visual skills by developing new neural connections. That phenomenon is called neuroplasticity.
Vision Therapy can sharpen the following oculomotor skills:
- Fixations – the visual ability to aim and maintain position on a target for at least 10 seconds. This is important for reading and locating objects.
- Pursuits – the visual ability to maintain gaze and accurately follow an object. This is essential for reading and sports.
- Saccades – the visual ability to jump from one object to another. This is necessary for tracking and copying information.
- Convergence and Divergence – the visual ability to move inward and outward in order to focus near and far. These skills are crucial for working at near (reading from a book) and copying from the blackboard.
Oculomotor skills are the foundation of visual skills. They must be efficient and accurate. If we are unable to move our eyes simultaneously with a moving object (without moving our bodies), it will be difficult to track that object. A Vision Therapy program prescribed by a Developmental or Behavioral Optometrist can treat oculomotor dysfunction.