First, please make sure each student has had an eye exam to ensure there is no problem with vision.
There are three elements to vision: 1) the vision system receives visual sensory inputs (the optical system), 2) the sensory inputs get into the brain and are directed to the proper part of the brain for processing, and 3) the brain quickly and accurately processes the sensory inputs to make sense of them.
If vision is blurry, that likely is the optical system and must be addressed by an eye doctor. However, reading difficulties can also be caused because the sensory information is not getting into the brain properly or the brain is not processing the information quickly and accurately. The assessments below can help to determine if visual processing skills may be an issue. Several of the assessments can also be used as exercises to strengthen visual processing skills.
There are three steps:
Step 1–Irlen Screening
10-12% of the population has Irlen Syndrome, which can make reading difficult. The light coming from the computer screen or bouncing off print on white paper overwhelms the visual processing system. It is similar in nature to driving into a sunrise or sunset and feeling overwhelmed by the bright light. This issue can make the letters move for some, or create headaches, or cause a reader to have difficulty focusing.
Screening for Irlen is fast, easy and free. If indeed a person has Irlen, usually a color overlay can lessen the issue. Please go to the Irlen page for more detailed information. (Irlen Project page)
Step 2–Evaluate fixation, tracking, saccades, and rapid automatic naming
Visit the Eye Can Learn website
This website has many free eye/vision development exercises.
We use one exercise in particular to test for fixation, tracking, saccades and rapid automatic naming. It only takes a few moments to evaluate if either of these visual processing elements is a potential issue. The same assessment can be used as an exercise to build these visual processing elements.
Go to http://eyecanlearn.com/tracking/saccades/, scroll down to the number saccades exercise.
Start with the slow speed and work up to the fast speed. Ask students to call out the numbers as they appear on the screen. This exercise also tests and trains Rapid Automatic Naming.
If a student struggles to do this, ask them to practice this exercise 5-10 minutes daily until it becomes easier for them.
Step 3–Evaluate Rapid Pattern Recognition and Visual Processing Speed
The alphabet is a series of symbols that represent sounds. The symbols or letters have to be learned and associated with the proper sounds of language. Each language has a unique set of letters and sounds that represent that language. In order to learn how to read proficiently, the brain has to learn how to quickly recognize each combination of letters that represent words and associate them with the proper sounds and meaning. This involves pattern recognition.
Identifying anything requires the brain to recognize patterns. Playing with blocks of different sizes, shapes and colors is actually teaching a child pattern recognition skills and is preparing their brain for reading.
If the brain was not trained sufficiently from womb to classroom in rapid pattern recognition, reading may be difficult or slow. The following link provides access to an exercise that can be used to assess and train pattern recognition.
Start with one number per group, which is the default setting. Identify and click on the pair of numbers in each row as quickly as possible. Practice until it can be done easily and quickly without thinking.
Click on the options button on the main page to set the format for letters and up to four characters per group. Keep practicing until the exercise can be done with at least three letters/numbers per group.