Are you worried about how your child or pupil’s will do in the SATs reading test on Monday? Are you worried they won’t read it carefully, or won’t finish on time?
SATs is the only formal way we test reading at the end of primary, yet it only tests reading comprehension, not reading age nor reading speed.
In order to read efficiently and effectively you need to be able to converge (focus) both eyes on the same letter, track your eyes smoothly across the page, and jump your eyes down to the next line (saccades). Many, many struggling readers or dyslexics don’t have these vision skills, and that is one reason why they can’t read fluently.
Convergence Insufficiency is very common, but it is not properly checked for in either the reception eye test or a routine optician’s appointment. Engaging Eyes was created by me in my quest to teach my daughter, who had been labelled as severely dyslexic, to read. Along my journey I took her to a specialist optometrist and found out that she had convergence insufficiency. I remember vividly she was asked to read the letters on the eye chart on the wall opposite, which she could do. Then she was given an eye chart in a book and asked to hold the book and read them – and she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t see properly at reading distance! And yet nobody had picked up on this. Not me, not her teachers, not her SENCO, and not her optician.
I found out that it’s very easy to treat convergence insufficiency – you just need to practice converging your eyes. A year later Engaging Eyes was born. It’s a series of online vision training games, which help convergence, saccades and eye tracking. Convergence insufficiency is a spectrum condition. In the most extreme cases, like my daughter, it’ll prevent you from learning to read at all, but in more mild cases, like my sons, it’ll just make reading sore and uncomfortable, particularly if you try to read for a long time, and make spelling, copying from the board and catching a ball hard. It may also mean watching a 3D movie makes you dizzy or nauseous.
Some children with convergence problems will report the letters move, or are blurry, or they get double vision. They may say they get sore eyes when they read. But being children, and knowing no better, it’s very likely they won’t report these problems – because they don’t know that reading isn’t meant to be like that.
Another sure fire symptom of convergence problems is coloured overlays, rulers or glasses helping.
Spelling requires even more demands on your vision than reading. Because in order to read it is enough to see the shape of the word, but in order to remember how to spell it, to know the word looks right when you’ve written it, you need to see every single letter.
Eye tracking problems are easier to spot. It causes you to miss small words or skips lines when reading. But before you can correct eye tracking problems, you first need to correct convergence. You need both eyes working together before you can master the skill of moving them together across the page.
Reversing letters and words can also be caused by convergence problems. The effort required to converge your eyes can make your eyes wobble when you read. Well – if your eyes constantly wobble back and forth, a ‘b’ would look exactly like a ‘d’.
Engaging Eyes is a series of online games which strengthen and improve convergence, saccades and eye tracking. It takes 10 minutes and should be played every school day. It is suitable to be played without supervision from Y2 up (including teenagers and adults), and with 1:1 support can be played even younger.
It takes over six months to complete all the vision training games, but normally you’d notice improvements within six weeks.
Teachers, if you’re looking for an intervention to help your struggling readers please email me (email@example.com) to trial Engaging Eyes with your pupils. It contains a built in check of their convergence, so you can assess all your struggling readers and find out which ones would benefit the most from this intervention.
Schools that are currently using it are getting very good improvements in both reading levels and reading speed. Here’s what a primary school in Manchester wrote to me:
After playing Engaging Eyes daily for 3 months, 2 of our Year 6 pupils had improved their Reading level dramatically from 3c to 4c (based on SATs Reading papers). Another Y6 moved from 2b to 3c. All students’ reading speed increased between 19-23%.
The Year 6 teacher also remarked that the pupils’ concentration, confidence and motivation was much improved and having a positive impact on all subjects.
Some children’s reading speed more than doubles in six weeks, but the average reading speed improvement in six weeks is 20%.
Playing Engaging Eyes is one way to screen for convergence problems. Parents, if these symptoms resonate with you and you want to help your child, you can buy directly from Engaging Eyes. If your child doesn’t have convergence problems, then we’ll happily give you a refund.