What Causes Tracking Problems When Reading?

Tracking Problems

A common presenting complaint to our clinic is a child who is having “tracking problems”.  This phrase is used to describe a variety of issues from those related specifically to reading, but sometimes writing and copying.  Symptoms related to tracking problems are described in different ways:

  • losing place while reading
  • omitting small words
  • accidentally re-reading a line just read
  • skipping words or even whole lines
  • poor reading fluency
  • use of a finger, bookmark or similar to keep place while reading

Persistent issues with tracking might lead to frustration, avoidance and for some, the development of a strong dislike for reading.

Losing place may be normal from time to time as a children develop their reading skills.  When tracking becomes a more persistent issue, then it becomes a matter of working out whether its a problem with reading, a vision problem or both.  Vision problems that interfere with keeping place on the page can often be relatively simple problems.  Ruling out vision as a contributing factor is an important.

When Can Vision Cause Tracking Symptoms?

The visual system is highly involved in the reading process from early letter/word recognition and visualisation of the meaning of the text. But there are a few basic and common visual dysfunctions that impact on tracking. These are:

  • Focussing
  • Convergence
  • Oculomotor Skills

These skills should work automatically once learnt, and should need little conscious effort to maintain single, clear sight while moving your eyes accurately over a page.  When these functions are not working well, however, you need to start to borrow concentration or attention to maintain them. This occurs sometimes at the expense of reading fluency and/or accuracy.  Severe cases may cause blur or doubling of vision, but your brain normal fights to avoid these symptoms.  Again it is the “fight” that deteriorates performance, concentration and attention.

Put simply, it doesn’t matter what the quality of child’s education is, if they can’t easily and comfortably maintain accurate fixation on the page, there is an increased chance that they will suffer will interference to optimal learning.

Tracking problems can also be associated with another visual problem, called Irlen Syndrome or Visual Discomfort, which is a condition that can create negative symptoms while is treated with tinted lenses.  While Irlen Syndrome has been linked to dyslexia, no such link truly exists.  In many cases the symptoms of Irlen Syndrome are often found to be related to visual dysfunction.

Visual dysfunction diagnosis requires rigorous assessment of the person’s ability to maintain, clear and comfortable vision at near distances. If an exam covers little more than sight, prescription and eye health, it is less likely to detect the problem.  Our optometrists can assess babies, infants, children and adults. 07 5520 5900

Paul Graham

Paul believes that what he truly practices is “Optometry for the Individual”. Whether it be vision training, glasses, custom or disposable contact lenses, orthok or precision tinted lenses, Paul will consult with you, completely assess your vision and custom design a treatment approach that is right for you. If you want a fresh approach, then Paul is the Optometrist for you!