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What is Visual Tracking?

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Although visual tracking may not be a common term that parents come across, it is an important skill for children to develop.

Children who have eye-tracking problems may experience difficulties in academic performance, sports, and daily activities. This can lead to a child becoming frustrated and cause a decrease in a child’s self-esteem.

But what exactly is visual tracking?

Visual tracking refers to the eyes following a moving object.

With the help of an eye specialist, visual tracking problems can be diagnosed early on. An Occupational Therapist and Vision Therapy can also help in developing visual tracking activities that are fun for the children.

In this article, we will discuss what visual tracking is and some common symptoms that children may have if they are experiencing difficulties with their visual tracking skills. We will also cover visual tracking activities to help children who have difficulty in this.

Definition of Visual Tracking

Visual tracking, or eye tracking, refers to the ability to control the movements of the eyes from right to left, left to right, up-down, and in a circular motion. It also aids in focusing on a moving object that is within one’s visual range.

This is an essential skill that is required to perform almost every task such as reading, writing, drawing, playing, using any tool, playing an instrument and what not! Typically, the development of visual tracking skills is achieved by the age of five for an individual.

Reading fluently, copying a write-up, and performing daily chores all happen due to our visual tracking skills. If a child lacks such a crucial skill, they can face problems regarding reading, writing, judging an object and its movement, alignments, following instructions, and so on.

There are some amazing ways to work on and improve these skills for children.

Signs of Poor Visual Tracking Skills

child playing with dried leaves

There are a few major signs to identify whether your child has poor visual tracking skills. A kid with poor visual tracking often faces the following problems.

Difficulties in Reading

These kids face problems following the lines of a text. They also frequently lose the place and thus fail to continue reading.

Some children skip words or lines and get confused between words while reading. Individuals who are suffering from poor visual skills tend to lose attention easily.

Often, they are observed to have a habit of excessive head movement unnecessarily while reading. This can also happen with any other task requiring close vision.

These children often get confused with similar words while reading, which results in omitting, substituting, repeating letters or words.

They can have poor reading comprehension, frequent behavioral changes, and make careless errors while reading. Some kids are also observed as having persistent headaches while reading or doing any close vision-related task.

Difficulties in Solving Math Problems

girl holding pen

Young individuals who deal with inadequacy in visual skills can face problems in solving math. They may find it difficult to line up the numbers horizontally and vertically.

Also, there can be flipping or jumping around certain numbers. As solving math is a detail-oriented task, kids typically face attention issues due to the lack of visual tracking skills.

Difficulties in Writing

The lack of visual tracking skills is responsible for sloppy handwriting. Kids with poor visual tracking skills have problems following the lines and maintaining the consistency of letter sizes.

They continue to skip letters. Often, the handwriting of such children is blurry and difficult to comprehend, which causes further difficulty.

Difficulties in Copying from the Board

woman standing in front of children

Children who have poor visual tracking often have difficulty copying from the board. This could include taking a long time to copy the same sentences compared to same-aged peers and/or omitting certain words or letters.

Difficulties in Sports

Kids who have poor visual tracking skills may struggle with ball skills. They often face difficulties in catching and kicking a ball, which can affect their self-confidence.

In addition, sports that require close vision such as badminton, hockey, etc. can cause stress and confusion for children with weak visual tracking skills.

What is the Difference between Visual Tracking and Visual Scanning?

boy writing on printer paper near girl

Although visual tracking and visual scanning sound similar and at times, used interchangeably, these are actually two separate skills.

Visual tracking refers to the eyes following a moving object.

Visual scanning refers to the eyes looking to search for a particular item.

Visual Tracking Activities

The ability to visually track an object can be improved by practicing some eye exercises to help strengthen eye movements. There are multiple skills related to visual tracking.

Play Ball Sports

Although playing ball sports can be tricky for children with poor visual tracking skills, it can be a fun activity to help develop visual perceptual skills, eye-hand coordination, and body awareness.

You may want to start with easier tracking activities such as kicking or rolling a ball. Gradually, as your child develops their tracking skills, you can include ball sports that require faster reaction times.

Balloon Toss

Keeping the balloon up in the air is a great way to develop visual tracking. A balloon or beach ball is lighter and therefore travels slower compared to other balls like soccer or tennis balls.

This is also a great game to develop body awareness and eye-hand coordination.

Flashlight Tag

In a dark room, move a flashlight around and try and get your child to follow the light with their eyes. Children with tracking problems might have trouble following the flashlight, therefore you might want to start by moving in vertical or horizontal lines.

To make this game even more fun, you can give your child a flashlight and get them to use their flashlight to chase your light.

Mazes

Maze worksheets are a fun way to develop visual perceptual skills. In this activity, the child must track their pencil between the path to find the exit.

This activity also helps develop visual scanning as they may need to scan ahead to find which path works best for them.

Pom Pom Soccer

Place some bottle caps on both the right and left sides of a table. Now blow a pom-pom from left to right and ask your child to follow that by moving only their eyeball, while keeping the head steady. Have your kid perform the same activity with the right to left sides, rear to front, and vice versa.

Pom Pom Match

Involve one eye at a time and focus on eye movements. Ask your child to close one eye and place a colored woolen ball or pom-pom on a matching-colored bottle cap. Also, place some different colored bottle caps around.

Now, instruct your child to place the woolen ball or pom-pom into the corresponding cap using one hand without moving other bottle caps around the table. Have your child repeat the same activity with the other eye. Lastly, complete the activity by using both eyes.

Marble Race

Play marble race or Mouse Trap. Create an obstacle for the marble to roll down. When your child is ready, encourage them to watch the marble roll down the obstacle.

Play with Wind-Up Cars

Wind-up cars allow your child to develop fine motor skills as well as visual tracking. Once the release the car, encourage your child to watch where the cars travel to.

kid playing

Summary

Visual tracking is an important skill for children to develop as it is needed for everyday activities. Although there are similarities, visual tracking is different from visual scanning, however, both of them require oculomotor skills (i.e. eye movements).

If you think your child has visual tracking skills, it is important to talk to your Occupational Therapists, physical therapists or take your child to your eye specialists to get this further assessed. These health professionals will help improve their visual acuity in fun ways such as visual tracking exercises and games.

References:

Cooper, S. (2022). 5 Visual Scanning and Tracking Activities by an OT | NAPA Center. Retrieved 10 February 2022, from https://napacenter.org/visual-scanning-activities/

The OT Toolbox. (2021). Visual Tracking Tips and Tools for Treatment. Retrieved 10 February 2022, from https://www.theottoolbox.com/visual-tracking-tips-and-tools-for/

Weichman, L. (n.d.). Activities to Promote Eye Tracking. Retrieved 10 February 2022, from https://www.nspt4kids.com/therapy/activities-to-promote-eye-tracking/

Your Therapy Source. (2019). Visual Tracking – Definition, Exercises, and Activities. Retrieved 10 February 2022, from https://www.yourtherapysource.com/blog1/2019/04/11/visual-tracking-definition-exercises-and-activities/

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