Eye Can Learn
Eye Exercises for Better Visual Health
your Visual Information Process Skills:
Click on the Exercises Below
Parents, teachers, and OT's, please note: These activities are offered as a fun way to help sharpen "learning-related" visual skills that are critical for success in school. If a child has deficits in visual information processing, these simple exercises alone are not sufficient to correct a problem. Please do not confuse these exercises with vision therapy. Vision therapy involves a much wider scope of remediation procedures involving the use of lenses, prisms, filters, and instrumentation in a closely sequenced program prescribed by developmental optometrists. However, if your child has difficulty with these activities, it could indicate there is a problem with his/her vision system, and you may want to contact a developmental optometrist for further evaluation. A developmental optometrists can run specialized tests to determine if your child has developed adequate visual skills for reading, learning, and visual attention. Developmental optometrists are sometimes called behavioral optometrists because of their role in evaluating how vision affects behavior and performance. To locate a doctor in your area, contact the national certifying board at covd.org.
The vision skills we need to understand, analyze, and interpret what we see are called visual perception. Here are some fun games and puzzles that will help sharpen your perceptual skills.
Visual Discrimination lets us see differences between objects that are similar. Good visual discrimination helps keep us from getting confused. For example, when we read, it's visual discrimination that let's us see the "was" and "saw" are different even though they have the same letters. Puzzle games that ask us to tell how two pictures are different are good ways to help develop visual discrimination.
For answers to the visual discrimination pictures, click here!
For the answers to the matching puzzles, click here!
Visual Memory is another important perceptual skill. It helps us recall what we've seen. Click on the buttons below and you will see a picture for five seconds, and then it will disappear. After the picture disappears, can you remember the items you saw in the same order?
Minute Memory Game: You will see a picture for one minute. Look at it carefully and try to remember as many details as possible. After the minute is up, you'll be asked to tell as many things about the picture as you remember. Good luck!
Figure Ground is the perceptual skill that let's us pick out details without getting confused by the background or surrounding images. This skill is especially helpful when we're presented with a lot of visual information at one time. The popular puzzle games called "hidden pictures" requires good figure ground skills. We've searched the internet and come up with some fun examples of hidden pictures. Click on the button below to see how good your figure ground skills are!
Visual Closure is the ability to visualize a complete whole when given incomplete information or a partial picture. This skill helps us understand things quickly because our visual system doesn't have to process every detail to recognize what we're seeing. Where we're reading, this skill helps us recognize sight words. Click on the button below for some from practice with visual closure!
Visual Form Constancy is the ability to mentally turn and rotate objects in our minds and picture what they would look like. This skill helps us distinguish differences in size, shape, and orientation. Children with poor form-constancy may frequently reverse letters and numbers. Game like the following can help us get practice form constancy. Click on the buttons below to play!
Good tracking skills allow us to follow a line of print without losing our place. It is our oculomotor system that lets us accurately direct our eye movements. There are three main types of oculomotor skills: fixation is the ability to maintain steady visual attention on a target; saccades is the ability to quickly and accurately make eye jumps from one target to another; and pursuits is the ability to smoothly follow a moving target.
Central Fixations and Peripheral Awareness, Activity 1:
Objective: A strong integration between our central and peripheral vision systems is critical to good reading skills. Our side vision allows us to locate objects and process where they are in space, but our clear, central vision tells us what it is we're looking at. (These two systems are sometimes referred to as the "Where is it?" and "What is it?" systems.) In reading, our central vision processes the letters, while our side vision locates the next word and tells us where to aim our eyes next. If there is not continuous, fluid, simultaneous processing between these two systems, reading will be jerky and loss of place will be common.
Directions: Watch the clown's face but do not move your eyes. However, as you stare at the clown in the center, follow the edges of the red and blue boxes with your side vision as they move outward. Work on "seeing" the clown's face and the outside edge of the boxes at the same time.
Central Fixations and Peripheral Awareness with motor demand, Activity 2:
Objective: The following activity adds an eye-hand element to the visual demand. Twenty percent of the raw visual data coming off the retina does not go back to the visual cortex for imaging but breaks away and travels up to the brain's motor centers to help with balance, coordination, and movement. Visual motor integration, commonly called eye-body or eye-hand coordination, is a critical component of vision. Think of it as a visual "follow the leader": the eyes go first and tell the muscles where to follow.
Directions: Watch the circle in the center and do not look away. However, you can see the circles on the side of the screen as you are watching the center. As the center circle changes color, touch the same colored circle on the outside--without looking away from the center circle! Start with the slow speed, but then switch to the fast as you get better using your side vision!
Clown Jumps: Objective: Saccades refer to the eye's ability to quickly and accurately shift from one target to another. This is an important visual skill, allowing us to accurately control where we aim our eyes. The ability to make efficient saccades (or jump movements) is especially important in reading. It keeps us from overshooting or undershooting, going too far ahead or not far enough when we're trying to follow a line of print and locate the next word.
Directions: Click on the button below. You will see a clown jumping around the screen. Watch the clown, being careful to only move your eyes and not your head. (The inability to move the eyes without also moving the head is usually an indication of deficits in a child's oculomotor system.)
Rabbit Jumps with Motor Demand: Objective: This is another tracking/visual motor activity, integrating the ability to control our eye movements with our ability to direct our hands. This time, however, the directions ask the child to alternate hands, turning the demand up a notch. This will also mean that sometimes the child will be reaching across his body to touch the screen. The ability to bilaterally reach across the body's midline is an important developmental milestone. The target is also the same color as the background (less contrast) and moving quickly (requiring faster processing) so the child's visual system has to be fairly efficient in order to complete the task well.
Directions: Try to touch the rabbit with your index (pointer) finger before he moves. Alternate hands--right, left, right, left, etc. Move only your eyes and hands, not your head.
Objective: Reading involves some very specific eye movements. The eyes must move left to right along a straight line without deviating up or down to the lines above or below. In addition, when we reach the end of a line, our eyes must make a difficult reverse sweep back to the beginning of the next line. If a child cannot control these eye movements, he'll lose his place and comprehension becomes a problem.
Directions: Read the numbers left to right as they appear on the screen. Move only your eyes, not your head. Start with the slow speed; if it is too easy, move on the medium speed. Once the medium skill is mastered, try the fast speed. The goal is to read the numbers easily, smoothly, and accurately.
Line Tracking: Objective: The oculomotor demand is increased in these activities by adding distracters. There are more than one path.
Men have lost their hats, baby animals have lost their mothers, and fairy tale characters have been separated. Can you help them? Directions: Follow the lines without getting lost! Do you end up at the right place? Remember to use only your eyes, not your finger!
Here are some harder line tracking activities to try. Have fun! Directions: Follow the lines without getting lost! What letters match up with what letters? Remember to use only your eyes, not your finger!
Pursuits: Objective: The skill that allows our eyes to smoothly follow moving targets is called pursuits. This is an especially important skills in most sports, allowing us to catch, hit, or kick a moving ball.
Following a moving target, slow speed: Directions: Watch the butterfly fly around the screen. Move only your eyes, not your head. Can you keep your eyes on the butterfly?
Following a moving target, fast speed: Directions: Watch the ball bounce around the screen. Move only your eyes, not your head. Can you keep your eyes on the ball?
Near-Far Focus Shifts
Objective: Our focusing system allows us to see clearly, especially up close. At the close ranges required for reading, this is the visual skill needed to maintain clear sharp images for extended periods of time. It also includes the ability to quickly shift focus when looking from near to far, such as when children have to look from their desks to the board at school.
Directions: Highlight the small number chart below and copy and paste it into a Word document and print. Cut the paper around the grid so that you have a small card with the numbers in the middle. Then place a large calendar on the wall on the opposite side of the room. Holding the small number chart about six inches from your nose, look at the number 1. Is it clear? If it's a little blurry, move the paper out until you can see the numbers clearly. Then find the number one on the calendar. Now look back at the number 2 on the small chart in your hand. Then look up and find the two on the calendar. Continue back and forth for the entire month. Could you keep the numbers clear on both the wall calendar and on the small number chart as you hold it close to your eyes? If so, move the number chart a little closer to your nose and do the exercise again. Your goal is to be able to hold the number chart within three inches of your nose and still keep the numbers clear without double vision and make fast focusing shifts from near to far and back again. Practice until this is easy and you don't feel a lot of eye strain.
Controlling how we use and aim our eyes together is an importing skill that keeps us from seeing double. The ability to use both eyes as a "team," or a single functioning pair, is what allows our brain to fuse the two separate pictures coming in from each eye into a single image. This skill is called binocularity.
There are two basic ways to aim or "team" our eyes:
Eye Aiming Activities:
Objective: The ability to simultaneous use both eyes together as a single functioning pair is one of our most critical visual skills. In fact, many poor readers have not developed adequate eye teaming control. The activities in this section are fun ways to become aware of our eye teaming system.
Directions: Click on the button below and practice using the two different types of eye aim:
3-D Photographs using the "Cross-Eyed" Viewing Method.
Objective: The ability to use and team our eyes together is what creates depth perception. Technically called stereopsis, precise two-eyed fusion allows us to perceive three-dimensional depth.
Directions: Once you've practiced the "cross-eyed" look in the previous activity, here are some 3-D photographs you can have fun with.
Stereograms using the parallel, "straight ahead" viewing method.
Objective: Often called "Magic Eye" pictures, stereograms are a fun way to play with our eye teaming using the relaxed, straight-ahead look. This is harder for some people because our visual system's anatomy does not allow for the same degree of divergence as it does convergence. The following activity allows you to experience divergent eye teaming.
Directions: To be able to fuse stereograms, you must aim your eyes BEYOND the screen, much like you are looking out a window at something far way. Try a "day dreaming" look to keep your eyes relaxed and aiming straight ahead instead of at the screen. Don't give up too soon. It takes some time for your brain to make sense of the pictures each eye is sending it and form the combined image. (Note: If you try to do the "cross-eyed" look with these pictures, they'll be inverted and not make any sense.)
Other Fun Resources on the Web
Vision Perception: General
The following link has many, many different activities to improve visual perceptual skills. Very complete.
Visualization and Form Constancy
Follow the link below for work on fun "tangram" puzzles to improve your visualization and form constancy skills! These ancient Chinese puzzles work much like electronic parquetry blocks. Wonderful fun!
Jigsaw puzzles are wonderful for developing visualization and form constancy skills. Here's a link to a great site that not only lets you choose which picture you want to put together, but how hard you want the picture to be!
One good way to improve your visual memory skills is to play matching games. Click on the links below to practice your visual memory skills!
Here's a couple of fun memory games to help kids learn: multiplication facts, telling time, and even Spanish!
http://www.aplusmath.com/Games/Concentration/Multiplication_Concentration.html (third grade and above)
http://www.harcourtschool.com/activity/con_math/g03c05.html (third grade and above)
http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/hispanic/pinata/game.htm (third grade and above)
The Highlights children's magazine is famous for their hidden pictures; it's a regular feature in their monthly magazine.
This is a fun on-line game for older children called "Mystery Case Files: Huntsville." Allow time for the Shockwave file to load.
Mah Jong, the ancient Chinese puzzle game, is another excellent opportunity to help develop figure ground skills. Try the link below to a free on-line version.
Many, many fun images!: http://www.eyetricks.com/3dstereo.htm
Awesome sight! http://www.colorstereo.com/1_homep.age/directry.htm
Turn words into stereograms: http://www.kondo3d.com/stereo/java/stereoword-e.html
3-D Viewing Pictures
Here are some sites packed full of 3-D pictures to view either using the crossed-eyed or parallel viewing methods. Some include large anaglyph collections to use with red-blue glasses.
Awesome 3-d photographs from around the world. You'll need red-blue (or red-green) glasses to view. http://www.3dphoto.net/stereo/stereo.html
Wonderful pictures of Thailand with choice of viewing method: http://users.skynet.be/didier.leboutte/