Dyslexia, Visual

Dyslexia and Eye Tracking Problems

Intelligent Testing has a good post on Dyslexia and Eye Tracking that examines a study demonstrating dyslexics, contrary to popular opinion, any eye-tracking problems a dyslexic may have are correlational to dyslexia rather than the cause.
The original study used two techniques to simulate the eye-tracking needed for reading without requiring actual reading: Psuedowords like DREV and GINZ and constant strings like QQGP and DMGL. By using these, the researchers could study eye-tracking without worrying that another possible causes of dyslexia, such as phonic problems, was effecting the dyslexics.

The researchers found that dyslexics and non-dyslexics performed equally well on the constant string reading test but dyslexics were worse on the psuedowords test. This suggests that dyslexics do not have a fundamental problem in eye-tracking and reading letters but that a problem arises when they try to process words.

An interesting conclusion that the researchers draw from the results is that:

…is that dyslexic readers’ eye movements during reading are neither dysfunctional nor erroneous – but a mirror of their reading difficulties.

Meaning that if a dyslexic has a reading age of five then their eye-tracking ability will also be that of a five year old. This matches similar research on dyslexic’s reversing letters that found dyslexics do it no more often than children of the same reading age. This raises an interesting question of what happens if you train a dyslexic’s visual abilities up to his natural age? Will their reading abilities rise to match their visual-skills age?

One criticism of this study is that the actual tests used in it are too short, each only equivalent to reading thirty to sixty words. I would like to have seen some examination of the dyslexic’s performance over a period equivalent to how the children are expected to read in class. The study was conducted on 13 year olds who are expected by the education system to read for a lot longer than a couple of minutes.

A longer reading period would of investigated the effects of reading fatigue, a common complaint of dyslexics. If the dyslexics’ constant string reading ability decreased over time faster that the non-dyslexics then it would be logical to conclude that dyslexics do have great problem with eye-tracking in real world situations. Repeating the tests multiple time would of also been interesting. Would non-dyslexics improve through practice at a faster rate than dyslexics thus suggesting that dyslexics lack an ability to learn or optimise their eye-movements?

Full Study: Perhaps correlational but not causal: No effect of dyslexic readers’
magnocellular system on their eye movements during reading [PDF]


  1. Natasha Doulton

    I found your website fascinating as I teach both Dyslexics and Dyspraxics. i wondered if you coudl help me as I am trying to track down reliable tracking assessments. Do you know of any you can recommend??

    Many thanks


  2. Natasha – I’ve not been able to find a easy way of testing eye tracking suitable for parents or teachers to use.

    The best I can recommend is testing hand / eye coordination through simple games of catch etc. There is likely to be a strong correlation between poor catching ability and poor eye tracking.


  3. Julie Trentine

    My son was having troubles in school and someone suggested that he might be dyslexic. We have gone through much testing over several years before coming across a doctor that found that Josh’s tracking was great, but his eyes and brain could not engage at the same time. The simple test…have your child lay down on the floor facing the ceiling underneath a wiffle ball. As they track the ball with their eyes ask them questions that make them think at the same time ie. 8+4 or 3×8 etc. This will tell you if they are able to think and track at the same time. They should be able to answer the question and maintain tracking of the ball.

  4. Leonard Fine

    deyegnostics.com has a vision questionnaire about eye movments and will help identify the underlying problems that need attention. A simple test is to have children look at their fingers raised as a steeple (two forefingers together) and move these from left to right and back several times in front of them Any failure to keep the eyes on the fingers will predict reading difficulty and tracking difficulty

  5. Marlon

    I have leave been tested for dyslexia and was told that I had passed with flying colors. When I think back on the test that I was given it did not touch on the the problems I was having in the first place (reading aloud).I can read it’s just that my reading has no flow and I can not read a paragraph without stoping four or five times. Just wanting to find out what is going on, if anyone has any thoughts I would love them.

  6. mark boudart

    have a qualifed doctor check you for eye tracking. we were told our son has dyslexia only to later find out it was a eye tracking issue. makes senses if you cant see you cant process. after 6 months of vision therapy we our at the proper grade of reading and his anxiety level was reduced by 80%.

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