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Visual Tracking, Hand Eye Coordination and Reading

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

This article may include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. The information presented is not Medical Advice and should not be treated as such. Always talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program or embracing a major lifestyle change. Do not start or stop any medication without first discussing with your doctor.

Visual Tracking, Hand Eye Coordination and Reading

It's no surprise to many when I write that over the last 15 years I have been coaching I have seen a decline in some of the most basic skills in my novice athletes. Coordination, balance, hand eyes coordination and gross motor skills have fallen to the wayside.


We can most likely blame it on a decrease in recess time and activity availability, removal of true physical education from our schools and the increased prevalence of electronics in the home. While the youth of these upcoming generations are becoming far more advanced in electronics and computers than most adults by the age of 10, there is a tradeoff.


We find that many youth, have no throwing mechanics, can hardly jump or move and are utterly afraid of catching a ball. This is due to a couple things: lack of hand eye coordination, proprioception, and basic movement.


While it is easy to sometimes write off these things because your child isn't interested in sports, development of the eyes and learning depth perception and hand eye coordination is critical to your child's education and their ability to read and write. The eyes are linked to proprioception, vestibular, visual processing and sensory-motor abilities.



Even as far back as 1972, researchers were evaluating the links between the eyes and proprioception and the ability for a child to read. Jean Ayres, PhD, in her book Sensory Integrative Dysfunction states, “Integration of vestibular and proprioceptive inputs gives the child control over his eye movements. Without the guidance of these sensations, it is difficult for the child to focus on an object or follow it as it moves. Later on it may be difficult to move the eyes along a line of print. Reading may be so exhausting that it simply isn’t worth the effort.”


When the skill required for a given task is non-existent, an individual may become discouraged and may attempt to avoid an activity. The child that may not enjoy sports may just not feel confident in their abilities to perform on the field of play. Fear that exists when a moving object is coming toward them at a high rate of speed is more often than not a fear derived because that child is unable to track the ball and judge the speed and distance. This may lead to a child being unable to move toward the ball or away from the ball, leading to a frustrating or even painful experience.


As coaches and parents, you may find it easier to just avoid a task that a child is uncomfortable with leading to a missed opportunity to really train the visual systems required for life activities.


I write this article to encourage parents and educators to embrace hand eye coordination and visual training into their daily activities with their kids as it may improve their reading abilities. The truth is, it may not take much, but it does take progression.


If you still don't believe the importance of this, even more recent studies have embraced this concept of using hand eye coordination to improve learning outcomes. Gadi Geiger and Tomaso Poggio (2005) researchers out of the Center for Biological & Computational Learning at MIT, discovered that "early practice of hand-eye coordination activities reduces the risk for reading difficulties."


Don't be overwhelmed by all of this information, instead embrace it as an opportunity to play with your child and spend quality time with them. Lets return to a time where we see fathers throwing a ball or football with their kids in the front yard.





Below are some suggestions for implementing some vision training with your kids. Yes there are links to various products, and yes if you click through we do earn a commission off any qualifying purchases which helps us continue our mission. But there are also so may things you can do at home with your kids that does not require the purchase of any additional items.


Basic Training:


Vision Training doesn't have to be complicated or require excessive equipment. It can be as simple as playing catch with your kids or kicking a soccer ball. The important piece of this is, for any child to be successful, practice is critical. Enrolling your child in a once a week sports program will not truly provide great vision training or instill confidence, this needs to be a daily activity at home. Spend 10 minutes playing catch.


If fear is an issue here is the progression I would use:


Visual Tracking and Reading
  1. Start with a large bouncy ball. The larger the ball, the easier it is to track visually. A large bouncy ball that is also soft will instill confidence that the child won't feel in danger. Check them out here.

  2. Start by rolling the ball, especially with toddlers. Remember it is about tracking the ball at first. Judging distance and learning to close a glove or the hands at the right time are hard at fast speeds. Rolling the ball allows children to track the ball and grab it at a pace they are comfortable with.

  3. Bounce the ball! Bouncing increase the speed of play, but also allows your child to start to predict where it may go. Another great activity is to have them bounce the ball against a wall.

  4. Progress to tossing underhand then overhand. A tennis ball or softer ball is going to once again allow your child to progress with confidence.

Some other tools we use at Full Armour and also our athletes use are found below. Linked with the products.

Brock String

Brock Strings have long been a great tool to train the eyes to work together and have often been used for vision therapy to treat various disorders, but this tool can also be used to help with athletic performance and vision training.


The Brock String is attached to a stationary object at the height of the nose. The string is then held by the athlete/child to their nose. The goal is to practice the focus of the eyes on a singular object. Start with the beads spaced out with the first bead being about a 6 inches from the nose. Have your athlete focus on the first bead, they should see two strings going into the bead they are focused on and two strings coming out of the bead. This is called convergence of the eyes. As your child masters this and it become easier you can move the beads closer to the face.


We have our athletes change focus from one bead to the next and progressively move faster to focus on each. For around $10 this is one of the cheapest and coolest tools you can use.


Reflex Training and Reading Comprehension

We don't want vision training to feel like a chore, and we want your kids to enjoy it! These boxing reflex trainers are affordable and a blast as kids try and keep the ball going as they punch it. It can be difficult at the start, but we've seen kids pick it up pretty fast.




Intermediate Training


Hand Eye Coordination

Reaction balls are an excellent skill to improve your child's focus and reaction time as well as predictive ability. As you bounce the ball, its unique shape will direct the ball in a different path every time requiring your child to react and judge where the ball will go.



Advanced Training


Color Differentiation and Hand Eye Coordination

The HECOstix is the original product of it's kind and has since been produced by many other companies. The original I'm here to tell you is still the best. But you can find some cheaper.


I placed it under Advanced training, because it is not easy to catch and takes some time to learn how to throw it in a way that your kids can actually use it correctly. The idea is you toss it and while it is flying through the air, you call out a color for them to try and catch. As they progress you can add in some other agility demands or increase the difficulty with balancing activities.



Blaze Pods

Similar to HECOstix, Blaze Pods was one of the original light systems. There platform and app are way easier to use then their cheaper counterparts. We have tried a couple systems and none compares to BlazePods.


The app is downloadable on all app stores and gives you a wide variety of options to challenge your kids. You can set the lights to light up at different time intervals. Place them on a table, on the floor or even on cones. As they light up your child will work to hit them as quickly as possible. It provides endless opportunities to promote agility, hand eye coordination, go/no go decision making and more. They aren't cheap and no they are not necessary. Unless you have some serious athletes in your family, these probably aren't worth the investment.




Resources:


Ayres, A. J. (2005). Sensory integration and the child: Understanding hidden sensory challenges. Western Psychological Services.


Gadi Geiger, Tomaso Poggio; Preventing dyslexia? Early enhanced hand-eye coordination activities reduces reading difficulties. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):809. https://doi.org/10.1167/5.8.809.


Blazepod Temu

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