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MK Powers, JD Grisham, P Riles; Visual Skills and Reading Performance . Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2002;43(13):4785.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Purpose: Many students in under-performing high schools have clinically deficient visual skills (saccadic tracking, accommodative facility and/or vergence ranges) that can be improved by a computerized visual skills training program (ARVO 2001). The same training program also improves scores on standardized reading tests (AAO 2001). Here we begin to quantify the relation between visual skills and reading performance. Methods: We examined data from more than 5000 high school students, gathered over the past 3 academic years from freshmen at low-performing schools in California. Each student's visual skill levels had been measured during school-sponsored screenings, by optometrists or vision scisntists or their trained assistants. Skills assessed were accommodative near point and facility, convergence near point, vergence ranges and Developmental Eye Movement tracking ratios. Distance visual acuity, binocular balance, refraction and external eye health were also recorded, and referrals to community eye care professionals were made where appropriate. Selected students with deficient visual skills received training via an internet-based program, administered in school for up to 30, 20-min sessions. Reading efficiency scores were obtained before and after training via the Taylor Visagraph II Reading Eye Movement system, with each measurement taken 2 times. Reading scores on standardized tests before and after visual skills training were made available by the schools for each student. Results: The average reading level for these 9th graders was 6.0. Students with poor visual skills tended to score lower, but many students with good reading scores had poor visual skills as well. Students with adequate visual skills increased 1.0 grade level in one year, on average, without visual training. Poor readers with poor visual skills who completed 30 sessions of training also increased 1 grade level, but those who completed fewer than 8 sessions increased only 0.35 grade level. A significant (p<.05) nonparametric correlation existed between improvements in visual skills and improvement in reading scores for all years. Results were qualitatively consistent across several different reading tests as well as the Visagraph. Students who completed visual skills training and whose visual skills improved continued to show improvements in reading scores in subsequent years over their peers who did not complete training. Conclusion: Poor readers tend to have poor visual skills, but some good readers do as well. Improving visual skills improves reading scores for poor readers, perhaps by enhancing the ability to move text easily from the page to the brain.
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