Saccade pens help to train accuracy of eye movements and coordination. Saccades are the quick movements of the eyes when someone’s gaze shifts from one point to the next. Smooth pursuits are the movements used as we follow an object slowly moving in space. To read we use a combination of saccades and smooth movements.
Some people have poor control of their tracking and eye movements. This can cause problems when reading because the eyes will not accurately move to the next word or line on a page or the gaze will be unstable and poorly controlled. Sometimes people will need to hold a finger under each word to guide them where to look: we call this proprioception. By practising moving the eyes from point to point, the visual system should improve its speed and accuracy of ocular movements.
What you will need:
A helper (parent, carer or friend!)
The helper should sit opposite the patient about 1 metre away.
Hold the two pens up horizontally, 50cm apart, at eye level between the helper and the patient.
Have the patient look at the helper’s nose.
The helpers role is to gently shake one of the pens. When the patient sees this they are to move their gaze to the shaking pen, focus on the pen, the move their gaze back to the helper’s nose (see image).
Continue this for 1 minute, randomising the pen that is shaken.
Have a break for 30 seconds.
For the next 1 minute round, have the patient look at the pen that is not shaking. This makes the brain and visual system actively look at the still object, rather than just reflexively look at the moving object.
To vary the exercise, change the position of the pens to diagonally up and down, both diagonally up, both diagonally down, and directly up and down.
Try to do 5 rounds of these exercises, 3 times a day. To make the exercises harder over time, increase the distance between the pens.