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What are ocular motor skills & why are they important?

Ocular motor skills are basically just watching things with our eyes. Lynnae Glascock, a pediatric occupational therapist with Quincy Medical Group, discusses why these skills are important for kids to learn.

We use this skill all day long, without even realizing it. For example, when throwing and hitting a ball, you have to be able to watch it. When a child is in school, their eyes will move between the board and their paper. When we read, our eye coordinate from left to right then to the next line on a page without skipping any parts of a word, whole words, or sentences, but some kids skip entire paragraphs, and they have no idea that they are doing it. Later in life, we use this skill when driving. Our eyes are looking at the road, then at a road sign, then back to check the speedometer, and then our eyes go back onto the road again.  These really important skills for kids to learn at an early age so they can build on them as they develop.

Exercises for developing ocular motor skills:

Baby:

One of the best things you can do is to grab a rattle. Have the baby lay down and you lie over the top of them, shake the rattle, and move in a cross-like pattern nice and slow. You can do an X or a circle and bring it towards their nose because we want their eyes to come in just a little bit as well.

Toddler/Preschooler:

FInd a ball (larger than a tennis ball or softball). Roll the ball towards the child and have them catch or hit the ball. The key is to have them watch the ball. To get their attention, you would want to say, “Hey Johnny. Look here at this ball. Look here first.” Have them watch it all the way from your hands, all the way to their hands, and then when they throw back, same thing, making sure they’re looking at that ball.

Older kids:

Continue to practice throwing, catching, and hitting the ball, but use something more like a tennis ball or a light-up ball, to make sure that you keep their focus.

If you notice that your child is having difficulty with reading, copying from the board, catching or hitting a ball, they may need occupational therapy services. Talk to your child’s pediatrician or give us a call at 217-222-6550 extension 3418 with any questions.