As we discussed last week, there are 17 vital visual skills we have that help us succeed in our lives. The first of these vital visual skills we spoke about is eye movements, in particular pursuits and saccades. The next four vital visual skills involve our focusing system. In order to view something, process what it is, where it is and our actions in response to it we need our eyes to simultaneously focus at a distant object and sustain that focus. The same goes for near objects.

Let’s use sports as an example again. In order for an athlete to catch a ball, the player must judge the distance she is away from the other player. This judgment relies on our focusing system. We focus differently at different distances. If the two eyes don’t focus simultaneously then our depth perception is not accurate and we may grab for the ball too soon or too late. If the focus is not sustained our brains don’t have time to judge depth and again we may try and catch the ball too early or too late.

Let’s think about reading. If we cannot simultaneously focus our eyes at words on a page, this can cause our judgment of space to be off causing words or letters to move around. We may skip words or lines. We can lose our place. If we can’t sustain that focus we eventually run into the same problems. Some symptoms of this may be red watery eyes, headaches and eye strain.

When having an eye and vision examination make sure it involves evaluating the focusing system in the distance and near, for simultaneous and sustained focusing. Again, we must evaluate more than the 20/20 line.