When we think of having our eyes examined we think about 20/20. “20/20” is a measurement of sight which is just one of the 17 vital visual skills we need to succeed in learning, sports and life. Vision involves so much more; how our eyes move, how our eyes align, how our two eyes work together, how our vision integrates with our other senses, how our vision relates to our motor system, our awareness of our peripheral vision and its relationship with our central vision, our ability to focus, depth perception, color perception, and our brain’s processing of what we see.
Let’s consider one of these vital visual skills; how our eyes move. It sounds simple, but it is quite complex. There are two ways we move the eyes and each involves a different neural pathway. When we follow a moving target back and forth it is called a pursuit. Pursuits are supposed to be smooth to accurately gauge a target’s speed and location. We use this movement when following a ball in sports or watching a vehicle on the highway. The other type of eye movement is called a saccade. This eye movement is when we fixate on a target and then quickly move the eyes to fixate on another target. This takes visual-motor planning and spatial/peripheral awareness. We use this eye movement when reading (going from word to word), playing sports (when a quarter back looks from one receiver to another to decide where to throw the ball).