Eye Tracking Skills

Eye tracking skills refer to the ability to follow a moving target (pursuits) and the ability to quickly switch fixation from one target to another (saccades).

There are two major types of eye movements.  Pursuits are the smooth movements of the eyes to follow a moving object.  This is the eye movement that we all talk about when telling someone, “Keep your eye on the ball.”

Poor pursuits are not usually responsible for academic difficulties.  Usually, these eye movements are most needed for some types of athletics, especially those sports involving balls or pucks.

The signs of poor pursuits are:

  • Cannot consistently make solid contact in baseball, softball, or other racquet sports
  • Frequently misses passes in hockey
  • Difficulty in fielding ground balls in softball or baseball
  • Struggles to follow the ball or puck when watching sports on television or at a stadium


Poor saccades have a much more profound effect on reading and learning. Saccades are the eye movements that jump from one stationary object to another.  This is the type of eye movement used when reading as you jump from one word to the next and from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. These eye movements are used to gather information throughout the school day, and are known as tracking skills.

Signs of poor saccades are:

  • Loss of place when reading
  • Skips small words
  • Makes word substitutions that are not context-appropriate (do not make sense)
  • Utilizes a finger or some other tracking guide when reading
  • Performs poorly at long arithmetic, which involves keeping straight columns
  • “Careless” errors during oral reading, arithmetic, or test-taking
  • Difficulty with Scantron tests (tests with the answer sheets that have the “bubbles” on them, such as the SAT’s)


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