Eye dominance and vision problems in children

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By Dr Melodie de Jager

Vision is more than seeing clearly. It is also about making sense of what you see. In other words the eyes see (like a camera) but it can’t tell what you see, only the brain can do that.

But, the brain is isolated in the skull and rely on the eyes, and other senses such as touch, movement, smell, taste and hearing, to fill it with sensation so the brain can make sense of what you see.

There are two facets of vision that is less known – the role of sensory integration and the role of eye dominance.


According to Jean Ayres, sensory integration (SI) is the neurological process that organises sensations from inside the body and from the environment and makes it possible for the body to be effective in the environment. A lack of sensory integration occurs when the sensory filters are too wide open en too many sensations hit the brain simultanously (hypersensitive). It may leave a child feeling overwhelmed and seemingly unwilling to read, tearful and unable to make sense of what they see or read. Not only is reading not their favourite activity, studying for a test or an exam can really be very difficult.

The sensory filters may also disregard so many sensations, that very little reaches the brain (hyposensitive). The brain would then find it hard to make sense with too little information so for a child who may be sensory hyposensitive, reading is probably not their favourite activity, and studying for a test or an example is really very difficult.

A neurodevelopmental optometrist and OT with SI will be able to help address this challenge.


Eye dominance, is another facet of vision that can make reading, studying and writing exams really difficult. Each eye ‘plugs into’ the opposite side of the brain and share function with that part of the brain. That means a left eye works like a right brain and prefers to see as few words as possible and that is why mind maps, diagrams, bullet points and pictures help them tremendously to excel academically.

The right eye ‘plugs into’ the left brain. This is the perfect reading combination because the right eye and left brain work like a team to process and store words, facts, numbers and details. It literally gobbles up words and paves the way for easy ready and test writing. This is only true if there is no problem with sight or sensory integration.


Wink, which eye stayed open? The eye that stayed open is probably your dominant eye.


Another complication of eye dominance is the natural tracking direction of the eyes. The left eye reads back to front and why children (and adults) with a left eye dominance tend to make seemingly careless mistakes like reading s-a-w when the word is w-a-s, or R299 instead of R992. Because the left eye prefers to scan rather than read accurately, it may lead to misreading of questions and the loss of many marks, and rands.

A right eye dominance is once again academically favored, especially in regards to languages that are read from left to right, as it is the natural tracking direction of the right eye.


Pick up a magazine, and flick through it.

  • If you flicked through from back to front, your left eye may be your dominant eye.
  • If you flicked through from front to back, your right eye may be your dominant eye.

An Advanced Mind Moves Instructor can assist you to identify your child’s eye dominance. Visit www.mindmoves.co.za to find an Instructor near you.

The saying ‘there is more to it than meets the eye’ is also true of the eyes.



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