What are saccadic eye movements?
Saccadic eye movements are very fast jumps from one eye position to another. These are the eye movements used in reading or searching. This scanning of the visual field is learned during the first years of life, developing as a child explores their environment. In fact, saccades are the very first eye movements that develop!
How saccadic deficiencies affect reading
These eye movements are critical to success and speed of reading. If they do not develop well, it can result in the opposite effect: slow, frustrated reading. When learning to read the eyes must be able to align and track together (or form saccades) letter-by-letter, word-by-word, and line-by-line. Errors can be made when the eyes lose their place and have to backtrack (leading to re-reading and slow reading). Or instead of moving smoothly they skip around (leading to ‘words moving on a page’ or loss of place when reading and/or misreading words like ‘saw’ instead of ‘was’). When errors like these happen frequently, so much effort is put into trying to coordinate the eyes that reading comprehension declines dramatically.